Discount Deception: The Sneaky Truth Behind Store Sales


clothing-saleThat $299 pair of Calvin Klein jeans isn’t exactly in your budget. But the original price is listed at $400 … so you’re technically being thrifty (and chic), right?

Maybe not. It turns out the deals and discounts advertised by major retailers are sometimes nothing but bogus.

That’s because, as MarketWatch reports, each retailer sets its own original and sale prices, depending on factors like their customer base and sales events. If a store can’t really afford to offer a discount, often they’ll simply alter the original price so that consumers just think they’re getting a great bargain.

Sneaky, huh? In the past few years, reporters have accused Kohl’s and J.C. Penney of just that: First marking up prices on store items and then slashing them, to make people believe they were scoring sweet deals. In other words, those $299 jeans were never meant to sell for $400 at all.

What’s even scarier is that, according to MarketWatch, we may actually enjoy being duped. Research has long suggested that finding a bargain—even on an item we weren’t planning to purchase—can be insanely gratifying.

But, of course, it’s not all smoke and mirrors. Sometimes the “original price” genuinely is the original price, and the deal is real. So how do you know whether that discounted item is worth it? Retail experts interviewed by MarketWatch suggest checking the price of the item on Amazon, at Walmart or Target, and at some other stores where you typically shop. Price comparison apps like RedLaser or SnapTell can also be helpful.

Or you can take this man’s advice and practice savvy shopping skills to make sure you never, ever pay full price for anything.

  • aztecace

    That may be true for clothes, but they shopping for computers where you can’t compare apples to apples to find out if it really a sale on that PC.

  • Beth

    This has been true for decades, predominantly on clothing and household items at most department stores. JCPenney tried to change their pricing policy to get rid of this strategy and almost drove the company into the ground. People like to feel like they’re getting a deal, even an artificial one.

  • In my experience…

    I’ve found this is especially true with flash sale sites on both clothes and household items. Often I can find them as cheap or cheaper on Amazon and Amazon isn’t trying to pressure me into buying with a time limit.