Consumer Alert: How to get the most bang for your buck at liquidation sales

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This consumer alert takes a look at going out of business sales. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of them lately in the Rochester area. But are the deals at these sales actually good deals? That’s the question I set out to answer when I hit a store holding liquidation sales.

I went to the Christmas Tree Shops, where grieving loyalists were scouring the aisles, lamenting the fact their favorite place for seasonal home goods is going belly-up. When you walk through the doors of the Rochester store on Jefferson Avenue, the sign that greets you screams up to 60 percent off. But the only items I could find for 60 percent off were seasonal items, like Christmas and Halloween decor.

Because professional liquidators often mark items up to MSRP before the sale, often that so-called sale price is higher than the price the item was originally marked. I studied the tags for evidence of that at this store. But all of the holiday decor marked for 60 percent off still carried the original Christmas tree shop tags, indicating you are actually getting the item for 60 percent off the price before the sale started. Other than holiday items, everything else in the store is only 10 percent off.

Here’s how to get the most bang for your buck at a going out of business sale.

• Scope out prices before the sale to determine whether you’re actually getting a good deal. Remember the goal of liquidators is to squeeze out every penny possible from remaining merchandise.
• Be willing to wait. Liquidators generally lower prices every week or so.
• Don’t wait too long. Liquidation sales in New York are generally no more than 60 days.
• Examine merchandise carefully because sales are usually final.
• Only buy what you need. It’s not a great deal if you never use it.

In the state of New York, a business having a going out of business sale has to first get a permit from their local municipality. Those permits are for 30 days and, in most cases, retailers can only get two in a row.

In other states, retailers hire professional liquidators who often bring in merchandise from outside that may be of lesser quality. That’s illegal in New York, so you know the items you’re buying are really from that retailer. If you see anything at a going out of business sale that doesn’t pass the smell test, you can contact the New York state Division of Consumer Protection at 1-800-697-1220 or submit a complaint online.