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Holiday sales: Great deals or a sham?

Posted: 3:00 PM, Nov 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-01 20:00:56Z

It’s that time, when stores offer up their best deals on the hottest items. Some of the advertised deals can even cause customers to stand in lines for hours and even camp out the night before the items go on sale. But this could be a big waste of time.

“Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale,” says Kevin Brasler, the executive editor of the consumer watch dog group Consumer’s Checkbook.

Brasler tracked sales and deals at 19 major retailers for nearly a year to find out which companies are telling the truth when advertising their sales.  

"Most of these stores offering big ticket items are just offering the same deal they did before and the same deal they offered the next week,” says Brasler of his findings. “It wasn't a special price."  

The worst offenders range from big box stores to high-end retailers. And with Black Friday around the corner, Brasler warns consumers to be cautious of those doorbuster deals, especially those early morning sales urging you to get up to get amazing deals on hot items before they go.   

"There's for sure no reason to get excited about most of the items they are selling on Black Friday, because we found the sales they are offering then are just about the same as they otherwise are," he says.  

Then there are those buy one and get one half-off sales. Brasler says these, too, are often a sham.  

"These sales they just call them different sales; it's really rare that they have a super good price that you better grab right then and there otherwise it will go away forever,” Brasler says.  

That's because the less expensive item is usually the one that gets the half-off deal. So, in reality, you're really not saving that much at all.

Also, beware of going out of business sales.    

"You're not offering them a special price; you're offering them the usual price," Brasler says.  

Sometimes, the third-party liquidator prices the items higher than the original price. That’s what happened with Toys-R-Us closed.  

"Even if it's illegal or not, it's sure dishonest," Brasler says.  

Out of the 19 stores Checkbook.org watched, they said Costco and Bed Bath and Beyond were among the most trustworthy, but that's mostly because they rarely have sales.