Shopping in Harrisonburg
There are several main differences between shopping in Harrisonburg and what you may be used to at home. First, we generally do not practice bargaining for prices. (Car shopping is the one notable difference; it is very acceptable practice to bargain the price of a car before purchase.) Prices for items you wish to buy are set and usually marked. Therefore, you may want to check prices at different stores for the best deal. Most stores will allow you to return an item if you change you mind, but you will need your receipt.
Second, sales tax is a fee that is added onto the price of your purchase at the register. Sales tax varies from state to state, and in Virginia sales tax for most items is 4.5%. Do not be surprised when you purchase a pair of shoes for $25, but are charged $26.13 at the register. Sales tax on restaurant food is 9%, and it is considered appropriate to leave a 15-20% tip on the table for your server in addition to the purchase price.
Finally, international students have often remarked about the number of choices they have to make whenever they go to a store. For example, if you want to buy milk, you will have to decide what brand to buy, what percent fat you want, whether the expiration date is important to you, and what size container you want. Do not let these choices overwhelm you. Try to find the best bargain for what you need, and understand that it will get very easy to make these choices as time goes by and you learn more what you are looking for.
Downtown Harrisonburg is home to several shops, including clothing, shoes, gifts, music, food and specialty shops. There are also “second hand” or “used clothing” stores where it is possible to get almost new clothes at inexpensive prices. The Valley Mall has a large variety of shops including departments stores, women’s and men’s clothing, shoes, gifts, music/entertainment, food specialty food, jewelry and other specialty shops.
Red Front Supermarket and Food Lion are two large grocery stores which are within walking distance of EMU. Although the choices there are amazing, you will be amazed at what you do NOT find. If you are looking for some particular spice or item you use at home, you may be able to find it at one of the smaller, international grocery stores in town. Your best bet on finding the store that may carry the items you want is to ask current students from your home area where they would shop. You will not be able to find everything you want, however, and may need to learn to substitute with available items. Practice makes perfect, so just experiment with various things and you will find the acceptable alternatives.