As a savvy consumer, you’re always on the lookout for sales and deals, right? Most of the time, that’s a great thing. Businesses offer you great deals to get you in the door and everyone wins. But sometimes there are issues. Knowing about those in advance can help prevent you from making shopping mistakes. So, let’s take a look at how stores fake sale and discounts. Why do they do this and what does it mean for you?
Why Do Stores Fake Sales?
You would think that stores would want to be known for their credibility, especially in age when social media pushes for business transparency. Nevertheless, stores will sometimes sacrifice their credibility though actions like fake sales. Why do they do it?
- They want to get you in the door. If it sounds like there’s a good deal, then they have your eyes on them. Chances are you’ll buy something. They’re greedy for that money.
- The store feels like it can’t compete with other stores offering better pricing. They know they offer good service and other features, but they’re afraid without lying about their prices you’ll never come check out what they have to offer.
- They want to create a certain perception to stimulate sales. For example, they want you to believe that you’re getting a better deal than you are. Or they want to make it seem like they’re about to run out of something since it’s such a good price when really they have plenty.
- It works. Frankly, sometimes the fake discounts simply work. You buy something at a price higher than you need to because the store convinces you that it’s a good deal. If they don’t get caught, then they don’t feel the need to stop these bad business practices.
How Stores Fake Sale and Discounts
So, now we know why stores fake sale and discounts. But how do they do it? Here are some of the most common practices:
One of the most common ways how stores fake sale and discounts is through fictitious pricing. In other words, they tell you that the pre-sale price was higher than it ever really was. For example, the store advertises that Item X was $99.99 but now you can get it for just $49.99. However, Item X never really was $99.99. You don’t know if you’re getting a deal at all, but you’re definitely not getting the deal that they’re advertising.
When you see that something is so much cheaper than “normal,” it makes you want to buy it while it’s on sale. Avoid this by asking yourself first off if you really want the item at all. If you’re only buying it because it’s a “good deal” then don’t buy it. If you do want it, do some research to see what the item typically sells for in different stores. This will prevent buying things due to the lure of fictitious pricing. Besides, comparison shopping before you make a purchase is always a smart frugal choice.
Advertising a Regular Price as a Sale
Have you ever noticed that some stores seem to have perpetual discounts on the same items? A sale is when an item is discounted for a short period of time. However, some stores advertise a “sale price” that never seems to go away. What they’re actually doing is pretending that a regular price is a discount. It’s not necessarily fictitious pricing if they don’t say what the “regular” price would be. Nevertheless, it’s a false advertisement of a “sale” when really you can get that same item for the same price at the same store almost any day of the year.
Misleading Price Comparisons
The FTC says that another common method how stores fake sale and discounts is through misleading price comparisons. In other words, they say that their price is lower than what others offer but their information is deceptive. It’s kind of like fictitious pricing, except that instead of offering a “sale” price that’s cheaper than a fake “before” price, they offer a “sale” price that’s “cheaper than average” when really it’s not.
For example, let’s say that most comparable stores in an area sell Item Y for $20. However, one store in the area recently sold the same item for $30. If a store then says, “we sell Item Y for $20, competitors sell it for $30” then they’re misleading you about the price. Sure, some store somewhere sold it for me. But when making retail price comparison claims, the store must use the average price for comparable stores in the same area. Otherwise, they’re leading you to believe you’re getting a discount that isn’t accurate.
In a related method, stores might list that they sell items lower than the manufacturer’s listed retail price. This leads you to believe that you’re getting a cheaper price than the average buyer. However, the FTC points out that oftentimes a manufacturer’s suggested retail price is never the price used by stores in a particular area. Therefore, you’re getting misled.
Tricks Related to Buy One Get One and Similar Deals
There’s nothing wrong with stores offering BOGO deals, buy one get one half off, or other similar sales. However, some stores fake sales and discounts by making changes to the item that you must buy in order to get the deal. For example, Item Z normally costs $5. You see a deal to Buy One, Get One Free. However, the price of Item Z is now mysteriously $10. So you’re not actually getting any deal.
Similarly, the manufacturer replaces Item Z with a lower quality item for $5. You do buy one at $5 and get one free but you’re getting less than what you expected due to this bait and switch. Either way, you’re been tricked. Basically, any time that a company is using misleading information or advertising to trick you into accepting a deal, you aren’t getting the good end of the stick.
How to Protect Yourself From Stores that Fake Discounts
These types of problems don’t happen often with businesses, but they do happen. So how can you protect yourself? Here are some tips:
- Shop at the same stores regularly. Therefore, you are familiar with regular prices and know what a discount truly is there.
- Do comparison shopping online and in stores before making purchases.
- Shop with a list. Ignore the sales and deals altogether.
- Ask yourself about the value of an item. If the value to you is lower than the sale price, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s truly a good deal.
- Read the fine print. Stores protect themselves legally by adding fine print that explains away some of how store fake sale and discounts. Reading that fine print can help protect you from them.
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