There should be a law against calling a store an "outlet" when it isn't. We all know (or should) that you can't assume the deals are legit at an outlet mall – I warn shoppers about that all the time. Still, there's something about that term that makes even an educated bargain shopper hopeful. I fell for the sign at the "Lighting Outlet" in Golden Valley. What a joke. The prices were no better than Lowes, which is where I ended up finding a fixture I preferred – "full" price and all.

I didn't have to hope Lowes would have the drapery rod I wanted – I checked the stock at local stores before venturing out. I then bought it online so I could breeze into the store and pick it up at the customer service desk without having to wait in a cashier's line. What a fantastic way to shop, and it's becoming more common. Home Depot's website also lets you check inventory at specific stores and order online for in-store pick-up at no additional charge. JC Penney has added a local inventory check as well. And electronics stores like Best Buy were some of the first to venture into ordering online and picking up at the store. I was raving about the service this week to Deloitte retail analyst Brad Fritz, who assured me that retailers realize this is the efficient way to shop. Take advantage!