Five Tips for Shopping at Liquidation Sales

One of the unfortunate consequences of a bad economy is a stream of liquidation sales, in which retailers large and small slash prices to unload merchandise before going out of business. Consumers can find some great bargains at these sales, but there are pitfalls to avoid to make sure you are getting a good deal. The California Society of CPAs ( provides some money-wise hints on the best way to make the most of these sales.


If you find that the item you purchased at a liquidation sale is damaged, or if it stops working shortly after you buy it, chances are that you will be unable to return the product. For merchandise that may fail to function properly after purchase, be sure to find out before you buy whether all sales are final. If returns are possible, you still may be out of luck if the retailer shuts its doors for good before you can return the merchandise. That’s why it’s particularly important to make sure you’re getting products that are in good working condition and that boxes contain all the necessary parts.

Before you purchase, examine each item carefully for any damage, and see if you can test any electronics or appliances. Also find out if there is a warranty on the product, so that you can appeal to the manufacturer if it turns out to be defective. Buying with a credit card can protect you, too, because some card issuers will remove the charge from your account under certain circumstances if you contest the purchase in writing.


Don’t assume that everything you see at a going-out-of-business sale is at bargain basement pricing. Before going to a sale, it’s best to comparison shop at other stores, in catalogs or online to get a sense of the best prices for the items you might buy to make sure you’re getting a good deal. You will be better equipped to decide if the sale items are bargains or hype. Keep in mind that just because a store has lowered its prices doesn’t mean they are the best deal around.


In the crush of excitement over rock-bottom prices, it can be hard to resist the temptation to buy products you don’t really need. Remember that getting a great deal on something that doesn’t suit your needs is still a waste of money. To prevent a bad choice, try to avoid impulse picks at these sales and instead prepare a list of possible purchases in advance and stick to it once you get to the store.


Some retailers in distress turn their merchandise over to professional liquidators, who run the going-out-of-business sales for them. These liquidators sometimes ship in outside goods that they are trying to unload and add them to the retailer’s merchandise. They can price these items however they like, which means they are not necessarily bargains. To avoid these items, check the tags to see if they differ from the retailer’s usual tags. If they do, consider carefully the quality and value of what you’re buying.


If you think the liquidation sales prices are too high, don’t give up altogether. If you really want the item, consider returning to the store in a few days. You may find further reductions as the final closing date draws nearer.


We all want to avoid wasteful spending and get the most for our dollar, especially in a bad economy. If you have questions about the best ways to spend your money, be sure to turn to your local CPA. He or she has the answers to the financial questions you and your family are facing.

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