A refund alert. At least one site, PricePlease, monitors the lowest price guarantees of 160 retailers. If the price drops on something you just bought, PricePlease tells you how to get back the difference.
An eBay typos link. This one s on zooLert. When sellers misspell products such as Zhu Zhu Pets, their auctions get less traffic, so you ll probably pay less.
America s biggest outlet malls Now, according to industry newsletter Value Retail News, 216 outlet centers dot the U.S., with 316 chains operating about 13,000 stores.
A price alert. You say what you want to pay and receive an e mail when that price point is available.
Always look at the return policy before you buy, Arroz says. Stores that accept returns may do so for store credit only and you must make those returns at the outlet and not the regular store. Online, you may have to pay for return shipping. At JC Penney, for example, items from the online outlet must be returned within 30 days. In comparison, regular store merchandise has a return period of 90 days. In either case, the customer is responsible for the return postage.
8. You might want to wait. If you don t see any deals that delight you, just hold off. (That is, if it s not that hot ticket toy that everybody expects to sell out.) Typically retailers take greater discounts in the first two weeks of December, analysts say, before jacking up prices again to penalize last minute shoppers.
Although it s growing, the selection on these sites pales next to that of even a modest department store, and flash sale sites can leave customers frustrated when supplies run out. Most maintain calendars or blogs that give users a week or so of advance notice, but that hasn t always helped Suzanne Hupy, a former retail executive in Milwaukee. She says she s logged on to Gilt.com to buy clothes for herself and her kids only to find the items sold out sometimes less than a minute after the announced launch. When it s gone, it s gone, she laments. She and other shoppers also point out another drawback in the flash sale model There s often a much shorter time limit on returns than they d see at a traditional retailer in one case, as little as five days after purchase.
7. Get some money back. If you are shopping online, you might want to consider making your purchase through a cash back site such as FatWallet.com. Or consider a rewards portal, suggests SmartMoney.
Although it s convenient to shop outlets online, the move doesn t necessarily mean more of the eye popping deals bricks and mortar outlet stores are known for, says Linda Arroz, a stylist based in Los Angeles. Retailers and designers have scaled back inventory amid slow sales, which leaves less overstock to send to discounters such as TJ Maxx. It also means there s less to send back to designers for online flash sales or to spread out among outlet stores. There isn t that flow of goods anymore, Arroz says. Muddying things further, much of what s available is full priced outlet only lines, not deeply discounted one offs from a season or two ago, a difference that may be tough to distinguish when shopping online.
6. Hit the Web first. Check early and often for deals. Although traditionally Black Friday sale hours have started in the early a.m. on Friday, many will launch this year on Thanksgiving Day. Sears, Toys R Us and Kmart will open their doors at different times on Turkey Day for special sales. And Wal Mart doorbusters will be available for night owls at 12 01 Friday morning.