saleIt’s the time of year once again for sales and bargains aplenty. Unfortunately, many retailers out there are making rather lackluster deals look like something they’re not. It’s not that these retailers are being dishonest, but not everything is as good as it seems.

Just about every city has that one store that is constantly advertising the biggest sale of the year. Everything is marked half off and BOGO (buy one; get one) as if it has never done anything like this before. You know it’s not true, but people fall for it every day and end up paying more than they would have if they had just done a little research beforehand.

Do the Math

Some stores mark everything a certain percentage off, citing the original suggested retail price as the starting point for the discount. Little do customers realize that most products are sold at below suggested retail even when no sales is going on. This undercutting is part of a larger selling tactic, and that suggested retail price is supposed to be higher than the average selling price.

10% off a product still gives the average store a 23% profit over the wholesale price they purchased the goods at. Not every store operates this way, but the average markup for a product hovers around 1/3 of the total selling price.

Before you rush to your nearest big box store and slap your money on the counter to take advantage of this one time only offer, take a moment to see what the store usually sells the product at. You might be surprised to find their discounts aren’t really that amazing at all.

Avoid Doorbusters and Check for Better Deals Online

Doorbusters get people in the doors. They’re perhaps the trademark of Black Friday (which recently passed here in the U.S.) and many times these deals don’t beat the average price you could buy them item for online.

When it comes to technology, there are a number of useful online tools that can find the best deal on a specific item for you which you can compare to the sales price listed at the store by just scanning the barcode. Amazon’s Price Check app on Android and iOS is one such solution. Google Shopper and RedLaser are also solid solutions for performing price checks in the store.

Doorbusters are often last-year’s models being liquidated by the retailer to make room for new product. is a great resource to check on the age and likelihood that the price of a given gadget is destined to change in the next few weeks, or if a replacement product is heading to market.

Watch for Refurbished Items

Not every store (online or otherwise) is forthcoming about the source of their incredible bargains. What might look like a great deal on a recent-generation iPod could actually just a refurbished unit with a standard refurbished (or open box) price.

It isn’t until you see the fine print on the deal that you realize you’re really just paying a regular market price for a non-new item. Factory refurbished gadgets are usually pretty good investments. Some stores label open box items the same way they label refurbished merchandise, and that’s where you need to be careful.

Chasing deals is a great save to save money on products you would have bought anyway. Just remember to do your research before jumping into a bargain that might not be as good as it seems.

Image: Paul Inkles