Why You Should Think Twice Before Paying a ‘Sale’ Price

Don't be taken in by fake sales and phony reductions. Here's what you need to know to avoid being manipulated.

Is your favorite store trumpeting a 50 percent off sale or other price-slashing offers that seem too good to resist? Think twice before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

Most of us love bargains and feel the thrill of victory when we snare them. But what you might not realize is that the half-off sales are likely not where you’ll find the “bargains.”

In fact, when an item is advertised as 50 percent off, you may really be paying more than if you bought it at the “regular” price. And, some of those screaming deals that you think you’re getting through online discount and coupon sites are the digital equivalent of the brick-and-mortar price deception.

So, understand this and avoid being manipulated.

The fiction of the ‘list price’

In the past, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s all have been sued for misleading bargain-hunting customers with the use of high-percentage-off deals.

In some cases, the price listed as the “original” was two times the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, reported Money. That meant the 50-plus percent “discount” left a buyer with more than the original manufacturer suggested retail price.

Stacy Johnson, founder of Money Talks News, offers another tale of how an alleged “great deal” is often less than it appears. He cites the example of a Samsung TV on Amazon selling for about $600. That is 20 percent, or about $150, off the “list price” of $750. Looks like a good deal, right?

But with just a little research you can find the same TV on Google Shopping, with lots of places selling this TV — shipping included — for about $550. That’s $50 less than Amazon.

As you can see, retailers can really pull the wool over your eyes simply by mentioning “list” prices and gushing about the “bargains” you are supposedly getting.

The lesson

So, what is the lesson here? Always assume the list price and savings on such “deals” might be simply made up. Research is the key to making sure you’re really getting the bargain you want. The internet makes that easy to do.

Not sure where to start? Try our partner site DealNews.com, where bargain researchers keep their eyes on “millions of products” and surface the best deals. Ben’s Bargains is another one suggested for its price history data.

Even when you think you have a great deal in hand, do a little more research on your own. Remember, every retailer — whether you are shopping in a store or online — is trying to get the most money out of you. Only with some effort will you see whether the price being asked is fair or not.

For more shopping tips, check out:

Do you find yourself sucked in by advertisements that trumpet massive price cuts? What’s your way of figuring out whether products are actually a good deal? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

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