In a way, all retailers, product manufacturers and car salesman are banking on the fact that most of us are suckers.  At least when we go out to buy stuff.  We are now bombarded with “necessary” items like toothbrushes with timers, skincare products that will (not) make us look 10 years younger and coffee we’ll pay three times as much for if they call it something exotic.  We like things that sound cool, we sometimes think things will be better if they cost more and we really, really like thinking we got a better deal on something than the smarty pants next door.  Which brings us to “The Sale”.  Sometimes real, often not.  And “The Clearance Sale”?  Oy.

With Borders closing 200 stores, the “clearance sales” are beginning all over the country.  But when is a clearance sale really a clearance sale?  It used to be that when a store was going out of business, they truly discounted the merchandise they had in stock and did their best to sell what they could in an attempt to recoup some of their losses.  Bad news for them could mean great buys for you.

Nowadays?  Not so much.  Now I feel compelled to put the term “clearance sale” in quotes because I think it’s all kind of a big scam.  In fact, maybe they should call them “sucker sales”.  Here’s the deal: companies who specialize in “clearance sales” come in and put up tons of cheap looking signs to let you know they’re serious and then they discount the good stuff a teensy bit and the junk no one wants a teensy bit more.  For example, right now Borders clearance sale prices are set between 20 and 40 percent off.  20 percent?  Seriously?  That’s not a sale.  That’s an insult.

And worse than that – these liquidation companies bring in cheap crap and sell it to you for “75% off” – which is nonsense, of course, because it is really not worth any more than what they are selling it to you for.  It is remainder merchandise, etc.  I remember hearing about one store that did so well with their “going out of business sale” that they actually continued “going out of business” for years.

In the case of Borders, where they are not closing all their stores, I have to believe the “good stuff” is being returned to vendors and sent to the other stores and what is left in the “sucker sale” is not a heck of a lot.

Of course the percentage discounts will decrease over time and just before they close their doors for good, the prices will actually be good… but there will inevitably be not much left worth buying.

Alas if you are a true lover of bargains and willing to really look – you may find a gem – and if you’re looking for a Borders near you that’s closing you can go to this website that Borders has put together about their current situation. It includes a list of all the store closures.

I, for one, miss the old days when people didn’t feel compelled to spend $170 on a toothbrush and a clearance sale really was a clearance sale!

— Dana Barrett, Managing Editor

PS – You think I can rant about clearance sales?  Don’t even get me started on outlet malls!