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ShopSmart-er This Holiday Season

Spotting ‘Sales’ That Are No Bargain, Online Shortcuts, and More Ways to Save

ShopSmart MagazineYonkers, NY – Unless you’re the type who already has your holiday gifts all wrapped up, the shopping season is just getting started. The December 2010 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, makes it easy—and less expensive—with top tips to avoid overspending and to save time.

“The good news is that there’s plenty of time to get started on your gift list and save money. The bad news is that stores often use tricks to fool you into thinking you’re getting a rock-bottom price,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “ShopSmart’s holiday issue shows you how to bypass those bad deals, find sites for great holiday gifts that won’t empty your bank account, and more.”

How to Spot Holiday ‘Sales’ That Aren’t A Bargain At All

Items in a ‘Sale’ section are not always discounted—shop around yourself to find the best deals

  • Discounts Based on Inflated Prices: ShopSmart found a coffeemaker “on sale” at Kohl’s stores and at Kohls.com for $61.99, a discount from the retailer’s posted $69.99 “regular” price. Good deal? No! The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is only $59.99. And retailers, especially discount stores, commonly price items below MSRP. A simple Web search on the model reveals retailers that beat Kohl’s deal.
  • Super-High Shipping and Handling Fees: Did you know that some websites inflate shipping and handling fees to compensate for the deals they’re giving you on the item you want to buy? That’s especially true of auction sites like eBay (though it violates their policy) and sites for products advertised on TV infomercials. Even reasonable S&H charges can wipe out the savings of a bargain-priced product if the item is inexpensive, large or heavy.
  • Liquidation Sales Actually Charging More: The prices at stores that are going out of business must be better than at stores that are sticking around, right? Guess again. Visits to going-out-of-business sales have consistently turned up “deals” that were anything but. During the ShopSmart 2009 check of the liquidation sale at national electronics giant Circuit City, some prices were much higher than those in the circular the retailer had planned to use had it not gone belly-up. For example, the weekend the liquidation started, Circuit City had intended to advertise an HP computer printer for $150—which became $270 at the liquidation sale.  
  • Get Free Shipping: If you’re sending gifts to loved ones far away, do your online shopping before Friday, December 17th, which is this year’s Free Shipping Day—the last day to order gifts and get free shipping in time for Christmas. Check FreeShippingDay.com for a list of more than 1,000 participating online retailers. If you’re the one doing the shipping, cutoff dates are December 15th for USPS and December 17th for Fed Ex and UPS.
  • Snap Up the Last-Minute Markdowns and Reconsider Recycling: Waiting around might actually net you some savings. Find bargains by scoping out store circulars at ShopLocal.com and SundaySaver.com. Also, “re-gifting” is not always a no-no! Check out some guidelines at Regiftable.com  
  • Use Online Shortcuts: To find what’s out there and what the deals are, check out the following sites:
    • Sign up for Hautelook.com, an online sample-sale site that offers half price for books, clothing, jewelry, and more.
    • Offers.com has a roundup of current offers from companies and retailers.
    • Pricegrabber.com is a standout site that helps you track down the best deals on everything from small-ticket items like books and DVDs to big-ticket splurges like TVs and computers
    • Follow @earlybird on Twitter.com to be notified first of exclusive savings from certain merchants.

About ShopSmart Magazine

Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon Consumer Reports’ celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. The magazine features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. ShopSmart is ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.


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