Where can I buy food?

Several types of grocery stores sell food. Grocery chains (companies such as Safeway, A&P, and so forth, that have many stores) operate large stores that offer a wide variety of foods, including most meats, fruits and vegetables, canned (tinned) foods, boxed foods, frozen foods, and so forth. They also sell nonfood items, such as soap, cleaning supplies, bathroom supplies, facial tissues, pet food, and so forth.

Some discount chains, such as Cub Foods, Food For Less, and so forth, also operate out of large stores and offer a large variety of foods and other items at a lesser price. These stores do not offer the same services as the large grocery chains. The food is often not stacked onto shelves, and you must sack and carry your own groceries at the checkout line. Convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, QuickTrip, and so forth, sell food, often 24 hours a day, but prices are higher and the selection is limited.

Neighborhood grocery stores are larger and offer more variety-especially in terms of meats and fruits and vegetables- than convenience stores. They are often more convenient than large grocery chains, but their prices are often higher as well.

Where can I buy foods from my country?

Some large grocery stores will have a section for "international foods." In larger cities, some neighborhood stores sell only foods from certain countries. Restaurants serving foods from your country sometimes also sell foods, or they may be able to direct you to a store that does.

How can I find the best prices when shopping?

The best time to buy is often during a "sale," when a store lowers prices on certain items. Sales are advertised on television, radio, and in newspapers, or the store itself may have signs showing which items are "on sale." Just because an item is "on sale," however, does not mean that it is a good value. Another store may have the same item at a lower price, or the sale item may be of inferior quality. Comparing prices and quality at several stores is a good way to find the best value.

Household and food items can also be found on sale. In many cases, however, coupons provide the best savings for these items. Coupons are small pieces of paper or advertisements that can be found in newspapers or newspaper inserts, in the mail, in magazines, on food labels, and even at the grocery store. If you have coupons for items you're purchasing, present them to the cashier before making your purchase. The amount listed on the coupon is then deducted from the purchase price of that item. When using coupons, make sure the coupon is for the exact item you are purchasing, and that the coupon has not expired.

In grocery stores, buying "generic" products is another way to save. In a store you will see several different brands, or kinds, of the same item. Some stores also offer these items in plain white containers with black writing on them. These are called "generic" brands. The store may also have its own brand of the product. In either case, the generic or store brand is basically the same product as the others, but without the fancy labels and advertising. Thus the items usually cost less.

What is a drug store?

A drug store contains a pharmacy (see "HEALTH CARE" section) where you can get prescriptions (medicine that a doctor has advised you to take) and also nonprescription items such as aspirin, vitamins, and medicine for colds and other common sicknesses. Drug stores also sell generic medicines at a lower cost than the regular brand-name products. To get generic medicines you must specifically request "generic substitution" when ordering your prescription.

A drug store sells much more than drugs. In most drug stores, you can also buy cosmetics, hardware, stationery, household items, candy, toys, and often even food and clothing.

What is the difference between a discount store and a department store?

Discount stores (e.g., K Mart, Wal-mart, Target) offer a good selection of items at low prices and are mostly self-service. Department stores, such as Sears or JC Penney, generally have higher prices but tend to have better quality products as well as salespeople that can better help you.

What does a shopping mall offer?

At a shopping mall you will find many stores together, often under the same roof. Malls may have discount stores, department stores, specialty shops, restaurants, snack stores, and sometimes even movie theaters all in the same place. This makes comparison shopping (comparing prices on similar items at different stores) easy.

What do sales clerks mean when they ask "cash or charge"?

The clerk wants to know if you plan to pay with cash (actual money or a personal check) or charge your purchases on a credit card.

What is a sales tax?

Sales tax is an extra charge added onto the price of an item at the time of the purchase. In some instances, however, such as with gasoline, the tax is already added into the purchase price. The sales tax percentage, and what goods are subject to sales tax, vary from location to location. Sales tax money goes to a governmental agency, and not to the store that collected it.

May I return something if I'm not satisfied with it?

Most stores will give refunds (return your money) for items you have not used or worn. (In some cases, the store will not give a refund, but will allow you to exchange the item for another of equal value.) To do so, most stores require you to bring in the price tag and sales receipt (the piece of paper the clerk gives you showing what you purchased and how much you paid).

If you see a sign saying "all sales are final," that means you cannot return any items after you buy them. Sometimes you cannot return items bought during a sale. When you are about to purchase something, you may want to ask the clerk about the store's return policy (rules for returning) before you buy the item.

Where can I buy used items?

The local newspaper provides sales listings for specific used items-such as appliances, furniture, bicycles, or cars-in its classified section. Secondhand or thrift stores, such as Goodwill or Salvation Army, are good places to look for used furniture and clothing. American families often sell excess or unneeded items at weekend "garage sales" or "yard sales," especially during the summer. Before you buy a used item, check carefully for any damage. You can seldom get a refund on the purchase of used items.

Is it acceptable to bargain?

Most prices in the United States are fixed and cannot be changed through bargaining. Generally, bargaining only takes place when purchasing an item that costs a lot of money, such as a car or house, or when purchasing used items from an individual or at a second-hand store or garage sale. If you are not sure whether to bargain, simply ask if the price is "fixed" or "set," or if the price is "negotiable" (not set).

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