WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars shopping online and in stores on Black Friday, despite the fact that most research shows the deals really aren't deals at all.
In 2014, the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports warned shoppers about the growing number of stores using "deceptive pricing techniques" that make sale prices look like better deals than they actually are.
According to a Nerdwallet survey, a lot of stores list the same items as being "on sale" all year long — a tactic that's made it harder for consumers to know which deals are legitimate. One common strategy is marking up prices to make discounts appear larger. Retailers often inflate the “comp price,” “original price” or “regular price” that you see alongside the sale price in ads.
Tips to keep in mind before you shop
- Ignore the percentage of a discount. Judge items based solely on its price. Do research ahead of time to see how prices compare across different stores.
- Price tracking tools are essential. Install a browser plug-in like CamelCamelCamel and InvisibleHand that checks the price history of any product before you buy it so you know if you're getting a good deal.
- Check the manufacturer’s website. According to CNET, "A lot of manufacturers post their weekly deals and holiday promotions. The prices listed on their sites are your first line of defense against misleading ads. That great deal for $800? It frequently turns out that the manufacturer is offering it for $750, and that "deal" is based on the old "official" price of $900."
- Bundles are not your friend. Whatever you do, do not be fooled by a bundle.
- Price-drop tools are a game-changer. Sign up for Paribus and link the app to your spending account information you use for online shopping. If the price drops on something you've bought online, Paribus will automatically ask for a refund.
- Use coupons. Before you start shopping online, you should seriously consider joining a cash-back rewards program like eBates. You should also install a coupon browser plug-in like Honey or PriceZombie.
- Kohls: Vacuum brands like Bissell, Shark and Dyson are on sale just about everywhere. Kohls stuck out for having multiple high-end vacuums for $149.99 (regularly $300).
- Human: Tons of cute shirts and items that make great gifts. Get 70 percent off tons of cute shirts and accessories using the code THANKS40.
- Express: 50 percent off everything.
- Adidas: 50 percent off site-wide; $25 sweatshirts and sweatpants.
- Forever 21: 30 percent off your entire purchase
- Urban Outfitters: Buy one get one 50 percent off entire site