Be a smart shopper–don’t get misled by Fourth of July sale ads

ID-10047802The Fourth of July means different things to different people. It’s a celebration of our nation’s birth, for one. It’s also a time for fireworks and fun with friends. And last, but not least, it’s a good time to take advantage of holiday sales and find some deals.

Your BBB would like you to be an informed shopper. BBB reminds you that advertisements promoting sales and savings can sometimes be misleading or unclear. This often causes confusion and frustration for shoppers. You can shop smart this holiday by identifying truthful sales ads from deceptive ones.

BBB offers these recommendations for identifying honest advertisers:

Do your homework first. It’s a good idea to start by reading over BBB’s Code of Advertising to help you better understand ethical practices and standards in advertising. Then visit for a list of BBB Accredited retailers in your area—these businesses are required to abide by BBB’s Code of Advertising in order to remain a BBB Accredited Business.

Determine if the item is available for a limited time. Read the fine print to determine the guidelines for the sale. Some sale items are only available for the advertised price during certain days, or even certain hours on a specific day.

Consider “on sale” or “sale” claims. Look for clear end dates on any sale. A “sale” is defined as a temporary reduction from the usual price of an item. If the sales price is offered for more than 30 days, this becomes the regular price and the item should not be advertised as “on sale.”

Be careful with “free” offers.  An item is free only if it is offered as an unconditional gift. If you must make a purchase in order to receive the item advertised as “free,” the information should be clearly disclosed in the ad. As with a sale this offer should be temporary, otherwise it becomes part of a continuous combination offer, no part of which is free.

Clarify the specifics of “Meet or beat a competitors price” offers. Some businesses may offer a refund on the difference in price if a shopper finds the same product for a lower price elsewhere. Consumers should take the time to understand the specifics of these offers, including what proof is necessary, and ask questions.

Research lowest price claims. Prices for products and services can fluctuate, making it extremely difficult for businesses to claim that their prices are lower than competitors’ prices. Consumers should engage in comparison-shopping to make sure they are getting the lowest price available.

Determine if the savings add up. Ads that offer savings as a percentage, such as “up to 50 percent off,” should clearly state both the minimum and maximum savings. Also, the number of items available at the maximum savings should make up at least 10 percent of the items sold.