As hundreds of Borders bookstores prepare to close forever, bookworms and bargain-hunters are flocking to snap up close-out bargains on books, CDs, DVDs, stationery and gift items. Check-out lines are snaking onto sidewalks at some stores around the country, according to press reports.
But consumers need to be careful. Close-out sales are often not what they seem and prices are not always as heavily discounted as the price tags would have you believe.
When Consumer Reports monitored the 2009 liquidation sale at Circuit City, it found that the “original” prices had been inflated by 100 percent or more. That's obviously not a problem with books, which have the publisher's price printed on the cover, but pricing on other items can be a bit mysterious.
How to be sure you're getting a good deal?
The simplest is to keep your smart phone handy and compare the Borders close-out price with the prices its victorious competitor, Amazon, is offering. To make it even easier, Amazon offers a free smart phone app, Amazon Mobile, that makes it easy to compare prices, read reviews and shop on the go.
Web sites like PriceGrabber.com and NextTag.com can also provide easy price comparisons.
Remember too that bargains are great but that most purchases at close-out sales are final. That means no returns, no exchanges, no refunds. It's possible you might – just might – be able to return a defective item if you save your receipt. Some states are stricter about this than others, so don't count on it.
Borders says that gift cards, Borders Rewards discounts and other credits will be accepted at stores that are closing as well as those that are staying open, at least for now. But as always, it's a good idea to use rewards sooner rather than later.
It's also a good idea to make your purchase with a credit card, so that if there's a problem you have a little more recourse than you do with a cash sale.
And last but not least, remember that bargains are great but a purchase isn't a bargain if it's something you don't really need.