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Bargains are to be bad in London, of course, but only by those who know very well what they are about. The numerous “bankrupt’s stocks,” “tremendous sacrifices,” and so forth, are simply traps for the unwary. Avoid, especially, shops where the windows are packed so full that there is no light inside to examine articles by. One of the commonest tricks of all is that of putting in the window, say a handsome mantle worth eight or ten guineas, and labelled (say) “£3 15s.,” and keeping inside for sale others made up in precisely the same style, but of utterly worthless material. If they decline to sell you the actual thing out the window be sure that the whole affair is a swindle. See, too, that in taking it from the window they do not drop it behind the counter and substitute one of the others, an ingenious little bit of juggling not very difficult of performance. Another very taking device is the attaching to each article a price-label in black ink, elaborately altered in red to one twenty or five-and-twenty per cent. less. This has a very ingenuous air. But when the price has been —as it commonly has—raised thirty or forty per cent, before the first black-ink marking, the practical economy is not large. Of course, if you do buy anything out of one of these shops, you will take it with you. If you have it sent, be particularly careful not to pay for it until it arrives, and not then until you have thoroughly examined it. When a shop of this kind sends you “patterns,” you will usually find a request attached not to cut them. Always carefully disregard this, keeping a small piece for comparison. There are, however, some houses where, if you at all understand your business, real bargains arc at times to be had.
Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879