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Kathy Jenkins Kathy Jenkins
Canadian Life Skills Worker

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Online Guide for Newcomers to Prince Edward Island - Canada

Some Shopping Tips

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The following are some tips and information to help you with shopping in PEI.

Shopping Baskets, Carts, and Bags

Many stores have shopping carts or baskets to help you carry the items you are buying while you are in the store.

At checkout, many stores, especially grocery stores, encourage you to use your own reusable shopping bags to carry the items out. If you do not have any reusable bags, you may have to pay a small amount for plastic bags from the store. You can buy reusable bags for less than one dollar at most larger grocery stores.

Paying for Purchases

In most stores, you pick up the items you want to buy and take them to the cashier to pay. The cashier will add up your bill. It is important that you check that the right amounts are charged for the items you are buying. The amount you have to pay will be displayed on the cash register.

  • Be aware of high pressure sales by sales clerks who work for commission -- they do not get paid until they sell something, or they get extra pay if they sell more. Sometimes they can convince you that you need to buy their product or service, when you really do not need it. This is common in car dealerships, stores selling furniture and appliances and some electronics stores, for example.
  • Sometimes stores will offer 'extended warranty' -- you have to pay extra if you want the guarantee from the store that the item will work for a certain period of time. Think carefully if such a warranty is worth paying extra.

Receipts and Returns

You should get a receipt for everything you buy. It is a proof of purchase that shows what, when, where, and how much you paid for an item.

It is important to keep you receipts. If you need to return something you bought (because it is not suitable, it has a defect, etc.), take your receipt with the item and all the packaging back to the store where you bought it. Return policies are different from store to store. They can range from no return policy (all sales final), to one week, or one month. Sometimes a store that usually accepts returns has certain items on sale that can not be returned.


Some items you buy have warranties. This means that either the store or the manufacturer (sometimes both) provides a guarantee that if the purchased item breaks in a certain period of time or does not work at all, you can return it and get your money back, or exchange the item for another one.

It is a good idea to check if an item has a warranty before you buy, especially if it is an expensive one.

Comparative Shopping

Prices for the same or similar items may change from store to store. Remember to compare prices.

If you are going to pay a lot of money to buy something, it is a good idea to find out some information about the item you are thinking of buying before you buy it. Ask friends, relatives or neighbours for their opinion about the item you are thinking of buying. You can also research consumer reports or reviews on the Internet to compare prices and product quality.

Sales and Advertising

During sales stores reduce the prices of some items for a short period of time. These items will usually be marked with a special sticker or price tag. A sales price can mean a percentage off (for example, 20% off the original price), a dollar amount (for example, $10 off the original price), buying multiple items (for example, buy two items and get one for free), or no sales tax.

Sometimes advertising or ads can be misleading. Ask questions about additional fees or parts that must be purchased (for example, the computer might be on sale, but you might have to purchase the power cable separately). Think about what you see on sales signs -- the advertisers like to trick you into buying something you don't need, or into thinking that something is less expensive, when it really is not.

Some typical advertising tricks:
0.99% Big zero, small .99 - this actually means you have to make a 1% cash payment before getting financing for an expensive item, such as a car - the amount could be in the thousands.
$199.99 Glancing at this price tag makes you think the item costs up to 100 dollars less than it actually does. Looks like a bit over $100, when it is actually almost $200. By the time you pay, with taxes, you will spend way over $200.
Big Savings Buying something on sale does not necessarily mean that you are saving money if you are buying something you do not need. If you are spending money, you are not saving it! You are just maybe paying a little less than regular price.
Lifetime Warranty Lifetime Warranty! Whose life - yours, the salesman's, or that of the product you are buying?
No Interest, No Payment Until 2011 No interest, no payments for the next 12 months -- very common sales trick for more expensive items, such as furniture. If you do not completely pay off the item you have bought within the 12 months, you may be charged very high, accumulated interest for all the time from the moment of purchase, often as high as 28%. You can take advantage of such an offer, but make sure to pay it off on time.

However, advertising is not all bad - the stores use it to inform you about new products, seasonal sales, etc. You just need to be smart and don't let it lead you into spending money on things you don't need, or even want.


A package of flyers with advertisements will be automatically delivered to most homes in PEI every week. In them you will find information about sales in various Island stores, as well as reduced price coupons you can use when buying certain items in those stores. If you are on a modest budget, it is a good idea to look at the flyers and find information on products you need to buy. Again, be careful not to spend money on advertised things that you don't need!


Be aware of getting caught up in the excitement to buy things around the Christmas and commercial holidays, like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. Stores will try to maximize their profits by extra aggressive advertising around holidays, and will try to convince you that you absolutely have to buy gifts, cards, decorations, etc.


In Canada when you buy something in a grocery or department store you usually do not bargain or barter the price. However, you sometimes can barter for bigger items such as furniture, appliances, cars, or houses. You can also bargain when you are buying things from private sellers, for example used items at garage sales, flea markets, or private sales.

Seasonal Shopping

Shopping in Canada changes with the seasons and the holidays. Winter clothing costs much more than summer clothing. It is a good idea to budget for this.

Shopping during seasonal sales can be a good way to spend less money. For example, it is a good idea to shop for school supplies during 'back-to-school' sales in August.