One item, besides an automobile, for which a smart shopper should never pay sticker price is Oriental rugs. There is always a mark-up. That's why, even at 80 percent off at Bloomingdale's closing sale, a smart shopper can negotiate a better deal. I was admiring a wool runner (9' 10" by 2' 7") with a tribal Kazak pattern made in Pakistan. It was marked $2,750

but it is $550 after the 80 percent discount.


I asked the salesman if he could do better. At first he went on about 80 percent being an unprecedented discount, but then he said he could probably get an additional 10 percent off if he called to get approval, which he did. The extra 10 percent would save an additional $55.

At 80 percent plus 10, there are some excellent deals, but here are some buying tips since all sales are final.

1. Ask the rug merchant to show you examples of good, better and best quality: The quality of the wool can be felt. Rub your hand back and forth briskly across the surface. If the rug sheds lots of fuzzy fibers, it's a low-quality wool. Better wool feels softer and sometimes almost greasy because of the lanolin in it. To test color fastness, rub a damp cloth on the rug.

2. Don't make a big deal about knot count unless you're comparing virtually identical rugs: Generally, the higher the knot count, the better.

3. Some Oriental rugs, usually those of lower quality, may have used illegally employed child labor: Consumer Reports recommends looking for Rugmark, Kaleen or the Wools of New Zealand labels. Unfortunately, these labels are rare. The most reliable way to avoid supporting child labor is to buy a machine-made rug, according to Consumer Reports.

Will the overall discounts at Bloomingdale's  go even lower soon? Yes. As of Friday morning, storewide discounts are now 50 to 70 percent off. Earlier this week, they were 40 to 60 percent. However, the Oriental rug discounts remain at 80 percent. By the way, Bloomingdale's never sold rugs at its MOA store, but other Bloomingdale's have rug departments.

 If you're looking for good deals on  "used" furniture, look around on the third floor at Bloomingdale's for an assortment of loveseats, tables, chairs and desks that were used for display and back offices. The prices are reasonable but for even lower prices on used home furnishings, try the remodeling sale at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (1300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-338-1201). As the hotel remodels its rooms, furniture and accessories are being sold at very reasonable



Sample savings: Upholstered chairs $55, large framed mirrors $25 to $75, nightstands with granite tops $65, plant stands with granite tops $32, writing desks $28, office chairs $28, granite vanities with hardware $45, wall sconces $5 to $10, wall-mount hair dryers $10, full-sized mattrresses $85, and framed art $15. 

The sale will continue in March until everything is sold. Additional items are put out for restocking. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. One employee said that Spike's bar items would be put out in mid-March.