Finance

Watch out for these 3 tricks stores use to make you pay more during the holidays

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Maybe you’re not saving as much as you think you are.


Key points

  • Not all vacation deals are really worth it.
  • Savvy shoppers should always read the fine print to learn more about any strings attached to a sale or offer.

The holiday season brings in big bucks for most retailers, with Americans spending billions on Black Friday alone. Most companies try to attract customers to their storefronts by promising deep discounts and generous return policies. And when you’re caught up in the frenzy of trying to get that last flat-screen TV before a hundred other people are also looking at it, it’s easy to take salespeople at their word.

But the truth is, not all holiday “work” is actually worth it. Sometimes the fine print hides secrets that will quickly break your festive holiday mood. Here are three of these practices to look out for if you want to make sure you’re really getting a good deal.

1. Suspension of price adjustment

Many retailers argue that they will match their competitors’ prices if customers can prove that the competitor is charging less for the same item. This might be the rule for most of the year, but many companies tacitly suspend this option during the holiday season. This means that you either have to buy the item from a seller who offers it cheaper or be comfortable paying a higher price.

2. Misleading advertising discounts

Companies often advertise the original retail price when an item is on sale to make you feel like you’re getting a good deal. But the original price is not always correct. I remember one time I bought a dress online at full price for about $50. I later went back to the same retailer and saw that the dress I bought was now on sale for $40, but the original retail price was listed as $60 instead of the $50 I actually paid.

If you don’t want to run into this problem, start considering your holiday purchases now. Note the regular retail price of each item so you can see how much you’re actually saving when it’s on sale. And if you find a great price during your research, don’t be afraid to buy early. Many stores are now offering great sales before Black Friday.

3. Claiming mail-in rebates to get quotes

Some companies promise savings just by submitting a rebate form, along with the receipt, for the purchase. If you follow all the steps, you will get some money back, although it may take a while.

Companies make these deals tricky because they hope some people won’t take the time to send in their rebate forms. If they don’t, they end up paying full price for the item and the seller keeps their extra money.

If you come across one of these offers, make sure you save your receipts and pay attention to the terms of the discount. You may need to submit them by a certain date if you want them to count.

Finally, you have to remember that while stores may offer discounts around the holidays, they really want their bottom line. If you want to make sure you’re getting a fair deal, you need to read the fine print and compare prices from several sellers. If you do, your bank account might not take such a big hit this year.

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