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Some stores trick you with fake 'sales'

Retailers' advertised sale prices may really not be that great of a deal.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 16, 2014 12:31PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyDon't be so quick to celebrate saving $30 on that new set of sale-priced dishes.

It turns out many retailers trick consumers into thinking they're getting a great deal when they shop during a big sale. In reality, many retailers simply bump up items' original prices, then mark the prices down, duping customers into thinking they're scoring a big discount.

"Thanks to a combination of slick pricing, frequent couponing and confusing discounting, retailers routinely trick consumers into thinking they got a great deal on an item -- when in fact they paid way more than they should have," MarketWatch said.

Sale tags © Image Source/CorbisEarlier this year, we told you about a J.C. Penney worker  who claimed he was fired after revealing Penney's sales practices.

J.C. Penney isn't the only retailer that's been accused of fooling customers into thinking they're saving a bunch of money when they're not. According to Consumer Reports:

For instance, in past shopping trips to Kohl's, we saw "sale" items priced as high as or higher than the manufacturer's suggested list price. In one case, a set of T-Fal cookware marked down from $199.99 to $159.99 was still $10 more than T-Fal's list price and $32 more than we would have paid on So comparison-shop, starting with a Web search and the product name and model.

How can you avoid falling for a phony sale? Here are a few tips:

  • Check it out. Even if you think you're getting a great deal, don't be afraid to spend a few minutes checking on an item's price. Matthew Ong, a retail analyst with, told MarketWatch that consumers should check a product's price at multiple locations, including a couple of big-box stores, Amazon and one or two other stores where they routinely shop.
  • Wait and see. If you don’t need an item immediately, you could consider using the Hukkster browser add-in. According to MarketWatch, it sends you an alert when your selected items either go on sale or a coupon is issued.
  • Know when to buy. It's not a great idea to buy a new pool at the beginning of summer. But if you wait until July, chances are that stores will mark the items down to sell, hoping to clear space for fall items. Same with clothes and other seasonal items.

I have found that there are certain stores that seem to have incredibly high original prices on their items. So I shop at stores like that only when they're having a big sale and I have additional coupons to use. I have fallen for fake sales on more than one occasion. It's frustrating.

Have you fallen for a fake "sale"?

More from Money Talks News

Jul 16, 2014 1:20PM
Jul 16, 2014 3:13PM
You mean, Americans deliberately misleading/lying to their fellow countrymen all for the sake of profit... who would have thought?
Jul 16, 2014 2:19PM
This is an old trick.   You have to educate yourself when you shop.
Jul 16, 2014 3:23PM
They do it because it works.  Remember how JC Penney plummeted when they went to "every day low prices"?  People like to think they got a bargain.  The retailers pull these shenanigans because the consumer drives them to do so.
Jul 16, 2014 3:08PM
Common sense, common sense, common sense. I have no sympathy for the morons who fall for this crap.
Jul 16, 2014 3:20PM

My biggest gripe is the buy one, get one "free" ads. In EVERY case the one you have to buy is at least twice the regular price. The super markets & drug stores do this every week.

Then there are the going out of business sales. They first mark the prices WAY up & then "discount" them.

Jul 16, 2014 3:38PM
The only time I buy at Kohl's is when I have a gift card of a great coupon! The prices there are outrageous! I do not shop at JC Penny's at all because of their inferior merchandise and price gouging. We need great prices, but these companies do not care about the public, only the bottom dollar!
Jul 16, 2014 3:27PM

1. The J.C. Penney employee did not tell us anything we did not already know.  2. I laugh whenever I hear someone say they got something on sale at Kohl's.

Jul 16, 2014 9:04PM
I think it is hilarious how many consumers think they are saving money by buying something on sale.  You are still SPENDING money, not SAVING money.  You may have spent less than you would have if you had bought the item at the original price, and IF you were going to buy the item anyway, but you are still SPENDING money.  By some people's thinking, you would eventually build enough wealth to become a millionaire just by going to enough sales.
Jul 16, 2014 9:02PM
JCPenny tried to eliminate the "fake" sale and it nearly ruined them.  The American consumer is a complete sucker for the word SALE. 
Jul 16, 2014 2:59PM

was at ffredmyers the other day saw hot wheels priced $1.00 there was a sign below that for the sale price said 10 for $10.00

ive been well aware of this practice for years. if you want to know when your getting a good deal you need to know what the real price was so watch items you like.

Jul 16, 2014 7:11PM
And what did this article tell us that we didn't already know?
Jul 16, 2014 4:57PM
Shoppers don't care.  They only see how much they will save, never mind the fact the really are paying close to or right at the original price from 3 weeks ago.

It's like pricing an item at $4.99.  For some reason it registers to most people as $4 not $5.  Or the $50 of purchase of $150 or more (NY&Co for example).  Of course you save $50, but you have to spend $100 to get that.  

Lots and lots of retail gimmicks.  The only way you will really save any money is waiting for the item to go on clearance.
Jul 16, 2014 1:33PM
Jul 16, 2014 4:00PM
Jul 16, 2014 3:32PM

A "Sale" is never a "sale" they are counting on stupidity, and getting away with it, or they would have stopped long ago

Jul 16, 2014 8:37PM
they had a presidents' day sale at macy's and all men's pants were half off.
Jul 16, 2014 9:16PM
Years ago, I worked at a grocery store that offered 20 dollars off the purchase of the movie "Titanic" on VHS tape when it would be released if you spent 200 dollars on groceries in the month leading up to it's release.  When the movie finally came out for sale, guess what? It was 20 dollars more expensive than anywhere else.  Customers were so mad about that.  This kind of false advertising happens all the time.
Jul 16, 2014 4:46PM
Men's Warehouse and Joseph A. Banks are two of the worst culprits of this. Every weekend they're supposedly having a sale. Now they say on "practically everything" so as to not totally lie. 
Jul 17, 2014 8:09AM
I hate it when you find a rock bottom give away price online but then realize that the item apparently has to be shipped by a personal limousine service. 
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