How Do You Know When A Sale Isn’t A Sale?

How Do You Know When A Sale Isn’t A Sale?

“Sale” is a hard word to resist. It implies that you’re lucky, you’re smart, and you’re one-upping everyone else in desperate need of, say, an iPhone 4. But anyone who has plunged into a sale and emerged with an armful of items never to be used (we remember one particularly poignant frying pan from IKEA) knows that the magic s-word can entice you to spend money you wouldn’t have otherwise—and there’s nothing lucky about that.

Stores Can Be Tricky

So when isn’t a sale a sale? When it’s chock-full of marketing tricks and false price comparisons. LifeHacker compiled a list of common sales-that-aren’t. Here’s one of our favorites:

Beware of rebates. Manufacturers love rebates. Why? Because next to nobody completes them. Return rates for various industries and items range from 2-60% which means a lot of cash left in the manufacturer's pocket—in 2005 almost half of new TiVo subscribers failed to mail in their $100 rebate, leaving $5,000,000 unclaimed. Look for deals with instant at-register rebates or skip rebates all together—the rate of return is simply too low to trust yourself to get around to it before the deadline comes up.

Our Laziness Costs Us Money

The most interesting part of the rebate non-sale is that responsibility sits right on our own shoulders. They’re willing to give us money. They’re offering to give us money. But we, in the midst of our third batch of IKEA eggs—we have years to make up for, after all—are simply to lazy to claim that money. Shame on us.

Preparation Is Key

Other sales-that-aren’t include liquidation sales (the prices aren’t really rock-bottom),  the shipping trap, and inflated discount percentages. Before you sink too far into despair, though, it is possible to get great deals. The list includes a few tips to redeem yourself, but it boils down to this: Do your research. A prepared shopper is the best shopper.

Tell us in the comments: Do you look for sales, or buy what you need and get pleasantly surprised by an unexpected discount?

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