A bad economy hits the retail and grocery market just as hard as it does any other sector. What used to be a neutral, safe zone for thrifty shoppers has evolved into a web of tricky gimmicks. No doubt you typically buy eye-level grocery goods (the most expensive row in the store) and those end-cap deals, never on your shopping list, always weasel their way into your cart. Retail stores are becoming even more ruthless in their pursuit for a buck. So shop offensively and don't be afraid to ask questions before zipping the credit card. Be especially cautious of these offers.
1. Liquidation Sales
You've seen the obnoxious, yellow signs plastered over furniture and home goods stores. If the place is going under, there must be some good deals, right? Perhaps, but most likely not. Before gigs like Circuit City and Linens & Things bit the dust, they marked up merchandise far above competitor prices then "reduced" the price by an increasing percentage each week. The customer pays more for the liquidated product than they would on any non-sales day at another establishment. If you can't help yourself, at least take a smart phone with you to check prices online before falling for a dud.
2. Mail-in Rebate
Marketers for small electronics are geniuses. They jack up the price of a product and assume that most customers won't cash in on the rebate, which is true. Most rebates require that you cut out UPCs, send receipts, and include copies of your social security card and birth certificates to discourage you from collecting. Plus most stores don't return items without a UPC, so your chances of completing an exchange or return are nil. You'll also surrender your personal information so they can harass you mercilessly via mail-outs and eDeals. If you aren't willing to pay the full price sans rebate, walk away.
3. Container Changes
Conspiracy theory has some value, especially when it comes to grocery stores. No, you aren't losing your mind. Your favorite peanut butter brand has a new container. And it isn't larger than the one you're accustomed to buying. Look on the bottom of cans, yogurt jars, and other items packaged in containers. Most of them have a high dome on the bottom carving out significant amounts of food. Many companies have started to do this and there's not a good way to retaliate. Know that you have the right to file a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection if the advertised ounce amount is incorrect.
4. Rain Check Denial
Some grocers have sunk so low as to not offer a rain check for their too-good-to-be-true deals. Which is just what they are, since offering five items at a steal gets you in the door without guaranteeing the advertised special. Most customers won't take the time to file a complaint with the authorities, so stores will continue to take advantage of false advertising. Grocers must prove they stocked enough of their product to accommodate for their sales or they are required to compensate with a rain check.
5. Mislabeled Price
How many times have you collected your cart of future belongings, hauled it to the front, and waited half an hour in checkout only to find that your merchandise isn't ringing up the listed price. Your choices are: A.) risk the evil eye and audible sighs from every shopper behind you should you demand a price check; B.) pay the price listed; C.) surrender your item. Most likely you'll fork over the extra which is why this happens so frequently. If a sign is posted in the store advertising a specific item's price, you are guaranteed to pay that price.
6. Faux Sales Sign
Red is eye-catching. Red means warning. Red = discounts. Simply because a sign is listed in red with a "wham-o" bubble around it doesn't mean it is discounted below what you'd pay for it regularly or at another store. Look for signs that imitate sales ads just to tickle your fancy and ignore them.