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Breakthrough: When a sale isn’t a sale


Tricks of the trade

PT Barnum, the legendary circus owner and showman, once created a “museum” in New York. It housed some legitimate exhibits from around the world. However, it also included far-fetched quirks from his imagination.

The museum was such a success that it couldn’t accommodate everyone. Barnum, ever the master of verbal dexterity, came up with a novel solution. He put up a big sign with the inscription “Here to the exit.”Many visitors followed the sign near the exit in search of a way out.

​​​​​​While not as egregious as Barnum, many companies resort to trickery to sell higher prices to customers. For the most part, these tactics are not illegal. However, there are some. The only way to deal with them is to know about them.

Sales fake

We just went through a number of 4th of July sales and are in the lull before the Labor Day sales. As a result, savvy buyers should know what’s coming next – a fake sale.

Fake sales occur when a store creates a fake “regular price” and then advertises a “sale price” lower than the fake regular price. For example, a seller has a shirt that he normally sells for $18. However, the retailer values ​​it at its regular price of $36, but crosses out $36 and puts it on sale for $18. Wow, fifty percent off! Better buy this shirt now while it’s on sale!

The idea is to get you to buy now without comparing prices with other sellers.

If a retailer consistently offers these fake sales, it may violate the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) rules on deceptive advertising. However, these rules are difficult to enforce in the case of advertising sales.

Common practice

A Consumer’s Checkbook 10-month study in 2018, 17 out of 19 major retailers were alleged to have sometimes or regularly misled. According to Consumer’s Checkbook, of the 19, only Bed Bath & Beyond and Costco consistently provide legitimate sales.

Pricing becomes murky because there are virtually no rules governing it. Many items may come with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price, but ultimately the retailer sets the price.

A seller may list the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, but actually price the product for less. It is legal and fair.

Claims of false scarcity

Many advertisements state that the item is available “while supplies last.” This is an accurate statement. However, this can give the false impression that the product is in short supply. In fact, the advertiser’s store or elsewhere may have plenty on hand.

Hotel booking sites are notorious for reporting that there is only one room left similar to the one you are looking for.

These promotions are designed to help you make a quick purchase.

Add 0n fees

Often companies advertise “low introductory rates.” That’s code for “we’ll make money from additional fees.”

One of the most common examples of additional fees can be found with your cable or internet provider. These companies often advertise low rates. However, by the time they add the router, set-top box for the second TV, installation fees, etc., you could be paying double what was advertised.

Airlines are also masters of superstructures. In addition to the great price of the flight, you may have to pay for carry-on baggage, checked baggage or change the flight.


Most sales strategies are designed to induce a quick decision from consumers. So one of the best ways to ensure you don’t get scammed is to take your time. Don’t buy on impulse.

The easiest way to avoid impulse or emotional buying is to make shopping a mindful practice. Before you go to the store or post online, decide what you are going to buy and why.

Once you have a goal to shop for, shop around for the best deal. In other words, comparison shop. One store may offer a big discount. However, a competitor may have a product at a lower price.

One way to compare prices is to use a price comparison app. Many of these programs are free to download and monitor prices in stores and online.

We often buy on emotion. As a result, the best way to beat sales tricks is to shop with logic.

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