If it seems like every time you walk into a store or visit a website, everything is on sale. You are not alone. Sales have become so common, it is turning shopping into compulsion and us into a nation of cynics. Everything can’t be on sale all the time, right?
Fear of Missing a Good Deal
The fact is, everyone loves a good sale. When we find something at a price lower than we thought possible, we tend to go for it, out of fear that we may never see such a bargain again. We love a great bargain. We love feeling like we lucked out making our friends envious by talking about our deal-making skills.
However, we also want to be savvy consumers, which means we don’t want to feel buyers’ remorse on a bargain. That means we have to be able to tell the difference between good sales and sales that use sales tricks to lure us in to buy something at a price that really isn’t very good.
How to Spot Non-Sale Sales
Unfortunately, retailers of both the brick-and-mortar and online varieties are routinely offering merchandise at what they call a sale price, even though they never actually sell it for more than that. When they do this, they are actually deceiving consumers and possibly breaking the law.
Federal Trade Commission rules say that retailers are supposed to make such items available at its regular price for a “substantial period of time” before they claim it is being put on sale at a lower price. Usually, the duration of the “substantial period of time” is about 2-3 months.
Thankfully, consumers are increasingly fighting back against such slippery sales tactics. For example, a couple of years ago, a $5 million class action was filed against Nike for the company’s use of misleading price tags in its outlet stores.
What Can I Do to Find Out If the Sale Price is a Good One?
The best way to find out if a sale price is a good deal is through comparison pricing. One great way to do that online is by simply plugging the name of the item into a search engine and seeing what comes up. If you do that on Google, Bing or other search engines, you will receive a list of retailers offering the same item and their price.
If you have a smartphone, there are several websites and/or apps that can help you with comparison shopping. Here are a few of the most popular and effective choices:
- ShopAdvisor is a smartphone app that allows consumers to track products you’re interested in and compare prices at thousands of stores, both in town and online. You can customize the app to alert you to sales. In addition, it will also use sales data to let you know when an item you want is available at the best price.
- Shop Savvy allows consumers to compile a list of products you are looking for. It will track them for you and let you know when they’re available at a great sale price. They recently added a feature that allows consumers to check prices through twitter, by Tweeting a link to a product to @shopsavvy. If the item is available elsewhere for less, they will respond with the information on Twitter.
- PriceGrabber allows consumers to compare prices on thousands of goods being sold by thousands of merchants and sellers. In addition to price information, you get product information, as well as merchant ratings, product reviews and more. You can also sign up to receive email notifications of the best available prices.
- Savings Catcher is an app created by Walmart. It allows consumers to compare Walmart’s prices with the prices at other retailers, including Target and Amazon. The app even allows you to scan a Walmart receipt and compare all items with the advertised prices at other stores in your area. If the app finds a lower price, Walmart will refund the difference on an e-gift card.
How Do I Make Sure I Get the Best Sale Price?
There are other ways to make sure you get the best sale price on most items you buy. It just takes a pro-active attitude on your part.
Here are some things you can do to always make sure you get the best sale price:
Sign Up for Deals
Most retailers have savings cards or accounts you can sign up to get the best sale price. Usually, you have to furnish the retailer with a name, address, and birthdate. In return, you’ll get plenty of coupons and exclusive deals.
Many retailers offer special deals to people who just signed up, or for those willing to accept text alerts for special sales.
Negotiate to Get the Best Sale Price
Though most people don’t realize it, the price that is marked on a product does not mean that’s how much you will have to pay. It is usually possible to negotiate a better price for almost anything and in any situation.
It’s easier if there is a defect in a product. For example, a couple of pulled threads on an article of clothing or a small scratch on an electronic piece. But even if there is no defect, it’s always possible to negotiate a lower price, especially on big-ticket items. Just be able to clearly state exactly how much you want off and why.
Always Ask the Question
This is the most important piece of advice for any consumer. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount you are aware exists. For instance, if you cut out or downloaded a coupon and you just don’t have it with you, don’t be afraid to ask for another one.
When you’re shopping online, enter a chat or message the retailer to ask if there are any coupon codes available. They can say “no”, in which case you’re no worse off. However, you may be surprised at how often they say “yes” and help you out.