Stay in the Netherlands for any length of time and you will surely absorb two crucial terms ‘korting’ (discount) and ‘aanbieding’ (offer) by osmosis. The tricky part is scaling back your expectations as to what these terms actually mean. Bargains excite everyone, but Asians live and breathe the cheap-sale tango, which is why disappointment often whacks us harder.
Today marks the first day of De Bijenkorf’s (a Selfridges parody down to the yellow plastic bags) ‘Drie Dwaze Dagen’ (Three Crazy Days). Much feted, it turns everyone breathless with anticipation. In the women’s department*, the crowds are thronging but somehow, the tills are not really ringing. Probably because this big to-do is mostly over a puny 20% off regular merchandise, and any discount beyond that is typically on items more appropriate for Halloween. Come to think of it – it is October. Note also that many products in NL (such as some Nuxe and Shiseido cosmetics) start off more expensive than many countries in the EU. Last June, the MiL snapped up a couple of dresses at LK Bennett in Lille, France: 50% off. Come late August, the very same outfits at De Bijenkorf, NL, were still clamoring for full price. No special foreign passport discounts for you at department stores here either (unlike in Spain, France, Germany etc).
Such dismal ‘sales’ are commonplace. North Americans here think we can wait for things to ‘go down’ (a different type of tango that North Americans surpass Asians in), but that leather hobo you’ve been eyeing on 30% reduction? Wait past Christmas and instead of slashing and burning, retailers will just remove the sticker tag and put it back up as full price, leather scuffs and all (true story). At Albert Heijn, food products conking off the same day go on sale for 35% off. Contrast with the same situation in the UK where last-chance pot pies and still-quite-tasty bread are sliced down to pennies.
Morals: (1) Buy less, buy well; when bored do like the Dutch and sell it on to Secondhand Rose (your vintage Chanel that is, not leftover pizza). (2) Make amazon.de your best friend. (3) Mooch suitcase space off visiting British relatives.
*I pass no judgment on the other departments as I understand those in the market for Smeg fridges, mobile saunas, or car vacuum cleaners can have a jolly good time.