Clark Howard: Not all sales are truly a bargain

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Black Friday started on Thanksgiving this year. Is the annual retail salesfest encroaching too far on the American institutions of family and football that usually mark Turkey Day?

Some retailers have been steadily taking Thanksgiving away from employees by starting the sales earlier and earlier over the last couple of years. Kmart was the first to do this several years ago by opening on Thanksgiving. Now others like Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us are following suit.

Target opened stores at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving for Black Friday sales. But they were bested by Sears and Walmart, both of which opened at 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, retailers used to get upset when copies of their Black Friday ads leaked out on the web. Today, however, they strategically leak them to websites like,,  “new” and, among others.

Walmart in particular will be selling 60-inch LED TVs at $599 and a 15.6-inch laptop for $179 this year.

But there’s one thing to beware of no matter which store you shop: There will be a lot of “high-low” pricing this shopping season.

With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, we get mesmerized by the word “sale” at retailers of all different kinds. But is that “sale” really a deal or not?

A lot of merchandise sold in the gift departments of stores is brought in specifically to be sale merchandise. It’s brought in with an inflated price on it that is then marked off 60 or 70 percent.

That’s not a real sale. It will not be bargain priced, though you will see signs everywhere screaming about sales. You have to know the quality and even the brand of what you’re buying before you get suckered in.

Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website. And get more savings tips from Clark’s previous blog posts.

– Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

3 comments Add your comment


November 29th, 2012
7:35 am

Clark Help me please. HFC 2nd mortgage has been gouging me for the past 9 years. In spite of my attempts to work with this company they refuse to be reasonable. I can not believe this type of consumer gouging is legal. .

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Ole Guy

December 2nd, 2012
8:23 pm

This “hi-low” strategy, among retailers, is nothing new. For far too many years, items have been artificially marked up only to be “repackaged” as an X% off sale. These bandwagon events (structured to generate, within the buying public, a quick…buy-the-product-before-the-”sale”- goes- away mentality) are oriented toward the simple-minded idea that if the purchase isn’t made immediately, all will be lost.

If you wait until the week following New Years, the product, along with many many more, will appear on store shelves as true sale items.