Is That Sale Really a Good Deal? Here's What to Look Out For

Don’t feel pressured into making a purchase just because there's a "sale" sign on it

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We all get lured in by store sales - 40%, 50%, 60% off the original price can be hard to pass up.

But some retailers take part in a shady sales practice that makes markdowns look better than they really are.



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“It's for sure misleading, it's likely illegal and it's for sure dishonest,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Boston Consumers’ Checkbook.

The nonprofit consumer advocacy group’s researchers spent 33 weeks tracking sale prices at 25 major retailers and found that most stores’ discount claims aren’t really discounts at all.

“What we found is that almost all these retailers, any claim discount they're offering usually isn't genuine. And the reason is, is they just rarely, if ever, charge that original price,” said Brasler.   “They may make you think that you're getting a great deal, some big discount off this original price, but you're really not, because no one's charging that other price.”

Brasler said sometimes those fake markdowns never end.  At eight of the stores Checkbook looked at,  more than half the items they tracked were offered at false discounts almost every week.

“The intent of these misleading sales is to make you think that this is a limited-time offer and it's to get you to move, to get you to buy the item either while you're in the store or while you're clicking around online. They want you to move, and it clearly works,” Brasler said.  “ The reason they're doing it is that it gets customers to commit to buying without thinking too much and without shopping around.”


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What to know about ‘soft saving'

So how do you know if you are getting a good price?  Don’t feel pressured into making a purchase and always shop around. Always do a Google search to see what the item is selling for at other retailers.  Consumers’ Checkbook discovered that most items they tracked could be purchased for a lower price elsewhere.

If you have time, monitor the price of an item that you are interested in buying.  If you are familiar with the price history, you will definitely know when you find a great price.

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