A new mom dives into parenthood. Will our heroine survive?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Legends of the MALL, Part 2: Fake Sales

Everyone loves a good sale, but did you know that sometimes those drastic price cuts are not actually cut at all? One of my favorite mall stores is Aeoropostale. I like this store because the clothing is cute and cheap compared to its competitors American Eagle and Abercrombie (wonder why they all use "A" names??). I also do a LOT of Christmas shopping at this store because other people in my family love it as well and they tend to have great sales around the holidays - or do they??

Because of my continued loyalty to the store I notice what the normal prices are on their staple items like baby tees and jeans. So when I went to Aeropostale this year to do my Christmas shopping I was a little angry to find that despite the HUGE 50% OFF signs that were hanging in every window and set on every table, the actual discounted price of the item was the exact same as it always is...! For example a pair of jeans that is usually priced $24.99 had been re-tagged with a $49.99 sticker and then a 50% off sign had been placed above the rack. The same was true for t-shirts. The same t-shirt that would normally be priced around 10 dollars had been marked UP to $20 and then had a 50% off sign stuck on the table.

I have to admit I was a little angry that they would trick their customers in this way and think that no one would notice (even though they snuck it past me for several years!). It really got me to thinking about retail in general and the "sales" they have to attract customers.

About 5 years ago, I worked part-time at Victoria's Secret. There were several items in the store that were always on some kind of sale - but when you did the math they were actually always the SAME price. Lotions and body sprays were almost always 5 for $30, or 3 for $18. The company simply shifted the numbers around to make you think it was on an even better sale than the week before. Underwear was the same - 5 for $25, or 3 for $15.

Retailers employ all sorts of tricks to make you think you are getting a deal, when if fact you're still paying the exact same price! For example, at some grocery stores the milk might go on sale - but the bread will be hiked about 20 cents to compensate. (On a similar note - did you know the reason milk and cheese and bread are in the back of the store is so you have to walk past all the non-staple items on the way to get them? Hmmmm.)

So, my point here is not to shun your favorite store, after all - despite my revelation at Aeropostale that day, I purchased several items anyway - but to make a point when shopping to not be a victim of marketing! Make purchases because you see what you need or because you really like a certain shirt. Not because things are on "sale". Avoid temptation and notice prices so that you don't over-pay. Many people keep a price book in their purse to keep track of normal grocery prices so they know a deal when they see one - this is a GREAT idea. Happy Friday everyone! For more frugal tips head over to Crystal's Blog.


Stephanie @ ATime4Everything.com said...

I knew someone who worked in retail and she told me once that by some law, in order to call something a sale, it had to be held at a certain price for I think 3 weeks. So they do raise the prices and then mark down and call it a sale. Perhaps this is what you are noticing!?

Blue Sky said...

Hey Stephanie! Thanks for your comment! I've never heard of a law such as that one, but I'm sure in some states they have them. To most people though, a sale on an item is a discount off the normal price, and while what I've described may be a sale in the legal sense, what it boils down to is that consumers are paying the same price as they usually do but are being led to believe they are getting a discount, which is a sneaky marketing tactic.

Michaele said...

APPLIANCE SALES - Speaking of Sears in particular but it's probably industry wide - there is a law that says you can't have the same appliance "on sale" for longer than a certain time. Sears gets around this by making identical models of the same appliance and altering some aspect of it so that it will "technically" fit the definition of a different dishwasher. It might be the kind of rack in the dishwasher, for example. Then they give it a new model number, and that is why there is always a dishwasher - or washer or dryer, on sale at Sears! The sale price is the actual price they want to get from the customer, and folks are happy to pay it when they compare it to the other prices on the floor! (This information from one of the MANY technicians who came to our home to fix a Sears appliance - I use their visits to my advantage to learn all I can about the industry and products, since our large family really give their appliances a beating!)


Debbie J. said...

The bottom line is: You need to know your prices or you will fall for a "fake sale" or not so good one anyway! Just because the sales papers says "Wow, Hot Deal" doesn't mean it is. You have to check out the prices and keep a price book or some form of keeping up with the prices.

Pen Pen said...

I've noticed this more and more lately too. Consumers, in general, are just too trusting!

Mrs. Taft said...

Hooray, I'm not crazy! I've had thoughts like this before, but yeah...wow!

I kind of have a basic idea of what I want to spend on a shirt or a pair of pants, and if it's significantly more than that, I don't buy it, no matter how "on sale" it is!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Wow - that is amazing. I am a bargain hunter, so I know my prices very well. It is a shame that so many can get scammed into a "good deal". Great words of warning.