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Deals Debunked: Sales that Sound Better than They Are!

Submitted by a LOZO expert
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Some deals are great. Others are just designed to sound that way.

Big companies make an art out of making their sales sounds much better than they really are. And we should know... a lot of us at LOZO used to work for these very same companies. But don't hold that against us! We're fighting the good fight now and are here to expose these tricks so you can avoid them and still get the best possible value!!

Following are a few of the most common types of sales, promotions and deals that companies run. We'll give you the LOZO on each of them so you'll know if they're great, OK or a downright, sneaky trick! We'll be adding to this list regularly, so check back often. In fact, if you have a sale you're wondering about, leave a comment or shoot us an email at We'll take a look and post the truth about it right here!

Here are some "classic" misleading promotions that retailers use and how you can make them work for you:

The "Up to XX% Off" Sale
  • The "deal": "Up to 80% off!"
  • What it sounds like: 80% off!
  • What it's usually really worth: 10%-80% off
  • How they trick you: This is about as classic as it gets! Retailers advertise a whoppingly high, eye-catching percentage like 80% off to lure you into the store or onto their website. The reality is that there are usually just a few items being sold at that big discount. The majority of the items, however, are likely to be sold at much less of a discount like 10% or 20% off.
  • How you can maximize your savings: Look around! Search through the items that interest you until you find one that's truly 80% off (or at least higher percentage like 50% off). If the percentage is too low, skip it and wait for another--and better--sale to come along.
The "Buy Now, Get $XX Off Your Next Purchase" Sale
  • The "deal": "Spend $50 now, get $25 off your next purchase"
  • What it sounds like: 50% off!
  • What it's usually really worth: 15%-20% off
  • How they trick you: For your first purchase, there are often restrictions, such as needing to buy items at full price. Even without the "full price" requirement, stores are expecting you to spend more than $50 to get your bonus. Either way, you usually end up spending more than you meant to initially. For the second purchase, there may be similar restrictions as well, or you may be prohibited from using that other coupon you had. Usually there is at least a requirement that you spend another $50 to get your $25 savings (and you'll probably end up spending more than that again!). All told you might have spent $120-$140 just to save $25!
  • How you can maximize your savings: If there are no restrictions on your first purchase, stick with sale items and use another coupon, aiming to get as close to $50 as you can. Then do the same on your second purchase, before applying your $25 savings. Here's an ideal example: - For your first purchase, find $100 worth of items on sale for $65. It shouldn't be hard to find that kind of a discount, and you'll do even better if you pickup something on clearance. - When you checkout, use a 20% off coupon to get your cost down to $52. - For your second purchase, do the same thing. Then apply your $25 coupon so it comes down to $27. - All together you got $200 (or more) worth of items for $79 ($52 + $27), a better than 60% savings!
Buy One Item, Get One Item XX% Off
  • The "deal": "Buy one item, get one 50% off" or "Buy one, get one half off"
  • What it sounds like: 50% off!
  • What it's usually really worth: 15%-20% off
  • How they trick you: They make you pay full price for one item (who pays full price?!) to save 50% on another. But since the discount is taken on the cheaper item, your real savings can be much less than you expect. For example, if you buy a $100 and $60 item, you will only save $30 off the $160 bill. That's not even 20% off. Add in a third item for $40 and *poof* your discount is now $20 instead of $30 since they may the discount on the cheapest in your basket. Now you’ve only saved 9%!
  • How you can maximize your savings: Buy two items that are the same price (or really close). If you have more than 2 items to buy, split them into separate transactions, pairing up two items that are closest in price. Leave the cheap items for a separate purchase. And use a coupon (like “20% off your entire purchase) on top of it. You will double up on the savings.
Multiple Discounts on the Same Item or Purchase
  • The "deal": "Sale: Up to 60% off, plus take an EXTRA 20% off!"
  • What it sounds like: 80% off!
  • What it's usually really worth: 30%-50% off
  • How they trick you: Well you see 60%, and then 20%, so naturally it seems like 80% right? First of all, the “up to 60% off” means that most items probably are discounted a lot less, maybe more like 20%-30% off. Then they take the extra 20% off after the discount is already applied, so you are only saving another 15% or so. Here’s an illustration: The original item costs $100, now on sale for $80. Take an extra 20% off, but take it off the $80 price, so you are really saving $16, not $20. At the end of it all, what sounded like a potential $80 discount is actually just $46. That's still a good deal, but not as good as it originally sounded!
  • How you can maximize your savings: Hunt around for the 60% off items. If the store says “up to 60% off” it means at least some (maybe 1 out of 8) of the items are discounted that much, so keep looking! With the extra 20% off you end up saving 68% in total. Not the 80% it sounded like, but still a great deal and better than what you would have gotten if you didn't maximize!
Some General Tips to Get the Best Deal
Regardless of the sale, discount or promotion, you can rely on a couple simple tips to give you even better deals:
  • Use Coupons: Whenever possible, you should "stack" your savings by using a coupon on top of the promotional or sale price. Stores won't always allow this, but--when they do--it can turn a good deal into a great one. If you're looking for a coupon, a great place to start is LOZO's coupons page.
  • Stick close to the minimum spending requirements: If they require you to spend $50, try to spend $50 or as close to that as possible. The higher you go above that minimum, the less value you get from the deal.
What other deals have you found out there that are confusing or not quite as good as they sound? Leave a comment or shoot us an email at and we'll research it and tell you the truth behind the deal and the best way to maximize your savings!
A LOZO expert posted this tip.

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