Everybody loves a sale. But the problem is, retailers know it and a sale may not always be what it seems. That's why Channel 11 Morning News anchor Katherine Amenta examined a new study, then hit the stores to show you how to protect your wallet.
"Unfortunately I don't really pay attention to prices when I shop," said shopper Karen Conklin.
Conklin hates to admit it, but she doesn't always look at sale prices at her favorite stores. She says it's largely because, she doesn't believe them. And it turns out, she may be right.
"Checkbook Magazine" tracked big-ticket items at 19 major retailers for 10 months. They say they uncovered disturbing pricing policies at 17 of those stores, with one of the worst offenders being Macy's.
And here's one example. At Macy's, they tracked 20 items. Seven of them were marked "on sale" every time they checked over the course of 44 weeks. So, is it a sale or is it just Macy's regular price dressed-up a little?
"There are no real standards about some of the wording, about some of the claims that they make," said Mary Bach, who is a local consumer advocate. She's successfully sued retailers 10 times over price discrepancies. She says it's up to you, to do your homework and comparison shop. That means you first have to understand the price tags.
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For example, a manufacturer's suggested price for a pair of pants might be $49.99. But, Bach says that doesn't mean that has to be a store's original price. So, she says, if a department store puts up an enticing 20 percent off sign over that suggested price -- all the time -- it looks like a sale. But maybe, that's just that store's regular price.
Amenta reached out to Macy's for a response to their critics.
They told me, "Our pricing cadence varies for each item, based on the nature and seasonality of the merchandise, its family of business and customer response, among other things..."
Here's another lesson. Although Marshalls wasn't involved in this study, it's a good example. One shirt has three prices on it, with a "compared at" in the middle.
"You just look at those tags and you think , 'compared to what'," said Bach.
Bach says that number is what might be a generic competitor's price. Again, do your homework. But, Bach also admits, comparison shopping isn't always convienent. So she says, sometimes you also just have to trust your gut.
"I think we all have to know our own price points," she said. "What we're willing to pay for something. And if you think it's a really good deal, go for it!"
Bach went on to say you have to be especially careful with Black Friday.
You're more anxious around the holidays to get everything finished, so you're more at risk of making a bad purchase.
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