There was lots of good discussion on my post titled Money Saving Tip: Don't Dress Like You're Rich where I suggested you could save money on various purchases if you didn't dress like you had a million bucks in the bank. Overall, the commenters generally felt that dressing down or dressing up could work equally as well depending on the circumstances. Here's the first comment from a reader:
It's all about attitude. Both methods can work equally well, and one or the other may work better depending upon who you are or where you are shopping.
The biggest thing, though, is your attitude. You have to fill one role or the other in order to make either one work.
The second commenter agreed:
I think it is how you approach it.
If you go well dressed then you have to have a very strong personality and be able to negotiate. Where as if you dress down the clothing sets the tone and if you say the comments mentioned then I believe that helps too.
I don't think it is a coincidence that you see all car dealers wearing a very nice suit. They try and make you feel small, and make you buy their deal.
I think both work very well but you have to decide which you can use to your advantage the most. Decide which is best for the certain situation.
Here's another take:
Well, I have two points to make.
1) If you're traveling, dressing up is definitely the way to go. You can do this without forgoing comfort. You're more likely to get upgrades and better service from the airline staff.
2) I think that being nice and pleasant to sales people is the best way by far to get good deals. Treating salespeople with respect and being friendly works wonders!
I have to especially agree with this second point. I recently was traveling with a co-worker and he was very friendly and courteous to everyone he met all day -- and everyone treated him well as a result (including a few freebies, special services, etc.)
Here's the next thought:
It's all attitude. Dressed up, dressed down, doesn't matter. If you're an easy mark, they'll bowl you over whether you're in a suit or in sweat pants. A good salesperson can smell desperation... ;)
That's true, you do need to know how to negotiate as well. If you're a moron, no set of clothes will save you.
The next comment centered on talking to the right person:
It is not just the attitude that you exude either. It all depends on who you are dealing with at that car dealership, that airline, or that department store. If that person has attitude, then neither will work for you.
Yep, that sometimes happens -- no matter how well prepared you are, no matter how smooth you are, no matter what "extras" you bring with you or facts you have available, you just run in to a salesperson who has a bad attitude. In these cases, I usually try a couple of different approaches, then if it's clear I won't be making any progress, I usually leave. I then seek out another store or, if that was the only store that had what I wanted, I return on another day (and talk to someone else).
Another reader thought:
It depends on where you are. As you mentioned, the auto mechanic or the bike shop may respond better to jeans and a t-shirt. But, as Amanda pointed out, when you travel, or if you shop at higher end stores, you definitely want to dress up.
The latter may not "cut you a deal" but you may get extras, like upgrades or small freebies.
I'm not sure about this. The auto mechanic might actually respond better (i.e. give more respect to) a guy in a suit (though he may also think that the guy can and should pay for more expensive car repairs). And the comment above about car salesmen. I go the other way on that too. They may be in a suit, but I dress in shorts and a t-shirt. It makes them think they are in control and puts them at ease -- making it easier for me to swoop in for the kill. ;-)
Here's a real-life experience that a reader had when he wasn't dressed very nicely. To say the least, it didn't go well:
I had a horrible experience in a furniture store once due to my outfit. My wife and I had just moved, and we were doing yard work on our new place. We were dressed down, in jeans and t-shirts, but we weren't stinky and reeking. We ran to the store together to get something.
On the way back, we decided to stop in at a furniture place to buy a new dining room table which would fit the new place. The salesmen didn't have the time of day for us. When we eventually went up to one and explicitly asked for help, he brought us to the bargain "chip/dent" area, waved his arm, and left.
Wow. Needless to say, we never shopped there again, and we bought a gorgeous, non-pressboard-and-plastic dining room table at another place.
Wow indeed. If this salesperson is working on commission, I bet he's not doing very well.
Here's a final comment -- from someone in the "dress up" camp:
I also disagree with the advice about dressing down. Slovenly clothes are pretty much the norm, but stepping out the door wearing a collared shirt and a jacket will literally and figuratively open doors. In a negotiation the biggest upper hand you can have is "walk away" power, and people who look like they don't need it (whatever it may be) have an edge. Dressing like a professional is one part of the act, but clothing also affects one's mood. While one can overdo fine clothes, wearing a quality garment can boost self-confidence.
In business situations, I agree with this comment. In personal situations, it really depends on the person. For me, clothes don't really give me self-confidence. In fact, I'm uncomfortable in "stuffy" clothes and when I'm uncomfortable, I don't think I can negotiate as well.
BTW, I don't dress slovenly (at least to me -- my wife may think otherwise at times), but I go for comfort more than anything else. That said, I have been known to run to Home Depot in the middle of a repair project looking like I've crawled through 50 feet of mud, but they like to see that sort of look there. ;-)
What do you think? If you have anything to add on this subject, leave it in the comments below.