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Be Wary of Memorial Day Sales

Happy Memorial Day! I hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday.

Besides cookouts and pool-openings, this marks a major sale and shopping weekend in the States. Remember to use a certain amount of caution when shopping the sales.

Sure, there are going to be some great Memorial Day bargains. At the same time, be wary of the two pitfalls of such well-publicized sales:

1) The sale that isn’t.

Since stores are so interested in attracting consumers, they may make it look like items are on sale when they really aren’t. I’ve heard stories on The Consumerist from sales associates who’ve marked up items so so they could be marked down again.

For example, suppose I wanted to make it look like you were getting a deal on a pair of $75 slacks. I’d mark them up to $100 (in the “original price” field) and then mark them as 25% off.

These tactics happen year ’round, but I understand they’re particularly prevalent during Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Black Friday sales.

Solution: Buy things because you need them and they’re at a price you consider reasonable, not because they’ve been marked down.

2) The sale that you don’t need.

These are items that are actually on sale, that you know are on sale, but that you don’t actually need. I’m as much of a sucker for a low price as the next girl, so I have to fight these extra-hard.

It’s like the time someone asked to schedule a free demonstration for something the company I was working at didn’t need and couldn’t order even if we wanted it (being a branch of a much larger group which handled vendors). She seemed incredulous that anyone would turn down a free demonstration.

Just like that “free” demonstration would have eaten into our time and possibly our energy (if the demonstrator didn’t want to take “no” for an answer), a sale that costs you something you wouldn’t have spent is a sale for the store, not for you.

Solution: Again, buy things you need at reasonable prices. If you’re like me and feel the tug of things you weren’t planning to buy, bring a shopping list and tell yourself you’ll stick to it. An advantage of working on the shopping list well-before the sale is that you can keep an eye on the prices and avoid assuming (as in #1) that items marked as on-sale are really less expensive.

For some reason, I don’t feel quite right about Memorial Day sales (perhaps because the whole thing is supposed to be such a serious holiday, though I can interpret cookouts and parties as celebrations of our freedom or something).


John @ Hard Work Blogging May 25, 2009 at 11:26 am

The biggest sale that is a sale – and happens year round – is the going out of business sale. Once the going out of business signs go up the contents of that store are owned by a third party. The prices are not just marked up so the discount makes them the same price, they are raised to MSRP.

For the Circuit City going out of business sale i was looking for a Harmony One remote and Sony DJ Headphones – but this was true of most everything in the store. I went when the prices were up to 20%, 30%, 40%, and 50% off. With up to the discounts up to 40% off i walked out of the store without buying because they were not cheaper than anywhere else’s “regular” sale prices. These items were also not getting the highest percent off billing. They got to 30% off. Even at the 50% off it did not beat or BestBuy. But it did not matter as by this point everything i wanted was now sold out.

Another going out of business sale tactic is to raise the price and list “Now just $X.99”. Take a Sharpie and completely black out the previous price and post a new one that is higher than the last one. I have a good friend that worked a going out of business sale and did this exact thing. The more price changes the faster they sold an item – inflated price and all.

John @ Hard Work Blogging’s last blog post: Reduce Gaming Costs

Kristy @ Master Your Card May 26, 2009 at 12:51 am

Ugh! I avoid shopping altogether around major holidays. I buy my Christmas gifts throughout the year so I don’t have to worry about it. I take my time and comparison shop on any large dollar items. I do not go looking for sales unless it’s something I need. I’m pretty bad about being caught up in the moment of a sale and getting stuff I don’t need. I am; however, completely conscious of the mark-up scam as I’ve worked in retail the vast majority of my life.

Thanks for pointing these out! I have several friends that went shopping today for all the department store sales. I’d be willing to bet that they didn’t really save anything.

Kristy @ Master Your Card’s last blog post: The Precarious Nature of Social Media

Dad May 26, 2009 at 2:54 am

One of my uncles was given the job in high school at a major NYC department store of marking prices up so they could be marked down. That was about 80 years ago. Nothing has changed and probably won’t.

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