Do “Deals” At Outlet Malls Just Screw Shoppers Over?

Hold that credit card! Double X excerpted a section from the forthcoming book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, by Ellen Ruppell Shell, which reveals the scams at outlet malls are lamer than the kids who hang out in the food court all day.

The author visited at an outlet mall in Las Vegas with a prices and branding expert to scope out the “deals.” At a Crescent jewelry store, the ladies examine an $832 diamond-and-white-gold pendent, marked down from $3,329, which the jewelers are eager to give them “a better price on.” But back at home, Shell does a little googling and discovers the pendent’s diamonds can just barely pass as gemstones according to diamond grades. Plus, nearly identical pendents could be found on eBay for only $229!

Yeah, markups pretending to be markdowns suck. And it’s sneaky that stores selling comparatively-cheap wares at inflated prices are shacking up next to the Barney’s Co Op and La Perla so they look fancier. But…that’s business, isn’t it? Obviously, outlet mall or not, the onus should be on the shopper not to buy $832 pieces of jewelry in the blink of an eye. To be sure, there’s predatory businesses and services out there, but nothing about a Ford Explorer full of ladies’ cruising down the highway to an outlet mall screams “predatory” to me. Really, it’s not the outlet mall’s fault if someone wanted to pinch pennies yet walked into a Ralph Lauren.

Responsible outlet mall shoppers know the general prices of items we covet—a DVF wrap dress is around $300-$400, a bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume is around $75—and so we know an actual “deal” when we see one. We also know when we’re paying through the nose, but we’re willing to do that sometimes because we’re making informed choices. My theory is looking for the bargains at outlet malls and “designer discount” online shopping sites like and Gilt Groupe, are like NASCAR or the WWE for women. Sniffing out real discounts, if there are any to be found at all, is the point.

So don’t go being a wet blanket like you were with, Double X! [Double XX]