Strand 1890sBARGAINS are to be had in London, of course, but only by those who know very well when 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 of 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 ingenious air. But when the rice has been – as it commonly has – raised 30 or 40 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 are at times to be had. The only safe guide to these is the advice of some London friend personally acquainted with the particular shop recommended.

Click here for more on Victorian London.