Merchants offer advice to customers taking advantage of Massachusetts tax-free weekend

Last modified: Saturday, August 16, 2014
As merchants brace themselves for crowds this tax-free weekend, some advise their customers to decide on their purchases the day before to avoid some of the hassle.

“Try to picture 32 bodies” in this store, remarked Ken Adams, sales associate at Besko’s Appliance, a small home and kitchen appliance shop on Cottage Street in Easthampton.

That was the number of customers he recalls were waiting for him at one point during last year’s sales tax holiday. This year, the tax-free weekend will be Saturday and Sunday, when many single purchases of $2,500 or less will be exempt from Massachusetts’ 6.25 percent sales tax. That does not include bigger-ticket items such as motor vehicles and motorboats, as well as meals and tobacco products.

The space inside Besko’s Appliance consists of a showroom that holds a variety of washers, dryers, dishwashers and other appliances, with walkways in between where employees discuss the various components of each model. Sales manager Ryan Kokoski said there will be two salespeople on the floor this weekend, while he is behind the counter.

So far, Kokoski said, the store has received 90 appliances that have been shipped after customers pre-ordered them and either provided Besko’s with their credit card information, or wrote a check dated for the tax-free weekend. Buyers will be able to save a total of around $500 on purchases of full kitchen sets, he said.

Adams said shoppers during the weekend try to make do with the crowds, finding ways to make purchases as efficiently as possible. He remembers one time a man stopping to listen as he was showing a dryer to a woman. After she bought that model and left, Adams recalls, the man handed him his charge card and said, “I’ll do the same thing.”

“That’s how people are, you know?” Adams said.

Besko’s Appliance has extended its hours of operation this weekend, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

At Manchester Hardware on Union Street in Easthampton, manager Casey Wright advises customers to get the best value from their purchases this weekend by considering not just summer items such as grills, but also those that are not yet in-season, such as snow throwers. That way, he said, customers can prepare for winter in addition to saving money.

“The six-and-a-quarter percent adds up quick,” he said of the state sales tax. On some grills, he added, customers can save around $50 worth of sales tax this weekend.

Across the river in Amherst, Mikaela Ortstein, who manages the left-click stores there and in Northampton, said that this weekend is a good time for incoming college freshmen to purchase computers for school.

Left-click is a computer repair, retail and service provider at Thornes Marketplace in Northampton and on Cowles Lane in Amherst. However, only the store in Northampton is open this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The Amherst store is never open on weekends.

At Zanna clothing store on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, sales associate Joy Sullivan, who is also the store’s clothing buyer, said the tax-free weekend draws customers to the shop’s high-end footwear, such as Frye boots. “It’s a lifetime investment, too,” she said. “They last forever.”

In Northampton, merchants who specialize in art and other decorative items said the tax-free holiday draws customers to their larger pieces.

Karen Shanahan, manager at Ten Thousand Villages on Main Street, said that on past tax-free weekends, she has noticed more people buying handmade furniture and sculptures that cost around $400 without tax.

At Cedar Chest, also on Main Street in Northampton, general manager Joe Romanos said customers have been pre-ordering rugs and bedding that they will pay for this weekend to take advantage of the tax-free holiday. He noted that while shoppers will be able to save money this weekend, it is at no cost to the store.

“I enjoy the fact that everybody can save a few dollars,” Romanos said.

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.