Consumer IQ

The Anatomy of a Successful Purchase

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Last week we reveled in the misery of a failed transaction. But there’s a flipside, of course. It’s that euphoric moment when you realize you’ve scored a bargain. You’ve come out on top. You did it!

I hope you experience more of those moments than, you know, the other kind. (I hope I do, too.)

Let me start by telling you a little secret: I see a certain kind of person who always gets treated well by businesses and who somehow constantly finds the great deals. These “successful” consumers come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common – they have a positive attitude. They expect good things to happen. And happen they do.

If there’s one thing you should remember it’s this: attitude really matters when you’re pursuing consumer success.

But there’s more.

They research, research, research.

A recent survey by PriceGrabber found more customers were turning to mobile devices and, not surprisingly, websites, to do their research before buying. I say “not surprising” because PriceGrabber is one of those sites. The point is, successful customers do their homework either before they buy, or in real-time, at the mall. There’s no way to shortcut that process.

They drive a hard bargain.

Successful customers don’t accept the first price and they take pleasure in bargaining. What do I mean by “pleasure?” They have fun with the back-and-forth, treating it like a sport. Visit a Middle Eastern bazaar if you want to see what that’s like. Every price is a starting point, and no one ever pays what’s on the tag. Oh, wait – the tourists do!

They keep a tight rein on their budget.

I’ve seen the best shoppers plying their trade, and they always know how much money they have, and how much they are willing to spend. They don’t let emotions dictate their actions. Outbursts are fine for later, when you’re high-fiving your BFF on the deal you got at the bargain rack.

They know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.

The very best customers understand that they wield the power. It’s their money, and it’s their decision about buying an item. This is a little-known fact I explore in my book, Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals. Only the best customers know that it’s their decision, ultimately. And they can walk away – or run.

They’re not afraid to invoke the warranty.

Also, they’re not hesitant to take advantage of the store’s return policy. Many customers keep the products, even the ones they’re unhappy with. They think they’re being polite, or they’re afraid of a confrontation. That’s no way to make a successful purchase.

As a consumer advocate, I rarely hear from happy customers who made a slam-dunk of a purchase. Well, I guess that’s what you get when you’re in the complaints department. On the rare times when people tell me about a transaction that went right, I share in their joy. I wish everyone could experience that.

If they did, I probably wouldn’t have a job.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions at by email.