Shopping Guide for the USA

The United States is a shopper’s paradise. There are many ways to shop in the U.S., including shopping malls, strip malls, individual shops, grocery stores, supermarkets, and online and catalog shopping. Many people enjoy shopping so much that they spend beyond their budget and accumulate hefty debt. Consumers in the U.S. often follow the concept “shop till you drop.” Stores accommodate shoppers with late hours and some stores are open for limited hours on Sundays.


There is often a sale to be found. The impact of a sale is not what it once was, as sales are now a commonplace occurrence in most stores. Stores advertise particular items on sale and claim that the sale will end after a few short days. Crafty advertising may leave you tempted to buy items advertised before a particular sale ends. However, if you are paying attention, you will notice that after a few days the same item will be discounted again. A sale is never the bargain it seems to be.

The sales that occur on the day after Thanksgiving – also called Black Friday – are by far the largest. Many stores announce the items that will go on sale in advance through various advertising methods such as a TV, radio, internet, catalogs and newspapers. Some stores open as early as midnight and many people line up ahead of time in hopes of purchasing the item they desire at a cheap price. (A few stores open even on the evening of Thanksgiving, effectively ruining the holiday dinner.) It is not uncommon for people to camp outside a particular store for a night or even a couple of days in advance. However, those who go out early on Black Friday to shop also end up buying many unnecessary items. If you decided to join the throngs of Thanksgiving holiday shoppers, make a list of the items you need in advance and check for their availability. If you are shopping as a family, divide and conquer. Go to a variety of stores to purchase different items, as stores will be crowded with long lines. The oncoming Christmas season leaves many people frenzied with the pressure to purchase gifts for their relatives and loved ones in a timely manner.

Shopping malls

Shopping malls are generally very large and are located in the suburbs. A mall often houses many different types of stores. Most big shopping malls contain retain chains like Macy’s, Sears, JC Penny, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and others, though some stores may have regional and not national chains.

Shopping malls generally have big parking lots and many amenities such as food courts, information kiosks, maps, and children’s play areas. Quite a few malls have excellent Christmas decorations, and it is worthwhile for those with the Christmas spirit to take a trip to the mall just to see these decorations. Each mall has its own theme and type.

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Shoppers in the U.S. can find discounts almost anywhere. Large supermarkets across the country such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target are also known as discount stores. Some of these chains have varied larger or “super” versions of these stores, named Super Wal-Mart, Big K-Mart and Super Target. Wal-Mart is the largest retail store chain in the world and carries all sorts of merchandise including pharmaceuticals and grocery items. Super Wal-Mart stores are not located in all parts of the country but they do boast their own grocery departments which are often as big as other stand-alone grocery stores. Discount stores generally offer regular quality goods at affordable prices and lower quality goods at very low prices.

Outlet malls

Outlet malls, also known as factory outlets, sell high quality brands at a 20% to 40% discounted rate. These stores sell goods that have minor manufacturing defects or are remainders from previous seasons. Factory outlets sell top brands of all kinds at reasonable prices.


Pharmacies or drugstores sells items such as greeting cards, toiletries, beauty products, and other general merchandise, in addition to prescription and over the counter drugs.

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Grocery stores

Safeway, Market Basket, Aldi, Kroger, Albertson’s, Giant, Shoppers, and Tom Thumb are just a few of the large national grocery store chains to be found in the United States. Whole Foods sells organic products. A huge variety of food and drink items are available in these grocery stores. 

Additionally, many ethnic grocery stores are located across the country in the areas where such populations live. These stores are typically smaller than other grocery stores and their products may be more expensive and not as fresh, due to the fact that they may receive vegetables only once a week. Most people choose to do their basic grocery shopping in a regular grocery store and shop for remaining specialty items at the other smaller stores.

Each Sunday, newspapers publish special sale items and discount coupons for items at grocery stores. Many people buy the Sunday newspaper just to obtain these coupons.

Shopping carts and Payment

Most stores provide shopping carts, shopping baskets, or shopping bags for shopping convenience. A shopper will select the items themselves and put them in a shopping cart. Once all items are picked, the customer proceeds to the check out counter, where the cashier scans all items and places them in bags. Some wholesale stores such as Costco do not provide bags. Payment by cash, check, debit card or credit card is accepted, although not all credit cards or debit cards may be accepted everywhere. If paying by check, you will most likely have to present your U.S. driver’s license or other forms of photo identification. Many stores have self check out counters. Most smaller or ethnic grocery stores have a minimum purchase limit for credit card transactions.

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Most stores are focused on customer service. If you don’t like an item or change your mind after purchasing it, there will be a clear return policy in place to accommodate you. When making a return, a store may inquire as to your reason for returning the item, but this is simply to help determine whether to put the returned item back on sale or to return it the manufacturer. There are generally no further questions as to why a customer is returning an item.

Return policy varies among different stores. It may be a number of weeks or months from the date of purchase that you are allowed to return an item. If you have retained a receipt, you will usually be refunded your money in the same way you paid it. If you paid with a check and the amount is large, you will most likely be mailed a check from the store’s corporate office. If you don’t have a receipt, many stores may still take the item back but you will receive store credit for the purchase of items of equivalent value. Without a receipt, a store will generally give the lowest price or most recent markdown for that item.

You may find different return policies for items sold at the same store. For example, you must return electronics items within a much shorter time period to get a full refund, as compared to other items which you might possibly return later. 

Some people abuse the system of easy refund policies. A person might buy a camera for use at a friend’s party one day and return it the next. Some people buy clothes simply to wear at a wedding and return them after the event is over. Someone might buy new bed sheets or other merchandise for a festival such as Diwali or Christmas and later return the items. In order to combat this trend, some stores have restocking fees. Best Buy, for example, will charge a customer 15% on many returned electronics items. JC Penny will print the return amount on the receipt at the time of purchase.

Some items can only be exchanged for an identical item if the store finds the item being returned to be defective. Software and music CDs are examples of items that are often returned with defects. In the absence of such a policy, a customer is able to buy such items, go home, make a copy and immediately return the item.

Measurement units

The U.S. has a measurement system that is unique from most other parts of the world. Almost every country in the world uses the metric system but the United States does not.

Conversion Chart
1 Mile1.6 Kilometers
1 Inch2.54 cm
1 Foot12 Inches
1 Yard3 Feet
3.28 Feet1 Meter
1 Fluid OZ (Ounce)29.57 ml
1 Gallon US3.785 Liters
1 Quart US = 0.25 Gallon US946 ml
1 Pint US = 0.5 Quart US473 ml
1 Pound (lb)0.453 Kg
2.2 Pounds1 Kg
1 Oz (Ounce)28.34 Grams
1 Troy Oz (Ounce)31.10 Grams
(5/9)*(Fahrenheit – 32)Celsius

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