Publisher Erik Kanin pulls open the jacket lapel of his stylish navy blue suit and points to the label. "I paid $60 for it. It was a designer suit on sale."
Co-publisher Andrea Lubershane lifts a trim mauve-sueded sandal. "Filene's Bargain Basement (in Boston)," she says, and proceeds to list the bargain outlets from which she has put together her outfit.
"We're both rreal shoppers," says Lubershane. "My mother has a Depression mentality -- as a child they couldn't afford much." As a result, "She's a bargain hunter. She passed it on to me."
The pair put their bargain-conscious background to work and have recently published "The Inflation Fighter's Guide to the Washington Metro Area" (Andrik Associates, $5.95 paperback), a 428-page tour of about 1,000 local firms they say they can save you money on practically anything.
"If you can save 15 percent on a purchase," says Lubershane, "then you can beat inflation." Kanin estimates that the average discount among the firms listed in their book "is 20 to 25 percent."
One big surprise uncovered in their research is the large variety and number of discount businesses concentrated along Rockville Pike in Montgomery County.
County residents there "may be paying more for their houses," says Lubershane, "but they can pay less" for food, clothing and other goods.
The book describes dozens of discount food and drug outlets between here and Baltimore, including the factory outlet for Russell Stover candies in Riverdale, where you can pick up "misshaped" or "mis-covered" chocolates at half price.
Included also are chapters on clothing, appliances, furniture, carpeting, low-cost medical and legal services and freebies of all sorts. A lengthy guide outlines when and where to pick your own fruit and vegetables.
The entertainment section lists movie houses with discount prices -- among them AMC's Academy 6 at the Beltway Plaza Mall in Greenbelt, which offers a $1 show Wednesday mornings, including coffee.
Among the pair's superfinds:
Food: Marlin Sales Annex, 1415 Okie St. NE. Canned goods and paper products "about 25 percent off grocery prices." And fun along with the buys -- "It's like a bazaar. It's bustling."
Women's clothing: The Attic of Philipsborn Retail Outlet, 1201 F St. NW. "Misses and juniors clothing from last season" at up to 80 percent off. Also, Status II, 4405 Willard Ave., Chevy Chase "for really fine quality" women's wear with "top designer" labels from "50 to 80 percent off" because "the merchandise is one year old."
Wallpaper: Plymouth Wallpaper, 720 Frederick Rd., Catonsville. In the surplus store, "room-size bundles of wallpaper for outrageously low prices."
The two publishers say they visited all the local firms mentioned at least once, many of them twice. "I put 6,000 miles on my car in three months," says Lubershane.
Earlier the pair had published successful guides to Alexandria and to restaurants in Northern Virginia, noting both those that had non-smoking sections and those that were accessible to the handicapped.
Lubershane and Kanin want to dispel the myth that by shopping bargain stores you almost always give up service. In many cases you do, but often, they say, you're dealing with small, family-owned firms. "A lot give excellent service."
Then the two publishers are off to a January sale of used air-conditioners.
His desk is stacked high with government reports and studies. Papers, pamphlets, magazines spill out of every cubby hole in a small and very cluttered office in the National Press Building.
Arthur E. Rowse is a compiler. He sorts through the flood of official documents pouring out of the bureaucracy at every level and he studies the similar flow of educational and promotional materials streaming from the business world -- searching for anything he believes might benefit the consumer.
What he finds, he puts into an annual almanac. The latest edition (the fourth) carries a slightly altered title, "Help: The Indispensable Almanac of Consumer Information 1980" (Everest House, 587 pages, $8.95 paper).
In the past, when Rowse published it himself, the title was "The Useful Almanac." But this edition's New York publisher, says, wanted the change.
This year's version is almost 200 pages longer, containing, says editor Rowse, a variety of compilations not readily available elsewhere. Among the highlights:
A map showing "all major nuclear hazards in the U.S." from military posts to power plants. This is "the thing I'm really proud of."
Tire grades set by the federal government for the first time in 1979.
A list of hundreds of drugs "being prescribed and used by the American public each year, despite the fact that they are ineffective or lacking evidence of effectiveness." They may be "potentially unsafe," as well, he says.
Dealer costs and miles-per-gallon data for 1980 cars.
Rowse, who has a syndicated consumer news column and produces a weekly consumer newsletter, served in the Johnson administration as executive director of the President's Committee on Consumer Interest. His almanac was picked by the United Automobile Workers as the only required book for a college consumer affairs course.
For years, Rowse says, he had felt the need for a book "to help people to know how to buy what they need." Fancy packaging, hard-sell ads and the technical intricacies of much of today's merchandise make it difficult for "one person to evaluate different products" before making a purchase.
Such a book, he says, must also deal with environmental issues because of their effect "on the air we breathe and our water." The victims of air and water polution "might be 1,000 miles away," in the case of "acid rain or pesticide runoff."
In one section, the book offers a comparison of the nation's metropolitan areas "for overall living conditions." Washington ties with -- believe it or not -- Honolulu for sixth place, behind San Francisco, Minneapolis, Rochester, San Diego and Sacramento.
Among its other lists:
Companies and products "subject to boycotts officially sanctioned by the AFL-CIO Executive Council."
Short ratings of income tax guides on the market.
1979 charity ratings of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the National Information Bureau.
Ratings of Congress members, based on votes on consumer matters.
Birth-control methods "compared by Uncle Sam for effectiveness and health hazards." It's from the Federal Register, says Rowse, "and not very sexy."