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The Secrets A Shop Assistant Won't Tell You!

If you've ever worked in-shop, then you'll know most of these secret tips and tricks

If you've ever worked in-shop, then you'll know most of these secret tips and tricks

So many stores are jumping on the Black Friday discount crazy bandwagon, with discounts galore on pretty much everything you can think of, from clothes to toilets, but are the deals really as good as they seem?

On the whole, you can grab some great deals, but we've all heard the stories about how retailers actually charge more for goods on Black Friday deals than they have done previously, and some of these stories are indeed true, but obviously, this isn't every store and every deal!

I used to work for a well-known retailer; back before, Black Friday sales were a thing in the UK, and the big deals were usually the Boxing Day sales and a summer discount event. These were when you would see the save £500 on this and save £250 on this type of offer, which would always be a crowd pleaser, but I saw on many occasions products being brought in just for the sales that had never been sold in-store before but were being offered at jaw-dropping discounts, and these were the big screen tv's from brands you'd never heard of before, or the £50 microwave reduced from £250 and similar type deals, but only 10 per store, hence why you had people standing outside the store from 4 am, to make sure they got the deal!

And this is the problem that can affect Black Friday purchases as well. A retailer must have offered the product at a higher price for a minimum of 28 days in the previous 6 months to offer/advertise the product at a reduced price. This is why you might see a TV in a shop advertised at £500 for a few weeks, which then magically gets half priced for a sale event; it's a bit of a ruse to get the customer excited about a deal and spend their money! I used to see the same products shoot up in price in November, to magically be hugely discounted down at the end of December... it happened every time! So this is where websites such as,,, and come in handy to be able to check what prices other retailers are selling the same products for as well as some even giving you information on how the prices have changed recently, so you can see if the deal really is as good a deal as they make out!

Did you know the price tickets can tell you a lot?

Yes, indeed, those shelf-edge tickets for a product can actually tell you quite a lot, and be very useful!

One of the biggest pieces of handy information can be the price itself - look at the last two digits of a price. If the price ends in 97p, this means that the product is discontinued and that the store is clearing out all remaining stock at a discount; if the products price ends with 98p, it can mean that the product is clearance and likely to be discontinued shortly, meaning that it's worth hanging on for a bit longer if you can as it's likely that the price will reduce soon and move to a lower discontinued price.

Not all shops use this system, but I guarantee many shops you visit will use it, including stores such as Currys and Costco. Why do they use this pricing system, you may ask; usually, it's a guide for the staff, so they can look at a product and immediately know its stock status, and if a customer asks if you are getting more stock in soon, you can give an informed guess as to how likely that is, and in the case of stores who still pay staff commission, it helps the salesperson to switch sell you to something that's still a current line, and likely to be in stock, plus if they happen to be given bonuses on the margin they make for the store, it gives them a guide as to how profitable the product is, as normally a 97p ending item will be much lower margin as its reduced to clear!

Have a look for any dates on the ticket as well. If the date is in the past, that's the last date the ticket was printed and the last time the products price was likely to have been changed. If it was a long time ago, it's likely that the price might change soon. If the date is in the future, that's when the advertised price is likely to end, so it will help you decide between buying right now or waiting to think about it, which for expensive purchases, is always worth sleeping on! If the date is still a good few days away, you have time to think; if it's dated tomorrow, you need to decide quickly.

Don't open the product immediately; wait and should you buy today and the price goes down tomorrow, then you can always speak to the store about a price match or, in the case of bigger items like sofas or white goods, cancel the order if they won't honour the new price. For an item you already have, return it and then buy it again at the lower price! Knowing the price ticket end date gives you that extra advantage of knowing when the price might change so you might be able to grab it cheaper or equally gain the reassurance that if the price went up, you knew to buy when the price was lowest!

Check if the ticket has the letters R, A or G printed on it, especially in higher-priced item stores. Normally you will find this in stores where staff are paid a margin-related bonus on their sales.

R = Red

A = Amber

G = Green

This is a margin indicator; Red means low margin, Amber means it's middle of the road, and G means it's a good margin. I guarantee that the staff members will try to coerce you into purchasing a green-rated product and will do whatever they can to stop you from buying a red-rated product, as their paycheck will be more significant when they sell more green! It's worth knowing, and a good reason to ask a member of staff if they earn commission before asking their opinion on which product they would recommend because it's going to be the green one every time if they do!

If you want to know which product is best, use independent review guides such as Which, who can offer non-biased recommendations, even if that means taking out a subscription for access to the reviews. These subscriptions can always be cancelled once you have made your decision, or you can use a free trial to make sure the advice doesn't cost you, but I know I would rather pay for a non-biased review from someone than trust a salesperson who will likely only have their best interests in mind when recommending something!

Also worth noting when looking at deals

The retailer does not have to honour a price! If the retailer has made a mistake when pricing the product, they are within their rights to cancel or refuse a sale. We've all probably come across pricing errors/ pricing glitches from time to time; Amazon is especially known for pricing errors, normally from their 3rd party sellers. I know I've had a few massively reduced products delivered, sometimes free, because the seller has reduced the price but forgot to remove a money-off voucher they had on the product. If the seller was using Amazon to dispatch the product to the customer, rather than shipping it themselves, often they don't notice until the package is already on the way and too late to cancel!

If you take an item to the till and are told the price on the tag or label is a mistake, you don’t have a right to buy the item at the lower price. You could still try asking the seller to honour the price, but it's down to them.

If the shop sold you an item at a lower cost than they meant to, and you've already paid, you don’t have to give it back - they’re only legally entitled to ask you for more money if you’d talked about the price (e.g. £200) and they ended up charging you much less instead (e.g. £20).

If you realise you’ve paid more for an item than it was advertised for at the time, ask the shop to refund the difference between what you paid and what was advertised.

Keep any evidence of the mistake, if you can - for example, you could take a photo of the advert in the shop window.

What about shopping online? Your legal rights depend on something reasonably tricky in the law: whether or not you have a ‘contract’.

Depending on the company’s terms and conditions, you’ll have legal rights (and a contract) either:

  • Once you’ve paid for the item

  • Once they’ve sent it to you

You’ll need to find the company’s terms and conditions to determine where you stand. Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need help. It may be too tricky to work out yourself.

If you have a contract, the company can’t usually cancel your order, even if they realise they’ve sold you something at the wrong price. They’ll only be able to cancel it if it was a genuine and honest mistake on their part that you should’ve noticed.

The retailer needs to accept the customer’s order for there to be a contract. If it hasn’t accepted the order, it can withdraw the product from sale and cancel the order.

If you don’t have a contract and someone realises they’ve told you the wrong price, they can cancel your order.

Websites may say in their terms that an order is only accepted when the goods are dispatched. Any email sent to the customer beforehand is simply an acknowledgement of receipt – as opposed to acceptance - of the order, and that's often their way to wiggle out of honouring a low profit or even loss-making error!

In these harder time, it's worth remembering that a discount is only a discount if you actually intended to buy the item in the first place. If you didn't, you haven't saved money.. you've spent more money than intended, and right now that is not the most sensible of things to do!

I'm ending this post with a video made by Martin Lewis in 2018, and its Martins's take on gift buying for Christmas. I strongly urge you to watch this before making any present-related purchases, it's probably the most thought-provoking and important 3 minutes you will spend today!


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