Beware of bogus bargains

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Beware of bogus bargains
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Are those prices that catch your eye in the store or online really a deal? Everybody wants a bargain, but you have to be wary of buying into the idea of any old deal hook, line and sinker.

How do you know it’s really a deal? There are several lawsuits against retailers over this issue, usually brought on by state attorney generals. Who knows how they become aware of these pricing issues? Maybe they’re out shopping and see a pricing discrepancy with their own eyes. The point is clear, though. It doesn’t matter what the price was, it just matters if it’s a deal relative to what you can get it for elsewhere.

So don’t get caught up in the hype of pricing magic. Sure, everybody wants bragging rights about the deal they stole. But forget bragging rights. All that matters is whether or not it’s truly a deal. For the more than 1 in 4 of us with smartphones, you can use any of a number of free apps that let you scan an item’s barcode right there in the store and get an instant comparison price from the web.  

I was in a store looking at an item and decided to give it a try. My phone couldn’t read the barcode, so I had to use a voice-activated search engine feature that allowed me to describe the item. Then I got the comparison prices. It turned out the item was a deal at the store, but I never would have known that if I couldn’t have comparison shopped right then and there.

Electronics are just about the easiest category to comparison shop. On the other hand, there are two product categories that are just about the hardest.

First and foremost, you have mattresses and box springs. Every retailer has a deal with the manufacturers where they have different model numbers and different product names to discourage comparison shopping. That allows everybody to boast that they won’t be undersold.  

The second category is clothing. It’s very hard to comparison shop unless you buy a brand name. So I do the equivalent of comparing generic brands. And I always look for single-digit prices, either new or used. That way I never have to worry about paying too much. On the down side, I know that my clothes look like they cost single-digit prices!

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Clark Howard About the author:
Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. More about Clark
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