Deal or No Deal? Why Most Online Discounts Are Bogus

Deal or No Deal? Why Most Online Discounts Are Bogus

With so much technology at our fingertips, you'd think it would be nearly impossible to get tricked into overpaying for anything on your holiday shopping list this year.

All you've got to do is Google the product you'd like to buy—then click on a couple different retailer sites selling it, until you locate the deepest discount.

Well, according to a recent New York Times piece, this process isn't quite as fool-proof as it seems: Recent research suggests that as many as 99% of the "bargains" out there are bogus.

For example, some retailers increase their prices on certain products months in advance, so that when they slash them during the holiday season, shoppers will think they’re scoring a massive discount.

Other merchandise on sale may simply be of a lower quality than higher-priced products—and not worth your cash, anyway.

That consumers aren't yet hip to these games is rather surprising. After all, a survey from Invesp.com found that nearly 60% of online shoppers say they prefer the web to the mall for the express purpose of comparing prices.

But, in reality, it seems like hectic schedules—combined with the simple thrill of finding a "deal," whether or not it's real—often trumps the desire to comparison-shop, and, in turn, inclines us to jump at the first sale we see.

“We are all busy, distracted, and we have limited time and attention to devote to research, so we all fall victim to [retailers’] tricks,” William Poundstone, author of “Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It),” told The New York Times.

The good news is that it is possible to avoid getting duped this holiday season. For starters, take the time to really scour price-tracking sites that do the work for you, such as Camel Camel Camel, before making a buy; or download a shopping app that's equally useful while in-store or online browsing.

Another savvy strategy: Clear your cookies regularly, as retailers will often advertise low prices when you first visit a site, but raise them later.

Bottom line: When it comes to how much you shell out for gifts this year—and all throughout 2015—you have more say than you think.

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