The Continuing Saga of the Suits

In facing the “Buy one, get one free” suit deal, my quick-thinking wife said, “Let’s take the second suit anyway.” She called our older son on her cell phone from the store, as we knew he was shopping for a suit, and he said he was interested.

The store has a branch where he lives, so we are taking the suit to him this week when we visit. He will take it in and exchange it at no cost to himself for the suit he wants. While I would have derived perhaps $50 of consumer surplus from the “free” second suit, a suit’s value to him is at least $300; and with the pick of the store, he’ll buy a fancier suit.

Giving up a suit worth $50 to me, I confer at least six times the amount of surplus on him and derive even more pleasure than that myself, since I will enjoy seeing him wearing the best possible outfit. So I converted the nearly worthless (to me) second suit into something of value to me!

Couldn’t I have saved myself schlepping the suit on my plane trip and offered the deal to someone locally? Yes, but the pleasure from having that person have a new suit is less than that of seeing my son get one, and even less than the $50 of surplus that I would get from a second new suit.


Here you're falling into the trap of making an interpersonal comparison of utility. How do you know your consumer surplus and his consumer surplus are in any way comparable to each other?

Then again, if you derive more utility from giving him the suit than from having it yourself, then the comparison can be made.


The second suit was never "nearly worthless" to you. You always had the option to sell it, on eBay or a similar website. If it was a nice suit in a common size, you could have done quite well in the exchange.

That's what eBay is for, transferring things that have no value to you to those who do value it.

Robin Madeley

forgetting, of course, that in order to return a BOGOF item, one usually needs to return BOTH items.

An exchange may be another matter, but your son may still need to talk the store assistant in circles to pull it off...


I'd have picked up a second suit in black for funerals, but that works too.


at this point you should get 2 free suits in exchange for the 2 blog posts...


You do, of course, realize how incredibly cheap this series of articles makes you seem. What utility value do you derive from that?

Via Chicago

Doesn't this argument prove that BOGOF items are priced in a way that is economically inefficient?

I wonder who the person was at Mens Warehouse who looked at all of the excess inventory and said "let's have a BOGOF sale". How did they determine that they'd unload more inventory that way than if they ran an "every suit 1/2 off!" sale. Although, the second sale wouldn't have given Mr. Hamermesh the pleasure of giving his son a free suit.

John S.

Most (but not all) stores actually take an equal percentage off each suit, so that you can return the second suit without being forced to return the first suit. For example, say you bought two suits, one for $300 and one for $200. Then according to the deal, you get $200 off, for a total of $300. However, that amounts to 40% off the retail price, so that the "return value" (i.e. the amount the store refunds you) of the first suit is $180, and the return value of the second suit is $120. You could have bought the two suits, then turned right around and returned the second suit for a net 40% off the first suit.

Of course the best way to minimize the price you pay for one suit given such a policy is to find the suit you want, then find a second at the exact same price as the first. Return the second suit, and then your net percentage off the price of the first suit will be 50%. If you happen to want two suits of different value, you are better off to buy four suits, and then return two.

If the store from which you bought your suit had this policy, then you could have saved yourself and your son some hassle. The end result would have been the same (unless your son wanted a suit of different value, in which case the return strategy I describe above is best), except for the transfer of wealth from you to your son, which you easily could take care of with a check.



Do you need a new pair of shoes now?
Just wondering.


hey i was the one who said return it, and i didn't get anything. see, how retarded I am about economics and business.


And if it works, I have this scheme for returning bottles...

shop-a-holistic approach

Assumption- that the second suit is merely a logical derivative-- excess baggage and was not independently conceived and confirmed. Sort of reminds me of being offered a buy one, get one free make-up item from a line that you don't like. (but heh, it's free or so you have been told). it is not free. You have to store it someplace.

I would much rather buy what I like and need from a line that fits my personal needs (assuming I can afford it)- otherwise, I keep on accumulating items I don't need. Is this not Veblen's idea of conspicuous consumption.

What's a girl or boy to do? If you find one individual suit of armor that is inclusive of all the previous other individual suits of armor and, it seems as if you can show enough of it in an expedient way - without causing any harm- I say- try it out- see if it works- then if it does- go for it.- As far as returning all the previous suits bought- who has time? Trim'm down. And if the incorporation process does not work to your satisfaction- you have lost just a bit of time-- the trimming is unavoidable.

Perhaps you pay a bit more, either way we get what we need. There are no losers.

let your son or daughter buy his/her own suit- he/she will be happier for it.

The problem with returns is that they become so time consuming- I am getting too old for this.


John S.

According to the Men's Wearhouse website, the free item can be exchanged, or returned for free. It does not have a "return value".

However, I know that many department stores (e.g. Macy's, JC Penney) do have return policies like the one I described above.


This reminds me of a similar, albeit slightly moronic, debate my friends and I always have:

If you went to a pizza shop and ordred a slice, and were told you could get two for one, you'd probably gladly take it. Even if you weren't hungry, you'd probably save it for later or stuff it down anyway or find something to do with it in just about any conceivable scenario (assume you just walked down for a slice; you're not in a rush). Now, let's say they kept increasing the amount of free pizza (3-for-1, 4-for-1, 50-for-1), as long as you agreed to physically take the pizza. At what point would you say, "I don't care what the deal is, just give me one slice"? We could never come to a consensus, or even figure out what economic principle this was closest to. Thoughts? Does ANYONE think about this stuff?


"the pleasure from having that person have a new suit is less than that of seeing my son get one, and even less than the $50 of surplus that I would get from a second new suit" - Depends. If you find a person locally and split the costs for the two suits, you get a surplus of $300 and not $50.

But the good thing about gifting the second suit to your son is that transaction effectively translates to both of you purchasing a suit at 50% price. Quite a bargain for the family, I must say.


Dear BSK;

who is the "you"--I would not take it- if I eat that extra piece- I gain calories, fat and all those nasty things- hence I don't get what I want from the pizza-

Reminds me of a friend and I going out to dinner a number of years back. We decided to try an experiment -in hindsight-at odds with our protestant mind sets- we ordered cream soup and a desert at a french restaurant- knowing that we were just going to taste it- and no more-
what a hard thing to do- waste- but I learned something-

I now understand the principle of no free lunches-