24 February 2012

"50% off" may not be a bargain

Stores sometimes mark prices up before marking them down for a sale.  Most savvy shoppers are aware of this, but a Sacramento news team documented the phenomenon:
Pattie Woody came home thinking she got 50 percent off a $209.99 sheet set from Kohl’s. But inside the packaging, she found another price tag — this one listed at $169.99 — $40 cheaper than the outside sticker.

“It really surprised me,” she said. She still believed she had gotten a good deal — but, peeling back three layers of price stickers — she found her sheet set had been marked up three times, she said...

One twin sheet set was listed at 50 percent off the original price of $89.99. But inside the plastic zipper, the earlier price tag shows $49.99, indicating the current sale is only $5 savings from the original tag.

A 10″ skillet was listed on sale for $34.99, with a regular price of $39.99, but underneath that sticker, the earlier price tag was marked $29.99 — meaning Kohl’s current price on sale is $5 more than the originally marked price...
Depending on when the price goes up and down, the practice may be legal or illegal according to state laws.  If you encounter the practice, try this:
A CBS13 producer wanted to see what would happen if customers challenge the price at the counter, with a sheet set marked 30 percent off the sticker price of $149.99 The sheets rang up $104.99, as displayed in store, but that sale price is $15 higher than the sticker inside the packaging showing these sheets were once marked $89.99.

“This thing actually says $89,” the producer said to the clerk. “Can I get 30% off that?” The clerk calls over a manager, who agrees to give the 30 percent discount off the $89.99 label.


  1. Having worked at a few retail jobs over the years, I know this is the case. One reason I'm not much into shopping except in have-to cases.

  2. If I remember correctly this isn't allowed in the UK. For a start there are rules about reductions having to have been on sale for a certain time at the full price - though there are fairly simple ways round it. I've a feeling it's also not permitted to increase the price of goods already on the shelf - overstickering in effect.

  3. I always peel back the stickers if there is more than one. It's often quite revealing.

  4. ShopKo is especially bad about doing this.

  5. They do that at the Shell stations here. It advertises 5 cents off per gallon every Thursday, but if you keep track of the cost/gallon, they raise it 3 cents on Thursdays, before giving you the 5 cents off.

  6. This article seems to imply that there is some objectively correct price for these items to which discounts must be applied.

    What objective criteria would one use to determine this "correct" price?

  7. seen in a german supermarket in 2009:
    a cheap "kid's art set", a coffer filled with crayons, pencils, glitter-glue, fairy dust and other assorted multi-hued items

    (we believe that this contact-poison-color stuff is nothing but camouflaged tools of the trade for chinese undercover assassins, but that's another thread).

    they piled 'em high in the aisle, but alas - the picky customers refused to buy the caskets of rainbow-y fun, priced @ somewhat unreasonable 14.99€ ...

    three weeks later, with a sales figure of approximately zero, the frustrated management went for the !!!SALE!!! strategy, re-pricing the junk set to 29.99 while offering a staggering 50% discount...

    lo and behold, the stack of caskets o'dross dwindled in no time at all....
    on a very related note: i think that, sometimes, for some people, the right to vote is an undeserved gift.


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