Three ways to spot a dud deal during Christmas sales season

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner, but watch out for dud deals.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner, but watch out for dud deals. Photo: TND

The biggest shopping weekend of the year is just around the corner, with retailers across the country preparing to discount en masse for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.

But how do you actually know whether a particular deal is any good? Retailers have a plethora of tricks designed to convince shoppers they’re getting a bargain when they are not.

Some brands have been known to increase the price of a product just before putting it on sale, while others constantly discount some goods in so-called “faux bargains”.

Other times a product is being shipped from overseas and will come with a raft of hidden costs.

Here are three ways you can spot the bad deals over the 2022 Christmas shopping period.

1) Know your reference prices

Jason Pallant, senior lecturer in marketing at Swinburne University, says one big thing everyone should do before doing their Christmas shopping is research reference prices.

A reference price is basically how much a particular product is usually sold for, or has been sold for in the past by a particular retailer.

Warning:This is different to the recommended retail price (RRP).

Knowing a reference price is crucial to working out if a bargain is legit because it will expose those times where a product is permanently on sale or could have been jacked up in price just before being discounted.

“Look at how products are priced over time and how they’re priced at different retailers,” Dr Pallant said.

Here are some handy tips to work out a reference price:

  • Shopping on Amazon? Check out, a dedicated price tracking service for the platform that will help you separate the good deals from the junk ones.
  • Don’t get stuck with one retailer. Research what other prices are for a particular product with tools like Google Shopping, which will collate deals from multiple websites.
  • Rewind the internet. Use online tool Wayback Machine to look up past scans of a retailer’s website. This will let you know how much a product was before the sales.

2) Question the hot bargains

It’s always important to put yourselves in the shoes of the retailer. Why has a particular product been discounted? If the sale price is reduced by more than 50 per cent, what’s allowing them to sell so cheaply?

Dr Pallant said retailers will lead their sales with massive discounts on products that didn’t sell very well and need to be cleared, or that they managed to buy at  big discounts.

“We’re seeing retailers are participating [in these sales] because they feel like they have to rather than really wanting to,” Dr Pallant told TND.

“So what ends up happening is retailers make a lot of noise to try and capture interest without offering, necessarily, good discounts. Or discounts are put on old or discontinued lines.”

And if something didn’t sell very well it could just be a bad product.

Here’s what to consider before taking the plunge on a big discount:

  • Does the product have poor reviews? Always check what people who have purchased something before you have to say before
    buying. Look up the product and the brand.
  • Is it part of a product set or incompatible with your set up? Make sure any tech you’re buying will work without other products and is compatible with what you already own.
  • Do you actually need it? Retailers rely on shoppers buying things they don’t want during a sales period to make up for discounting things they need. Make a list, stay disciplined.

3) Watch out for hidden costs

A discount might look attractive when you spot it while scrolling through thousands of other products, but there are often hidden costs that could increase what you pay overall once you check out.

Dr Pallant says it’s important shoppers consider how valuable a product is to them, rather than just the headline price. That includes factoring in the total cost of procuring the merchandise.

When looking at a discount on a retailer’s website, look for the following red flags:

  • Where is the product located? Even a big discount can be eaten up in shipping costs if a product is located overseas. Check both the shipping prices and estimated delivery time.
  • Discount on a range of products? Retailers will often discount one product in a category by more than others to make their sales look better. Terms like “up to” are telltale signs.
  • Beware comparison pricing. A retailer might say a product has been discounted, but they could be lying or comparing apples with oranges. Stay sceptical and look for yourself.
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