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By Alexandra Mondalek
December 29, 2015

How good are you at evaluating whether a store discount actually delivers a good deal? Even shoppers who think they have caught on to pervasive “sale” gimmicks still fall prey to some retail tricks, a new study finds.

For purchases over $100, customers think they’re getting a better deal — and say they are more likely to purchase the discounted item — when retailers advertise the amount you’d save, rather than the percentage discount, researchers from EGADE Business School in Mexico and Babson College in Massachusetts found.

For items that cost less, the opposite trend seems to apply — with shoppers more easily lured by a percent-off promotion rather than a dollars-off deal — although the data was less conclusive.

“The type of discount is far more significant in expensive products,” the study says — a finding important to retailers and consumers alike.

To study the shoppers’ reactions, researchers tested consumers by comparing a dollar amount against a corresponding percentage, and monitoring how shoppers reacted to the hypothetical promotion. They found that the results held true across varying levels of discounts, although the effect disappeared at the $100 mark.

The takeaway for shoppers? If you see a pricey item with what looks like a generous dollar-figure discount, do the math yourself; figure out what percent off you’re getting, and then see how sweet the deal actually sounds. (Note the meh set of deals in this year’s Black Friday sales, with Amazon’s average sale only a lousy 2.5% off.) Your wallet will thank you.

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