Why that Cyber Monday sale may not be so special after all

Even though a surge in online shopping has long been underway owing to the pandemic, this is Cyber Monday — and retailers are busily advertising sales and specials with the promise that customers will save money on their holiday shopping.

But is that tempting sale price really all that special? As it turns out, not always.

“You have to be really careful because many of these sales are what we call fake sales,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Consumers’ Checkbook. “They’re discounts that are offered over and over again, almost every week throughout the year.”



Whether it’s online or in the store, big signs promising a sale — often by putting a “list price” that’s crossed out next to the so-called “sale price” — aren’t something you should take at face value.

“Don’t assume that’s a good price until you’ve shopped around to make sure that’s actually a good price,” said Brasler. “Many retailers post fake discounts. They’re the same types of offers throughout the year, and they’re discounting off a price that they rarely if ever charge.”

Some of it is psychological.

“Online and local retailers have gotten really smart about fooling their shoppers into buying now — building some urgency into the transaction,” Brasler explained.

“All these offers are designed to get you to buy, to prevent you from shopping around, to keep you from talking to your spouse about it and really considering it at length because they know the more you think about it, the less likely you are to buy.”

Read more about how to avoid inflated prices and dodge misleading sales this Cyber Monday at Checkbook.org.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up