Recently, Target got slapped with a $5M lawsuit because their app repeatedly charged customers a higher price than what they would have seen in-store. But they aren’t the only national chain store to trick customers into paying more at checkout.
NCDACP (via Spectrum News) reports that Target was one of seven stores fined in a sweeping investigation in North Carolina. The investigation probed into claims that department chains repeatedly overcharged customers either blatantly or by posting discrepancies in price on an app vs. their in-store price.
Stores caught up and fined in the investigation were Target, Walmart, Tractor Supply, Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Advanced Auto. In addition, two separate Dollar Generals’ were charged in this particular sweep. Fines for the misstep cost anywhere from $660 to over $11,000.
This report lends itself to the idea that big chain stores aren’t necessarily out to save you the most money, and getting the best price isn’t always easy, given the extent of this investigation. So, how do you know when you’re getting the lowest price?
1) Cash Back
According to Nerd Wallet, having a way to earn money automatically whenever you shop is one of the easiest and most rewarding opportunities consumers have to save a little green—usually ranging between one and six percent. Why not take advantage?
It sounds cliché, but Statista reports that 88% of people surveyed had used coupons at least once in 2020. Of course, you don’t have to be a coupon extraordinaire, but coupons are one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. No matter the purchase price, a coupon always comes in handy.
Whether your store offers a sales flyer or places coupons on items in-store, finding these deals and other clearance items is a great way to slash listed store prices. Competitor coupons are another great way to reduce the listed price on a product if your local store has a price match program.
4) Shop Around
This one takes some work, but you’re likely to gain a better price in the end for all the pain. Going online might get you close to a deal, but calling is likely to be your best option for checking the listed prices of stores that compete with where you want to shop.
It’ll also help you see whether the in-store price matches what’s online if you check both options. And considering the hefty penalty Target now has to pay because their app routinely overcharged, we’d suggest checking multiple places where stores advertise their merchandise.
5) Rain Checks
A rain check, which is a store’s promise to match a sale price when they run out of a product, guarantees a lower price. And while they usually have a limit, they will be a sure bet on getting a great price when the store restocks the item.
6) Core Charges
A core charge is an expense that a parts store will refund you if you bring a part back to them once you’ve replaced it. So, say you replace your battery. If your part store gives you a core charge on the new battery, you can return your old one, and they will refund you the core charge.
This savings is item and store-specific but is still a great way to reduce the amount you pay on parts that can quickly add up.
7) Buy Local
When stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart move into a neighborhood, it usually means that your local hardware and grocery stores aren’t going to fare well and may eventually go out of business.
One way to help them and yourself is to see what they offer. Spend a Saturday finding small ‘mom and pop’ stores to see if they have items you can purchase that give you a better deal than your average big-box store.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
The idea that big means better needs to die a quick death. While big-box stores might have advantages that smaller, family-owned brands might not have, they also have a huge drawback, and that’s money.
Big box chains aren’t interested in what you’re creating. So whether you want a five-star dinner or a new yard project, their only concern is how much money you put into their store.
Family-owned businesses, however, usually know you by name if they see you often enough. Workers who stick around will inquire about your dog or how your family is doing; they’ll invest in you as a person instead of just what you spend on your credit card.
So, the next time you’re looking for a great deal, shop local, clip coupons, read the sales paper to see what’s already on sale, and don’t forget to snap up a raincheck or two for items that aren’t on the shelf but are on sale.
The faster you master these six steps and make them part of your shopping journey, the happier you’ll be knowing you’ve taken significant action toward ensuring you’re getting the lowest possible price on the items that matter to you.
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