Shopping Tips - University of Houston
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Shopping Tips

Buying Things

Prices in most stores are fixed. A shopper does not usually "bargain" for a lower price with the store employee, except in the case of automobiles and large appliances although the practice of "bargaining" for electronic goods and other smaller items is growing. Many stores operate on a "self-service" basis. In these stores, the shopper uses one of the baskets or carts provided and selects the merchandise desired. The merchandise is then taken to the cashier, who totals the amount of the purchase and adds the appropriate sales tax.

When you buy something, it is advisable to keep the receipt you get when you pay for the item. You will need the receipt if the item is defective or unsatisfactory and you need to return it to the store where you bought it. The receipt proves you made the purchase.

Sales Taxes

A sales tax is added to the cost of some purchases in some states and cities. Income generated from sales taxes is used to support various state and city-run programs, such as highway maintenance, public education, and law enforcement. So the final price of an item is not the ticketed price, but that price plus the relevant sales tax.


There are three general kinds of food stores: "supermarkets, " "neighborhood stores," and "convenience stores." A supermarket is a large store which sells not only groceries but also paper goods, kitchen supplies, and health and beauty aids. Neighborhood stores and convenience stores are smaller, have far fewer non-food items, usually have longer hours of business, and charge some-what higher prices. Convenience stores usually sell gasoline and some automobile supplies as well as a limited range of foods. Most people do nearly all their food shopping at the supermarket most convenient for them, and go to neighborhood stores or convenience stores only to buy one or two items needed quickly.

Foods from your country may not be available in the supermarket, but they may be available from a specialty food store. Ask other visitors here from your country where they buy such foods.


Buying furniture for a new apartment can be a large undertaking, so this section includes extensive information on places to look for less expensive furniture. Furniture stores, department stores, and second-hand stores all sell furniture. In addition, used furniture is often available from private individuals who have "garage sales" at their homes or who advertise the items they wish to sell in the classified section of the newspaper.

Discount Furniture

Discount furniture is new furniture that is sold at a reduced price because it was damaged in shipping, or because it represents the remnants of a style or model of furniture that is no longer being produced, or for some other similar reason. It is usually higher-priced and better quality than used furniture. Some local furniture dealers may stock discount furniture. Furniture that is new but not yet painted (unfinished) can be purchased in many discount stores.

Rental Furniture

Rental furniture is available, but requires a monthly payment and may be more expensive than buying if you are here for 6 months or more. For example, a one-bedroom package may cost $99 plus tax and insurance totaling $117 per month. Look in the phone book Yellow Pages for listings of many furniture rentals and lease companies. The advantage is they will deliver and come and get it when you are finished with it.