Ways That Retail Outlets Try to Scam Customers

John Krautzel
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Everyone likes getting a good price on the products they buy. This explains the popularity of outlet stores that sell brand name products at cheaper prices. However, not all retail outlets operate ethically. Some companies try to scam customers out of their money, and this casts a bad light on the whole industry.

Few discounts—outlet stores have become synonymous with cheap prices. It is commonly believed that these stores have the same merchandise found in regular retail shops, discounted by as much as 75 percent. This is, however, not true. In fact, a study conducted by Consumer Reports magazine in 2006 found that shoppers saved just 25 percent on average. Customers can often get the same level of deals at local department stores by using coupons.

Deceptive discounting—this is one of the more insidious customer scams perpetuated by retail and outlet stores. Customers see an item with a sale tag on it and think they scored a deal. However, it's much more likely that the sale price is the item's normal price and the purportedly regular price is actually the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), the price the manufacturer suggests the retailer sell the item for. MSRPs can be manipulated, so the only purpose behind this type of discounting practice is to deceive the buyer into thinking the sale price is a bargain.

Lower quality—when outlet stores first hit the retail scene, they filled their shelves with products rejected by retailers. The items would be the same quality, or very close, to products found in branded stores. The only difference was the items would be out of season, had minor cosmetic flaws, or simply weren't selling. As more outlet stores opened, there just weren't enough of these retailer rejects to go around, and the stores began supplementing their regular merchandise with lower-quality wares. Some stores sell cheaper versions of popular lines that are created specifically for outlets by retailers (GAP is an example of this). Other retail stores, however, sell blatant knock offs. In either case, many outlets stores do not tell customers they are paying for lower quality or plagiarized products.

Becoming aware of these customer scams is the first step towards fighting for change in the industry. Of course, change must start at home. If your company engages in any of these practices, it may be time to reconsider how the business operates and make changes where necessary. Consumer trust is critical to success in the retail industry, and the best way to cultivate that trust is to make sure the outlet stores owned by your company operate ethically.

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)


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  • Cathy Mac
    Cathy Mac
    I disagree for the most part, and I feel you should use specifics if you're going to post this general claim against discount stores.  I shop at discount stores because for one, I like the way the clothes are displayed. It's easy for me to find my size in what I'm looking for. Also, because I'm not expecting great customer service, I'm not upset when I don't get it. Add to that I don't have to put up with snooty sales associates - or stupid or otherwise useless ones. Lastly, 25% off is a nice amount! I can go to neiman Marcus and spend 500+ for a theory suit, or I could go to Nordstrom Rack, Off 5th or Neimans outlet and get the same thing for 200! That allows me a 300 savings to toss in a pair of shoes and have dinner out with friends and family.

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