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Ooh, a sale! Or is it?

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You’re scanning the shelves at a local pharmacy, grocery, or convenience store, and your eyes land on a sales tag. At first glance, it looks like you can get a product for a deep discount. But take a closer look. Will you get a discount today? Or will you have to pay full price today and get money off a future purchase?  

Keep an eye out for creative math on store tags and weekly ads. It might look something like this:

Example of sale ad

In this case, you’re not really getting this product for $2. You have to pay $5 at the register today — and then you’ll get a $3 discount off of something else you buy in the future. That is, if you remember to use your points — or bring and use your coupon or gift card — before they expire.

We’ve long told businesses they shouldn’t obscure important terms — of course, that includes the price. Still, as a shopper, it pays to take a moment to review and understand the offer. If you find that a retailer is hiding important facts about the price, you can take your business elsewhere.

Updated on April 21, 2016 to make the examples more general in nature.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


Menard's, the home improvement chain is notorious for advertising their "11% rebate" program. You'll get no rebate check in the mail. The so-called rebate comes in the form of a coupon, good for 11% OFF anything you buy in the store in he future.

Like Unsafe at Any Speed or just oldtime Caveat Emptor

I'm Sorry that tag is NOT misleading, in fact it's strait to the point, the Only problem is you will actually have to be Un-American, and READ English..

The matter concern has legal terms to be managed, recent market condition has different outlook there are many more uncertain valuation sign on the merchandise to avoid miscalculation it is better to update as per rules and regulations.

You can foul most of the people all of the time?

CVS is notorious for doing exactly that! They are hoping to bring you back into the store before their "rewards" coupons expire. It seems pretty deceptive to me.

Staples also does something similar. Turn in your old printer cartridges and get a "rebate". But you have to wait for them to mail it to you, you can't use it on the spot towards a new printer cartridge. So you get a new one before the "rebate" comes in the mail and it expires before you need another one. Very deceptive!

It is things like this that people need to know about, if they can't figure it out for themselves. I hate rewards, send in rebates are something I never buy. I go somewhere else. Keep up the great work. I look forward to your newsletter.

Thanks for starting this Walgreens does this daily.

i disagree it is misleading , in fact it's Not strait to the point, consider many senior citizens shop at stores that practice this because many are the chain pharmacies. Thanks on behalf of my mom

Although you may not receive the price that is marked, I do not see this harming a consumer. They are being rewarded for future purchases of the same product. If they are loyal to the brand, it works to their advantage. People just need to pay close attention, not feel like they are being deceived.

We do not understand how it works and how to get the money.

It is things like this that people need to know about, if they can't figure it out for themselves. I hate rewards, send in rebates are something I never buy. I go somewhere else.

You all have missed the dirty point about Mail-in rebates. Stores do this because they know a large number of people will forget to send in the rebate. And from experience I can say that many of the rebates I did mail in never returned the check leaving it up to you to track and protest. I suspect a percentage of rebates are never sent out unless customer complains.

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