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Fake sales are on the rise but here's how to spot the real ones

It may sound like a pain, but tracking the prices of those big buys for several months can save you some money.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — We all love a good sale.

But one consumer expert says many of the sales shoppers are seeing are flat-out fake. "It's to the point now I think a lot of different retailers are being straight up dishonest," said Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Twin Cities Consumers' Checkbook.

Brasler contends the sales aren't just fake, they're illegal. "There's no question that if you offer for something day after day after day at some quote-unquote discount off a price you never, or rarely, or even less than half the time charge, that's an illegal sale and not nearly enough is being done to stop these practices."

He says we're seeing more fake sales because real price competition is essentially dying, especially when it comes to big ticket items. "If you want to be a retailer and you want to sell a GE appliance or a Samsung TV or any of many types of big ticket items, you have to agree to not advertise that product below a minimum amount set by the manufacturer. They can sell it less than that minimum amount, but they can't advertise it for less than that minimum amount."

So what's a shopper to do?

First, Brasler says, try reaching out to independent sellers. He says they tend to have more flexibility when it comes to those minimum prices. "Let them know I'm shopping around and I'm going to buy from the place that offers me the lower price, and we find, our undercover shoppers find that that's the best way to buy appliances, computers, TVs."

"Another way retailers seek to get around these rules is sometimes by bundling in some kind of other savings, that you get a gift card if you buy the item, they'll throw in free delivery, you know, free mounting of a TV, sometimes they'll throw in a free printer if you buy a computer."

And it may sound like a pain, but tracking the prices of those big buys for several months can save you some money. "There's a website that does track prices for a lot of different items across Amazon," Brasler said. "It's called CamelCamelCamel. We really like this website."

Lastly, Brasler says, don't trust Google or Amazon to show you the lowest prices.

"That's real estate on that page that's owned by Google, and Google has a preference toward companies that pay it a commission." Brasler says the same goes with Amazon. "You cannot assume that just because you search for something on Amazon, that it's going to show you the lowest prices up front. Often Amazon works to push lower prices sometimes, down, because the product is being sold by a third-party vendor on Amazon, and Amazon doesn't get as big of a cut of that sale."

Bottom line?
Shop smart and you may still find some decent deals.

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