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It's the discounter's oldest trick: Bump up the number you list as the original price on an item, and people will feel like they're getting a bigger deal than they actually are. But while outlet shops have been doing it for years, it's much harder to pull off online, where people can easily fact-check prices. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal investigated charges that online sample sale sites have been misleading shoppers about what size discounts they offer.
Some of the stories in the article might sound familiar to regular readers—remember Gilt Groupe's Scarfgate?—but the WSJ also examines into a more recent incident in which shopping site Beyond the Rack tried to sell Pour La Victoire heels for $129, ostensibly down from $275. Anyone who researched the shoes online, though, would find that Piperlime listed the original price as only $220.
For their part, the people behind sale sites tend to argue that prices are "a moving target," as the Beyond the Rack CEO put it. When there are discrepancies, they say, it's because they've been unable to pin down one standard list price. Obviously, nobody's going to admit to deceiving the public, but it can never hurt to do a little Googling before you buy.
· It's 50% Off...Well, Maybe 35% [WSJ]
· RackedWire: The Gilt Backlash Begins [Racked]
· RackedWire: Gilt Apologizes for Scarfgate [Racked]