‘They are marking up their stuff’: How much are you actually saving in liquidation sales?

‘They are marking up their stuff’: How much are you actually saving in liquidation sales?

Liquidation sales are happening at Shopko on Madison’s west side as the retailer prepares to close its doors after filing for Chaper 11 bankruptcy earlier this year. The large advertisements and signs marked with 70 percent off in big letters are enough to get most people in the door. But the question looms: How much money are you actually saving?

Shopko customers like Amy Gallagher said Shopko’s “sales are whatever. It’s not really a sale sale.” Gallagher said that although she isn’t a frequent Shopko customer, she came for the liquidation prices to check things out. But she said she’s noticed many of Shopko’s sale prices are sometimes pricier than regular prices at other retailers.

Gallagher is not alone in her attentiveness to prices.

In recent months, Shopko customers have posted pictures on social media comparing prices of particular items before and during the sales. Some posts make note of the sale price being the same as the regular price. Others notice the sale price now is higher than the sale price from several weeks ago. And several have noticed the original price listed on the sale price tag is a higher original price than the item was before it was on sale.

Laurie Schilling is another Shopko customer who said she’s noticed this for a while, but shops carefully now.

“I think they’ve always been doing it,” Schilling said. “I’m just shopping at their going-out-of-business sale just to see what other bargains I could find — which I did find some. I was able to get $40 off a canopy that was normally $100.”

Schilling said she pays attention to the prices to make sure she’s getting a good deal. If she’s not, she said she can often find that same item at a lower price somewhere else.

“You just have to be aware that they are marking up their stuff,” Schilling said.

A liquidation sale offers a store one last chance for a company to make money, to pay off creditors or shareholders. Many times, a third-party liquidator will set these prices at the highest possible number to be able to make a profit off the company. Liquidators often start their original pricing above what the retailer price was and then mark down the sale price gradually as time goes on.

“I think things are way overpriced in the beginning,” Gallagher said. “When they are on sale, it’s actually what [the price] should be in the first place.”

It’s the liquidator’s and retailer’s job to make money, but it’s your job as a customer to do your own price check.

“Liquidation sales aren’t automatically great deals,” said Lisa Schiller with the Better Business Bureau. “Check prices at other stores; comparison shop to ensure you’re getting the best deal.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the practice of raising a regular price may be considered fraudulent misrepresentation, though DATCP would have to evaluate each situation based on current information at the time in question.

However, a DATCP representative said he understands that a third-party liquidator is handling Shopko’s sale prices. As such, the regular prices listed by the liquidator during the liquidation sale may not reflect the regular prices that Shopko previously advertised.

DATCP reminds shoppers that it is important to pay attention to the final cost of an item than the supposed discount.

The retailer only has to make sure they charge you for the lowest tagged price on the current price sticker.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Shopko has received complaints from customers about not doing this.

In December 2016, a consumer alleged there was a product advertised on the company’s website for $59.99. He said he attempted to purchase it but received an email canceling his order and, according to the consumer, the price was changed to $89.99 — but that was advertised as the sale price. The company responded to the complaint saying the order was canceled due to an inventory shortage and extended the offer for the $59.99 price.

You can find other related complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s website here.

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