It's a common lament that retailers jack up prices during a going-out-of-business sale. The original MSRP or manufacturer's suggested retail price is inflated to make the sale price look better. This is a common practice at furniture store and Oriental rug GOB sales.
But is it true at the GOB sales going on now at Ultimate Electronics and Borders stores? Ultimate is closing all of its stores, including Twin Cities stores in Edina, Woodbury, Maple Grove, Burnsville and Roseville. Borders is closing some of its stores, including locations in Maple Grove, Richfield, St. Paul and Minnetonka.
It's nearly impossible for a bookstore to jack up the MSRP when it's clearly printed on the book jacket. When I checked at the Richfield store on Monday, most books, CDs and DVDs were discounted 20 percent, romance paperbacks were discounted 30 percent and greeting cards and photo albums were discounted 40 percent.
I went online to see if I could get cheaper prices than at Border's sale. The good news/bad news is that I could find cheaper prices online in all of the four examples I priced, including the books "Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That," "JD Salinger: A Life" by Kenneth Slawenski and "Life" by Keith Richards. All three titles could be found discounted by 30 to 60 percent (new copies, not used), including shipping costs. All of the deals were found at Amazon Marketplace, which includes third party sellers. The CD, Josh Groban's "Illuminations" was $15.20 at Border's sale, $14.74 (shipped) at Walmart.com and $11.46 (shipped) at Moviemars.com. Prices were obtained via Pricegrabber.com.
Why is this good news/bad news? It's good news because you can find cheaper prices online (and the convenience). The bad news is that this is the reason we lose local retailers.
Electronics prices are never as transparent. A lot of cynics or disgruntled consumers might assume that Ultimate's MSRP's are jacked up. I did not find that to be the case in the six items I price checked. All of the MSRP's were exactly what I found online. I believe that Ultimate's prices and discount percentages are legitimate. In general, when Ultimate is discounting an item 10 percent, you can easily find it cheaper online. At 20 percent discounts, it's a toss up and at 30 percent, Ultimate is cheaper than most online sources. Most of Ultimate's current discounts are 10 to 20 percent with some accessories and parts at 50 percent off.
At the Edina store on Monday, a Samsung Blu-ray player (model BD-C5900) was discounted 10 percent to $206.99. At Amazon.com it was $156 (including shipping, no tax). At Electrozone it was $127.77 (no tax, free shipping). I found these prices using Pricegrabber.
A Panasonic 50-inch plasma TV (model TC-P50S2) was $897 at Ultimate, reg. $1300. Amazon had it for $986.66 (free shipping, no tax) and Electrozone had it for $884 (no tax, free shipping). Yes, you can save about $80 ($13 plus tax on $897) by ordering online, but have fun with the return if the item proves defective.
Sometimes, UE was cheapest. A Klipsch subwoofer (SW-308) was $559 (a 30 percent discount). Crutchfield was selling it was $799.
Overall, a 30 percent discount or more at Ultimate is worth considering. At Borders, I'd wait until books are discounted 40 percent before rushing out.
What's been your experience at these sales or any other GOB sale?