Metro-East News

Want to get in and out of the store quickly? Heed this 5-part shopping strategy

A challenge of shopping today is there are multiple options, choices and decisions.

Tennis shoes. Beer. Cars. Clothes, Groceries. You can no longer flip a coin. On bigger items, you have the option of adding an extended warranty.

More options, decisions.

I remember a day when I took my late dad shopping at the mall for new suits. I figured it would take an hour or two, at least. I went to the bookstore. Within 10 minutes, Dad had left Famous-Barr and found me with two suits in separate garment bags.

A navy blue suit and a brown suit.

Untailored, because he’d take them to Willard’s on his own.

Did you shop at all? I asked.

“Knew what I came for,” Dad said. “Had a plan. Stuck to it.”

“Did you really have a plan, Dad?” I asked on the way home. Dad just smiled. I knew he was bluffing.

So when it came time to buy a new home computer, I feared multiple options and choices. My goal was a simple, painless purchasing experience. That’s why I have driven Hondas for the past 35 years. And buy all suit jackets at Macy’s. Stick to only a few brands of shoes.

I thought of Dad buying new suits.

Keep it simple.

Have a plan.

At least, fake it.

My day of reckoning arrived. I was tired of being limited to my phone or mini iPad to be online at home. I wanted a desktop computer because I like sitting at a desk, with a keyboard, and monitor in front of me, at a desk. Old school, forever.

I did my homework. Maybe 15 minutes on the Internet. I wasn’t interested in details, scope, comparisons and capabilities. Just the basics.

I think I knew what I needed, and I was sticking to it.

I headed to the Apple retail store in west St. Louis County. Why Apple? I had a Mac previously. No problems or repairs. I am a loyal creature of habit.

I didn’t ask the sales clerk a lot of questions. When you ask questions, you get answers. Pretty soon, it all gets jumbled into one mass puzzle of technology acronyms and gibberish.

The clerk asked me about my needs for a desktop computer.

I write a lot, I said. Like to check out the sports web sites. eBay occasionally. Watch music and sports videos on YouTube. Shopping on Amazon Prime. Back to more sports trade rumors. And eBay.

“Is that it? He asked if not once then a dozen times. He started talking about “clouds” and “key clouds.” I acted like I knew what he was talking about. And changed the subject.

I acted like I had a budget. I asked what would be the best Mac desktop model for this price? Ironically, it was the desktop model we were standing by. Maybe it was coincidence. Or luck. Within 15 minutes, I was out the door with one big box in hand. My total computer shopping experience was less than 15 minutes.

I don’t remember my first home computer purchase. But I’m sure it took more than one of us to carry the boxes and load. I carried my new computer, with one arm, in a big shipping box, from the store to my car.

Fortunately, my wife, Colleen, was with me. She listened to the instructions from the clerk about home installation. It was an easy home installation. At least for me. I watched.

Here’s how to go about an efficient shopping experience

My dad would have been proud. My entire computer shopping experience took less than 15 minutes. I’m glad it’s over. What’s my advice, guys, for making a large purchase that you know little about.

Five simple steps:

1.) Have a plan. Stick to it. Do your research. About 10-15 minutes will do on the Internet. Just to say you did some research. It’s impressive.

2.) Don’t ask too many questions. You will get a lot of answers. Then you are swimming in acronyms and jargon. You start sweating. They’ll ask about your passwords and you can’t remember your middle name;

3.) Have a budget. See No. 1;

4.) Bring your wife with you. Her attention span is wider than yours. She will listen to the installation instructions while you daydream about stopping at Auntie Anne’s for mini pretzel dogs and how good those music and sports videos will look and sound on your new monitor; and

5.) Just remember two important things: Budget and where you parked the car.

Terry Mackin writes a monthly column for the Belleville News-Democrat. He is a former BND reporter who now works as a spokesman for Illinois American Water.