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Bargain Basics

Bargain Basics is here to equip you, the intrepid bargain shopper, with the best possible information and shopping terminology . We believe in not only on sharing with you where to bag a bargain, but also how to discern when you are really getting a deal or getting scammed. The more you know (knowledge is power), the more you can save.

Secret Insider Buzz Words and Shopping Terminology:

Smart shoppers pay attention to how stores and merchandisers run their businesses. The business of business is to make money… not be the consumer’s best friend. Most retailers walk the line between the two, banking on your busy, harried life to distract you from their marketing maneuvers. See if you recognize any of these.

-Loss Leader

This is an item deliberately priced very low just to get you into the store. The terminology is not always accurate since the seller does not always take a loss. More than likely it’s a break-even situation.

-Bait and Switch

Keep an eye out for “Bait and Switch”. These items are advertised at an extremely low price to lure you into the store. Once you arrive that particular advertised item is magically “sold out”. Chances are it may never have been there to begin with. You are then lead to a higher priced but similar item by the sale staff. This is much more deceptive than a “Loss Leader”, which is a legitimate item priced at a loss to lure you in the store. If you’re a sharp shopper you’ll start to spot combinations of the two practices. “limited amount”, “first 10 customers” and so on.

-Off Branded Merchandise

These are items which are advertised at super discounts which were never intended to sell at the quoted original retail price. The super savings here are not true indication of value. Probably a cheap item at a cheap price. Tags usually say ” Values to”. This type of product is seen regularly at outlet malls and big box discount stores.

-Hidden Models

Truly difficult for the consumer to out-maneuver are “special models”. These are different labeled models manufactured to make it impossible for the consumer to comparison shop merchandise from one store to another.

The only difference between models is usually cosmetic in nature. This practice is rampant in the mattress industry with the same mattresses by the same manufacturer having a dozen different names.


MAP is the Minimum Advertised Price that the manufacturer will allow the retailer to advertise the product for. It doesn’t mean the retailer must sell it for that price, just that they can’t advertise it for less. This adds to the difficulty in comparison shopping. Often the manufacturers will have an agreement with smaller retailers to help them pay for advertising costs. This helps the smaller guy compete with the bigger retail chain who can handle a larger overhead but makes it near impossible to compare prices without actually going into the store.


Sometimes referred to as the List price, is the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. The price the manufacturer suggests the product to be sold for… It does not mean the product was ever sold at that price. It’s an offering price.

-Unilateral Pricing

Ever seen the same appliance at a dozen different stores at the same price?

A loophole in federal law allows a manufacturer to tell a retailer that if they sell an item at below the Unilateral Price, that manufacturer will no longer ship them that product. This is a method of price control that is dangerous to consumers, since it allows the manufacturer to effectively set the prices for it’s products.

The retailer can discount the product if they want to but risk losing further shipments from that manufacturer. This puts a stranglehold on market competition. This practice is easily seen in large appliances, audio and video equipment, video games and other areas.

-Private Labeling

Both major retailers and smaller upscale boutiques can have their own label. They often contract with the same companies that manufacturer for many other labels the only difference being that you can’t comparison shop. They all may be made of the same materials with the same level of workmanship but each “Private Label” may be priced differently depending on how valuable the brand or designer name put onto it.

Shopping Buzz Words / Shopping Terminology:

Whenever an item is for sale to the public for 40% to 90% below retail, common sense tells us there’s a reason. Usually it will fall into one of several categories. All these categories are valid reasons to mark down an item, although they are not always presented to the consumer in a forthright manner. If the seller doesn’t (or won’t) reveal why he’s selling it so cheap, chances are it falls into one of the following categories:

-End of Season

This Shopping Terminology pertains to merchandise that is seasonal in nature and is discounted before the season is finished or at the beginning of the next season. Usually first quality, these items are often seen at seasonal department store sales… after Christmas sales etc. Many discount operations carry last seasons merchandise at 50% savings or better. Discounts should be a minimum of 30% at “End of Season Sales”.

-Special Purchase or Purchase Product

This  Outlet Store Shopping terminology often indicates a situation when the merchandise is below the usual quality of the manufacturer. This is product especially made for a sale or outlet store. This deception is seen a lot at major sales and at factory outlet malls. The implication is that whatever is in a certain maker’s store is made by them. If it is, chances are it is of inferior quality, design and/or materials. This product has not been sold anywhere else at a higher price.


Generally pertains to discontinued products that are no longer manufactured. In most cases this does not affect the merchandise, but if and when there are parts that must be replaced it could present a problem. The term can also mean that the retailer simply needs to make room for more merchandise. It’s also important to ask “Who is doing the closing out?” If it’s the factory, the price should be excellent and BELOW wholesale.


This shopping terminology is for Merchandise with minor imperfections, often not discernible. Perhaps a piece of lint got caught in the fabric and there’s a “flub” in the material. In apparel it could mean a different or “off” cut that could effect fit.


Merchandise with more of an imperfection, usually visible but doesn’t effect use. In apparel, this should be indicated in some manner, but sometimes it isn’t, so look items over carefully. A seam might have come undone … easy to fix or perhaps a variance in dye lots which could be a problem. In china or crystal it’s usually very minor, such as a blurred imprint on the bottom…or maybe none at all.


Product that is out of production. Could be a problem later on if replacement parts are needed.

-Canceled Orders

A company may decide for a variety of reasons to cancel an order with a licensed factory or distributor. These items show up at liquidations sales, sample sales and liquidators who may term them manufacturer overstock, overruns or factory remainders.

-Factory Overruns AKA Overproduction

Manufacturers usually make more than they need to handle reorders, so often there is a certain percentage left.


A different story here indicates that the retailer ordered more than he could sell. Sale prices should be only slightly over wholesale.

-Liquidated Stock

When a manufacturer or retailer is going out of business, rather than sell of the merchandise piecemeal, they will call in a liquidator who bids for the lot and may sell it to the public. Some of the very best deals are at liquidation sales.

-Distressed Merchandise

This shopping terminology  is about Insured product. If one or two items in a freight derailment, for example, are damaged, the insurance coverage deems the entire lot as “damaged.” Sometimes you will find items that are perfectly OK in a damaged lot … they are just in bad company.

-Freight Damaged

This shopping terminology  is when the box is damaged and is not presentable to the general public. Sometimes the product is damaged, sometimes it’s perfect. Any sales of these items should be fully inspected and tried.

-Refurbished Product

This shopping terminology  refers to product  that was either a customer return or freight damaged product.  Normally it has been inspected and serviced as necessary to guarantee it will perform to full manufacturer specifications. The safest buys are when it’s refurbished or serviced at the manufacturers factory or factory authorized dealer. Look for stickers that say Factory Refurbished. It should come with some kind of a warranty.

-Shelf Pulls

This shopping terminology pertains to product that been pulled off the shelves to be liquidated. Can be discontinued or seasonal items. Does not indicate quality level.


These are the initial products that are made to present to buyers. Most companies produce samples before they put it into production. These samples may not go into production and as a result are a “one of a kind item”. In apparel they may be “mock ups” where the quality isn’t as high as the production line or a small production used by reps to present to buyers.

-Floor Samples

Floor samples are actual demos of the item. Floor samples in electronics or furniture often are good deals with only a minimum of use and savings of 30%-50%. In electronics, the drawback may be that once they sell the floor model it is last seasons technology.

-Scratch and Dent

Products with cosmetic blemishes which does not effect operation or use of product. These can be floor models, customer returns or items damaged in shipping. Some blemishes can be easily seen, others not so much. Its up to the shopper to discern if the cosmetic flaw effects the use.

Now that you’ve got some insight and shopping terminology, the most important questions the consumer should ask is, “How did this product get here? How can you sell this product so low… and why is it discounted?” Once you have determined the reason a price is so low, the next question should be “Is there anything wrong with this that will affect its performance or use to me?” If your answer is an honest no, then go for it … you’ve probably bagged a bargain.

Happy Bargain Hunting!

-Suzanne O’Connor