Families can save money and stay on budget with Black Friday shopping

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Americans looking for deals aren't pricing out final costs before buying

Black Friday weekend means major shopping deals. But are they really deals if we don’t know how much we’re saving?

Most Americans don’t. Open source educational site says 56 percent of Americans admit they have a hard time calculating the true value of an offer. The educational platform also says 78 percent of Americans would need some sort of calculator — whether on their phone or otherwise — to find out the final price of an item if it has a percentage discount applied. says retailers are using “price framing” — or making savings appear bigger than they really are. Tim Lilling, a researcher at, says we don’t have an easy time doing math off the top of our heads to see how much we are really saving.

“We already know that retailers are using price framing regularly from scientific publications,” Lilling says. “But the inability of customers to understand and calculate retail offers correctly is additionally concerning. It provides even more leeway to retailers to trick us easily.”

Retailers — both online and in-store — will showcase big discount numbers without telling you the final price. For example, if you are buying a new TV with a 25 percent discount, do you know how many dollars are taken off the original cost? Do you know what your final price will be?

“It seems that our brains were not made to understand percentages easily,” Lilling continues. “And many have forgotten how to calculate percentages since school.”

Poll results about online deal pricing

Stores know that you are looking at what the discount is rather than what the final price is. You may not even realize that businesses are boosting that original price so a flashy discount doesn’t give you as much of a deal as you’re led to believe.

It’s not only deals we’re bad at finding, it’s also legitimate online shopping sites. A Global Cyber Alliance survey discovered that only half of Americans think they can spot safe online shopping sites. More than one-third say they’ve stopped shopping on a site because of legitimacy and safety concerns.

“The online holiday shopping season is a boon to scammers, as more fake websites are launched than any other time during the year,” Global Cyber Alliance says. Amazon (82 percent), Walmart (36 percent), and Target (20 percent) have the most fake websites launched to resemble them.

The survey also noted that it’s easy to scam buyers because it’s simple to look like a company website when the only thing that is different is an IP address — something most users don’t look up to confirm if it’s a real company. The survey says 77 percent of consumers mistype a web address in their browsers, which means our own errors are causing us to get scammed. Another 68 percent have clicked on a link from an email that took them to a site they didn’t expect.

The survey says at this time last year, there were 119,000 unique phishing sites that were detected, and more than 300 brands were targets of those sites.

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn


Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


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