Holiday Sales: Are you Really Saving that much Money?

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The end of a year generally signals the end of the holiday season. The end of the holiday seasons generally signals the end of the holiday shopping season where consumers pack malls and stores and make purchases under the lure of the lore of great deals. However, are you really saving a significant amount – or any money – on holiday deals? Are the sales that good or is it a type of Machiavellian marketing propaganda designed to lure consumers to buy things thinking they are getting a deal when in reality, they are not? Are we all pawns in a retailer chess match?

Retailers advertise Black Friday and Holiday deals with amazing-sounding price cuts to increase sales during the holidays. The formula is simple: “If you cut it (the price), they will come.” Each year, millions of Americans participate in this ritual of capitalism but are they really getting a good deal? Are they getting any deal? Attempting to figure out whether the discount is indeed a good buy can be tricky. It is only really useful if you know what price the item was before the sale started.

Recently the U.K. based consumer advocacy group, Which? has researched these sales and the results may surprise you. Which? has found that many consumer chains inflate the “before” price to make the holiday promotions look more appealing.

In regards to the study performed by Which?, it was found that their investigation had similar results; many items that were promoted as being “on sale” were at a lower price before and/or after the holiday sale. In an interview with The Guardian, Pete Moorey, the head of these studies at Which? said, “Shoppers might be surprised to learn that only half of Black Friday deals are actually cheapest on Black Friday.”

Furthermore, Which? tracked the prices of products for three months before and two months after Black Friday and during this time, investigated 178 deals from Black Friday 2015. The results of this investigation were that only 90 out of 178 deals were cheapest on Black Friday.

With this knowledge, I decided to test these claims and theories out myself this past holiday season and used products at the retail chain Target to compare and contrast prices before, during, and after the holiday season. The area I focused on was flat screen tvs. With limited resources available for my study, I came away with pretty interesting results.

Do you save money on Holiday Shopping Deals such as Black Friday Sales? Well, yes and no.

During my three month long research of prices of tvs at Target, I monitored seven different models: a 65 in. LG tv, a 60 in. LG tv, a 55 in. Vizio ultra hd tv, a 60 in. Vizio smart tv, a 60 in. Samsung smart uhd 4k tv, a 60 in. Samsung smart led HDTV, and a 55 in. Samsung smart tv.

Here are the results:

  • LG 65in. Class Flat Panel TV: $1099.99 was the price. It remained the same the entire 3 months I observed the prices.
  • LG 60 in. Flat Panel TV: $799.99 (listed as regularly $899.99). This “sale” price was the same in October, through November, and through most of December. On New Year’s Eve it went back to $899.99)
  • Vizio 55 in. ultra HD: $599.99 (listed as regularly $649.99) This “sale” price was the same from October through Christmas. When checked on New Year’s Eve, the “sale” price was the same yet the “regular price” increased to $699.99
  • Vizio 60 in. smart 1080p: $599.99 (listed as regularly $699.99) This “sale” price was the same from October through Christmas. When checked on New Year’s Eve, the “sale” price was the same yet the “regular price” increased to $749.99
  • Samsung 60 in. Smart UHD 4k motion rate 120tv: $999.99 (listed as regularly $1199.99) This “sale” price was in October. There were additional sale prices on this item during and after Black Friday with listings of $697.99 and $899.99. After Christmas the price increased backed to “on sale” at $999.99. The big dishonesty here is that the “regular price” increased up to $1499.99 from the regular price of $1199.99 in October.
  • Samsung 60 in. 1080p 120Hz led tv: $649.99 (listed as regularly $799.99) This was the sale price in October. During the holiday season around Black Friday, it did drop to $577.99. It was promptly increased to $699.99. As of New Year’s Eve, the price was $699.99 but the “regular price” increased to $1099.99.
  • Samsung 55 in. 1080p 120 Hz led tv: $599.99 (listed as regularly $699.99) This was the sale price in October. It decreased during the holidays to two low prices: $447.99 and $499.99. On New Year’s Eve, the price was $499.99 BUT the “regular price” was increased to $749.99

As you can see above, Target took some great liberties with their sale pricing and more importantly, took even greater liberties with their “regular” pricing. One may ask, how can a “regular” price fluctuate so much and if they fluctuate that greatly, how are sale prices arrived at? Furthermore, with the great fluctuation, how can one even tell if they are legitimately on sale. When I contacted the corporate offices at Target to report my findings and ask for clarification, they refused to comment. When I asked management in the specific store of my findings, they replied that they were not aware of it and they did not know the answer. They also specified they had zero control on pricing of any items in the store.

Research into retail pricing guidelines specifies that “regular” pricing is supposed to be the most recent price the item has been sold at for 28 consecutive days or more. My investigation into Target tv’s pricing reveals this to not be the case. “They change pricing in here all the time to create ‘sales’,” said a Target manager who asked not to be identified. “No one really pays attention, but I do,” he said. “How can a regular price of an item increase $300 two months after being $300 lower?” he said.

An old axiom advises, “buyer beware” and this is never more true than the holiday shopping season. A lot of the times there are definitely sales and goods are discounted. However, a lot of the times the main sale that is occurring is the sale of the thought you are getting a good deal, when in reality, you are not. 


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Holiday Sales: Are you Really Saving that much Money?