TODAY

TODAY   |  August 26, 2013

Decoding the secrets of price tags

How can you tell if you’re really getting a good deal when you shop? Retail analyst Hitha Prabhakar shares ways for savvy shoppers to decode the secret language of price tags.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> when you're shopping for a deal, how can you tell if that price is really a great bargain? here to help us decode the secret language of price tags, apparently there is one, is our retail analyst. what are we talking about? what's the hidden language of price tags?

>> retailers have two missions, one to make a product and two get product out the door so new product can come in. when you go shopping you see these price tags around 99 cents and that is so the customer thinks she is getting a better deal but it's regular price and not a discount at all.

>> a lot involves how the price tag ends.

>> exactly. let's say you're going shopping at sears or costco or office depot for example. the price tag ends in a 99 cents .

>> we're so used to it.

>> everything is 4.99.

>> you think you're getting a discount. that's the regular price and these stores are known to just have that ending as the regular price .

>> okay. so then not all stores follow that rule, though, right?

>> no, there are stores that have their own rule. for example, staples uses a letter system. they have a letter system, it's a, i, or p or office depot end in a 0, 5, or 9. it's confusing.

>> why the difference? why would one retailer choose the letter and the other go with the 99 cents .

>> it's depending on their system and sometimes it has to do with inventory as well.

>> the bottom line here is if i'm a shopper and looking for the best deal, what do i look for?

>> well, depending on the store again, there's people that can go out there, what you want to look for are price tags that end in a 7 or 4. those 7s or 4s means those prices are discounted and in some instances they might even be discounted to 88 cents. that's another indication that's not the regular price but discount rate .

>> that's not always the standard for low prices either.

>> no, you have staples using a c or f in order to determine that discounted price for them in that store; how about those that go and see a sign for something that is marked down. that's one sign. later they'll see a sign that something is called final mark down. is it really final?

>> it is very final. the final mark down is the final price and the caveat is that you won't be able to return that item. what you're getting a final price is what you get. a mark down, the price just comes down a little bit but the store has overinventory and wants new inventory. that's why they mark down the price .

>> some retailers, they change their own strategy from time to time, right?

>> absolutely.

>> jcpenney they discounted and didn't and now they are again.

>> that's a good example. the bottom line is, if you want to find that price , that discounted price , the take away here is to look for prices that either end in a 9 or 9. if they do you're getting the regular price . anything that doesn't end in those numbers you're getting a discounted price .

>> we'll be back to school big time in a few weeks here. are retailers going to be looking to get stuff off the shelves? and will the discounts get better.

>> absolutely. looking at data the average mint.com user spends $146 a month on education and supplies. so yes, you're going to see a lot of these retailers wanting to get the merchandise out of the door in order to get new merchandise in. and they'll be discounting. i tell people to wait a couple more -- they were discounting early in the summer. wait a few more days or weeks as your kid is going back to school.

>> it will be the holidays before we know it.

>> i can't blooielieve it. comes up quick.