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Is It Really On Sale?

Tips On Knowing When Something is Really on Sale


Shoppers will see as many sale signs dangling from store ceilings during this busy shopping season, but does Sale really mean Sale?

Unfortunately, not always. The practice of marking up an original price above the average mark-up, just to cover making it look like it has been drastically reduced when marked down has become common in stores.

So how do shoppers really find the best deals and rock-bottom sale prices?

Do Your Homework

I know...I know, some of us hate to research products we are buying, but if we want to insure we are getting the best product for our money, there is no avoiding the task of doing the research. The good news is we do not have to invest the next six months into learning everything there is to know about a product. For us simple folk there are simple ways to find out if what we are buying is a good deal or not.

The Simple Approach

Find out the following:
    1. What does the product sell for in other stores?

    2. What year's model is the product - this year or last year?

    3. Is the product typical of what the store sells?

    4. What do others say about the product?

If you can find the answers to the four questions, chances are you will be able to determine if a retailer is being honest about the advertised "sale" price.

What Does the Product Sell for in Other Stores?

The answer to this question will help determine if the retailer has marked something up just to mark it down and make it appear as if the item is getting a huge discount. Finding out the average price of an item is very simple with the price-comparison sites now available on the Internet.

Is the Product This Year or Last Year's Model?

An item will depreciate in value regardless if it is sitting on store shelves or sitting in our homes. Knowing when a product first hit the stores will help you figure out if you are getting a good price.

Ask the sales person directly how long the item has been in the store. If they hesitate - watch out. Most sales people know the newest merchandise, but will not be as familiar with the older stock.

But avoid just taking a sales person's word for it. Using the Internet, you can find out more information on products than you may really want to know. PC World is an excellent resource for finding out about computers, iPods, cell phones and other computer and electronic equipment. If you do discover the item has been out in the stores since last year, expect at the very least, a 25 percent savings off the normal retail price.

Is The Product Typical of What the Store Sells?

Buying a television from your local supermarket may seem like a good idea, but chances are it was offered to the store because of an over-run of inventory. In other words, the merchandise is being dumped. This does not mean you cannot find decent electronics at grocery stores, but to do so without doing your research is risky business.

Often you could find the same item at the same price, but at a store that typically sells televisions and offers a better consumer services. Shop around.

What Do Others Say About the Product?

If your mother always told you not to worry about what others say, well now is the exception! When buying products that you have very little first-hand knowledge about, finding out how the product rates in performance is important. Many retail Web sites now offer consumers the opportunity to rate product performance. Take the time to read the ratings and you may decide to keep shopping.

Keep Shopping When...

  • The floor model or demo product is less that 30 percent off the average retail price.

  • You search for the manufacturer's name of the product on the Internet and only get three Google returns with links. Try to stick with reputable manufacturers.

  • The sale sign says "Up to 50% Savings" over the cashmere sweaters but your calculator says only 25 percent off savings except for one style you would not even buy for your dog. This is a common practice in clothing stores -- to load up a rack of "Up to 50 percent off" merchandise and put on one or two styles which are marked down with the advertised 50 percent discount.

  • You cannot inspect the products. If a retailer is selling a product, which you cannot inspect because it is packed neatly in a box and they have not provided a demo product, keep moving. There is a reason there is no demo product for customers to handle and chances are it is because it will not hold up to the good standards consumers expect.

    Remember - There is Always Next Year

    If a product fails to meet the price you want to pay - try again next year, or even in a few months! Retailers use markdown schedules to move older items out of the store. A little patience goes a long way, even during the holidays. Buying a gift certificate instead of paying full retail for something that will be drastically reduced in February can almost, at times, double the value of your gift.

    More: How To Save Money On Anything You Buy
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