By Kate Merrill

BOSTON (CBS) — Everyone loves a good deal but, that bargain price may not really be a sale at all.

“At some stores, the sales absolutely never end,” explained Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Boston Consumers’ Checkbook. Brasler told WBZ-TV retail stores know the power of those “sale” signs. “They know it works. They know that if they get people in the store and every display has a big splashy sale sign on it that you’re going to buy more.”

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Brasler and his team at Consumers’ Checkbook tracked prices for 10 months at 19 different stores to try to figure out if a sale was really a sale. “Seventeen were guilty in some way or another of having these fake sales and making it seem like you’re saving a ton of money when, in fact, it’s not really a special price at all. It’s the usual price is that lower price.”

Checkbook found the stores with USUALLY misleading sales are:

  • JCPenney
  • KMart
  • Kohl’s
  • Macy’s
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Sears

“The worst offenders, week after week after week, for 10 months were offering these bogus sale prices,” said Brasler.

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Kevin Brasler (WBZ-TV)

Checkbook found these stores’ sales are OFTEN misleading:

  • Banana Republic
  • Best Buy
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Gap
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Nordstrom
  • Office Depot/OfficeMax
  • Walmart

Checkbook found these stores’ sales are SOMETIMES misleading:

  • Staples
  • Target

Checkbook found LEGITIMATE sales at:

  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Costco

“I think the big take away is shop around. Even if it says 70% off, you don’t know it’s a good deal unless you’ve actually checked around at other stores to make sure it’s a good deal,” said Brasler.

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Under federal guidelines, stores can advertise a sale price if a regular price is offered for a “substantial period of time.” But, there is no specific rule about how long a sale can run.

Kate Merrill