CompUSA Liquidation Scam: Double The Price, Then Knock Off 15%

For giggles, I stopped into our local CompUSA (Mount Laurel, NJ) to see what amazing deals could be had.

Every 5-10 minutes, an announcement was made welcoming people to the liquidation event. Curiously enough, the guy making the announcements kept saying “fifty percent off”, when in reality the items in question were 15% off. I heard several of these announcements, and I wasn’t the only one that heard him say 50%. Clever use of near homophones..

Next bit of interest.. I saw a pack of DVD-R blanks with a couple of different price tags on it. There was one that said $4.99, and partially on top of that, one that said $9.99. The shelf signs offered another 15% off of that.

Upon taking it to the register, I was told that it was in fact $9.99. When I inquired, I was asked how they couldn’t tell if I’d applied the $4.99 sticker myself. I pointed out that it had the same item number, and was partially *underneath* the higher price tag.

“Oh yeah. I guess you couldn’t have done that then.” The girl informed me that she was unable to give me the lower, marked price.

I remarked how good a deal it was for them – do a 100% markup on the product, then offer a 15% discount. Nicely done guys. She told me that “would be impossible, since price fixing is illegal.” I explained to her that price fixing is when you collude with your competitors to charge the same price for an item, not artificially inflating the price of an item before discounting. When you own the merchandise, you’re free to sell it for whatever price you like, generally. If you convince some sucker to pay more than he should, good for you.

For those who still think it was a good deal – it was only a 10-pack of DVD-Rs. Lightscribe discs, but still, not a great deal (25 for $12.99 on Newegg).

Other “deals” included a Western Digital MyBook World Edition 1TB for $404 (including the 10% off, so marked $449). Same drive sells every day on Amazon for about $350.

So, inflate prices, take nominal discount, profit…

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this happening during the CompUSA’s so-called “liquidation” sale. The whole thing seems sketchy to us. Avoid.

(Photo:Thanks,Michael!)

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  1. lawnmowerdeth says:

    And don’t forget, besides getting great deals, all sales are final even on broken items!

  2. charodon says:

    My guess is they have some other plan to liquidate their merchandise, that doesn’t involve selling it to retail customers. So, every extra nickel they can squeeze out of the suckers is pure profit.

  3. trollkiller says:

    It is illegal to discriminate against homophones.

    The only good deal you will find is when they sell the store fixtures, assuming you need store fixtures.

  4. Coder4Life says:

    The sale is a joke, except for on cell phones. For computers and accesories go to a best buy and it will be cheaper.

    For instance laptops 5% off. $1000, $50 off. Uh they alwasy have a $50 rebate running on almost all laptops 365 days a year. So what’s the discount NOTHING. Go to a bestbuy and you’ll get 150 – 200 instantly off. Now thats a deal.

    But people are still buying the over priced products.

    Liquidation sales at compusa atleast are for people who don’t shop around for computer stuff all the time and have no clue what anything is really worth..

  5. mamacat49 says:

    We went over to look. The only thing I bought was a laptop case (after using the in-store kiosk to check the price via Google) and a Mac Office thing for my son’s new Apple notebook (we knew the price it should be, and he bought it for 15% off). The other prices—not so great. If you know what the real price should be, you can get a so-so deal.

  6. saphyrre says:

    This practice will continue as long as there are enough stupid people that buy anything for whatever price as long as it “on sale”.

  7. Xkeeper says:

    Makes you wonder why they’re going out of business.

  8. Coder4Life says:

    @Xkeeper: If that was a real scam it is being performed by the liquidator and not compusa itself. Even though they have had unfair tactics in the past.

  9. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    A friend of mine went to a CompUSA store closing sale earlier this year. All the good stuff was gone already. The only things remaining were software and accessories. He was able to pick up Windows Vista Ultimate for a good price. I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was cheaper than an OEM version. So definitely check prices before buying anything at these “liquidation” sales.

  10. medisyn says:

    Ok I worked at a CompUSA that was closed by the Gordon Bros. There is no scam here, just horrible prices. Every item returns to full CompUSA retail price then the discount is applied. Yes, this makes most things have horrible prices because the original retail price when it came out was super high.

    The funny thing is that even with the retarded prices our store was able to sell everything off at a profit. Don’t even bother guys all the employees get all the good stuff at good prices, everyone else is wasting their time for the most part.

  11. stopNgoBeau says:

    At the CompUSA in Baton Rouge, most of the items are in the wrong spot. I thought I was getting a deal on a Router w/CDMA WAN access for 69.99 minus 15% off, but it was actually $199 before the rebate. Sure enough, if you looked closely at the shelf price marker, it was for a different router from a different company.

  12. SaraAB87 says:

    We have a Kmart that is closing near us. Strangely the prices in the Kmart that is closing are HIGHER than the prices in the normal Kmart that is closer to our house. The items in the closing Kmart were only like 30% off when at the normal Kmart by our house, they are 50% off, and it was the same items.

    Store liquidations are nothing but “perceived” deals. They trick the customers into thinking something is a good deal just because the store is closing. Yes there may be some actual deals in the store, but you have to watch your prices carefully. There is a big difference between actual deals and perceived deals. Also with this particular store closing I noted that all the good merchandise was shipped to other stores and that the liquidator broke store clearances by hiking prices back up to their normal price THEN taking the closing discount off.

    Reminds me of the time the Toys R Us near me was closing and the prices went up and down constantly, one week it was 50% off and the next it was 70% off and then the next it was 50% off. I checked prices at the scanner on the same items and the prices actually fluctuated like this, not to mention the fact that the items took a few seconds to come up in the scanner and you could see the prices changing after you scanned the barcode before it came up with the final price for the item.

    You really have to be careful when dealing with these store closings!

  13. pestie says:

    I always wondered if this was standard operating procedure for a store closing. I saw it once, years ago, when the regional department store chain called Rich’s closed. They advertised a deal where prices went down another 10% from retail every day until closing. What actually happened was that they were marked up, then discounted, to make the “discount” price equal to the original retail price.

  14. Womblebug says:

    This is SOP for the liquidation companies. They’re the same ones that pay people to stand at intersections with the big neon GOING OUT OF BUSINESS ALL ITEMS X% OFF (the X changes as the weeks roll on). They come in, run the show, make a big profit, and move on to the next place. I’ve even heard (no proof, mind you) that they bring new merchandise in to sell as the “clearance” continues.

  15. LilKoko says:

    I refuse to shop the liquidation sales of companies I refused to do business with in the first place!

  16. ShortBus says:

    As the days progress, they’ll increase the discount. I think it was about +10% per week when they closed up shop here in Michigan. So just wait a bit if you want the really good deals (of what’s left, of course).

    Purely from a business perspective, it’s a good move. A lot of people will swarm the store thinking that everything will be a deal. I can’t blame the creditors for wanting to get as much money as possible since they’re going to have to write off the balance anyhow. (And as someone else pointed out, CompUSA isn’t running the show at this point anymore. Their assets have been turned over to a liquidator who is working on behalf of the creditors).

  17. drjayphd says:

    @womblebug: Bombay seems to at least be honest about it, as one of the ones I’ve been to said that they’ll still be getting stuff in.

  18. grepme says:

    hey me too!

    I went to the compusa, and they had put one of those yellow SALE! stickers on the white card. The SALE! sticker said the original price was 269, the white card said it was 249. When I asked the clerk about it, he got a bit pissy and kept on saying to put back the card.
    I asked several times if the 10% off was off the ‘new’ price or old. He did not like me at all.

  19. 9900dude says:

    I had the same type of thing at a K’s Merchandise happen. Higher price stickers over the lower price ones. The liquidators that run these things do mark up the products before applying the ‘discount’.

    What was funny is that they were selling old IT equipment (UPSes, etc) as well. There was an older 500VA APC UPS (that I can get for $39 on sale), and the liquidator wanted $50 for it. After telling the liquidator that he could do better, and that I could get a new one at $39 at Office Depot, he promptly replied “Well, then, go to Office Depot!”

    These liquidators breed on ignorance and suckers.

  20. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    Why would you buy any type of electronics equipment without any return or warranty? I could see rolling the dice if it’s 90% off but not when you only save 15%.

  21. Floobtronics says:

    @drjayphd: Liquidators bringing in additional merchandise is pretty standard fare. My father-in-law shut down his furniture store earlier this year. The liquidator hired him to stay on for a couple of months during the liquidation. They brought in all kinds of cheap crap to dump on the unwashed masses. The big favorite is these “oriental rugs”. Of course, they’re oriental, they’re made somewhere in Asia. However, “Oriental” makes people think you’re talking about hand-made heirlooms. We’re talking about mass-produced, somewhat ok rugs that won’t last more than a few years.

    I’ll probably head back over to CompUSA in a few weeks, to see if anything changed, since I have read actual tales of deals that were had at the last minute when the last batch of stores closed. From what I read, pretty much hit or miss, and more likely miss than hit.

  22. azntg says:

    Liquidations aren’t all that it’s cracked out to be? Who knew?

    The one and only thing I’ve bought from CompUSA is a bluetooth headset, which I promptly collected the rebate check. My net price was just a couple of cents (from the sales tax of the original purchase). Crossing my fingers and hoping that the internal battery will last for a while. It served me well for the most part.

  23. LTS! says:

    I have to ask what part of “15% off RETAIL price” people don’t get.

    Haven’t any of us learned that under normal circumstances NOTHING is sold at RETAIL a.k.a. MSRP.

    If morons are fooled into thinking this is a good deal they need only to look in the mirror to who to blame.

    As far as people on Consumerist being duped.. well, shame on you. You should have learned what “RETAIL PRICE” was by now.

    It’s crappy, but apparently it works and there’s certainly no SCAM about it. It’s not DECEPTIVE in any way. They clearly state the price policy.

    The given example with the price tags? That’s another story. And why not just peel off the $9.99 sticker? It’s on top.

  24. randalotto says:

    @lawnmowerdeth: Well, that depends. In some states, (such as Massachusetts,) they can’t legally do that.

  25. Buran says:

    @lawnmowerdeth: Let’s see them tell that to credit card issuers since “merchant won’t take back defective-at-purchase goods” is a valid reason for a chargeback.

  26. quail says:

    Liquidation companies run most ‘going out of business’ sales. The entire contents of a place are sold to the liquidator at a super cheap price. Good merchandise on the shelves are then sold by the liquidator to another store. What’s left for the bargain hunters is the crap left at the store and the crap the liquidator ships in for the next few weeks. The crap that comes in is leftovers from other liquidations and sometimes odd lots that they’ve purchased from warehousing companies. Never expect to buy anything of value at one of these liquidations and never expect more than a ‘sale’ price that’s no better than retail.

  27. Buran says:

    @LTS!: You buy goods “at retail” so the “retail price” is the register price.

  28. quail says:

    Oh, need to add that one family owned business in the N. Dallas area went the liquidation route when the family decided they’d had enough of retail. Some years later they tried to reenter and draw their original client base back. They failed miserably with their original name because no one trusted their merchandise and ethics after the liquidators spent 2 months funneling crap through their original stores. In the end they had to shut down again and work at reopening at a new location and with a new name.

  29. SaraAB87 says:

    @LTS!:

    Pulling off the price tag is considered fraud in most places, and its considered as switching a price tag which is punishable by law if you are caught. This is a very bad idea.

  30. humphrmi says:

    @Buran: Assuming you request and get the charge-back before they actually go out of business. Their credit-card charges go through an account of sorts, just like a checking account (sort of). Once that account is closed, no more charge-backs. (Although in cases where you can claim fraud and they aren’t around to dispute it, your CC company will take the loss.) All I’m saying is, if you’re relying on charge-backs to protect you against damaged merchandise from an about-to-go-out-of-business vendor, be careful.

  31. clevershark says:

    Even if it is a going out of business sale the liquidator still has to make a profit, otherwise he’ll soon find himself going out of business.

  32. mikemar42 says:

    This article pisses me off to no end. I closed a compusa,I was one of the few team-members that stayed till the grim end. He states in the article 2 things. A pack of dvd’s was improperly labeled and a hard drive was cheaper online. First off the employees that are closing these stores don’t give a fuck about you at all. They are getting laid off you idiots. They are mainly planning on hiding things till discounts hit 60 percent and up. Anything worth money will be hid in back offices and ceilings. All the products in the store must be labeled by hand with a price gun. Everyone has to do this even team-members that have been with the store for years and have nothing to do with merchandising. This leads to guys going hey how much did these cost ? I don’t know 5 dollars ? FUCK IT 5 dollars it is. Because honestly we don’t give a fuck. Compusa didn’t raise any prices on anything in the store before liquidation, they just marked the price that the ims computers showed for each item. Also as long as the inventory stays, the longer they get to keep their jobs. They don’t want anything to sell. Prices online will always be cheaper, with no ad the store does not have competitive pricing it’s just retail. Get over it. I couldn’t stand customers believing they are ENTITLED to a 90% discount on everything just because a store is closing. That’s bullshit. Gordon Brothers liquidation is who runs the sale, not compusa. Compusa sold the product all to them at a flat rate. They gain nothing by it selling for a high or low price. You need to understand that Gordon Brothers liquidation is only doing what makes them money, selling products at the least discount until the products stop selling. You can’t expect stores to give things away the first week, you can’t expect any team-member to care about helping you, and you can’t expect good products to go for cheap. It doesn’t happen. All you people that talked shit about CUSA are stupid. Compusa closed due to poor corporate management, and poor buyers that couldn’t get the company products at cheaper prices. At the store I worked at we cared about the customer and almost every employee was knowledgeable in their area. We took monthly training and cared about our sales. To everyone that hated compusa, enjoy shopping at best buy and enjoy their long hard dick in your ass for the next ten years. Fuck off. CUSAFTW!

  33. Me - now with more humidity says:

    MIKEMAR42: Geez… do you kiss your mother with that mouth? You’ll do just fine at Best Buy — are you stealing porn for them yet?

  34. Keter says:

    I liked CompUSA, but I must second the report that they marked up prices significantly, and the “sale” prices are MUCH higher than the regular prices used to be, and still higher than Office Depot or Office Max.

    While I was there, just before Christmas, there were a lot of people walking around, but almost no one buying. Most were doing as I was…shaking their heads in disbelief.

    I plan to swoop in after the **** hits the fan and real price cuts occur, and scoop up toner cartridges and any oddments I might need. I *had* been shopping for a friend who needed a new laptop…count that sale lost. Until then…bah humbug and shame on you, CompUSA.

  35. dantsea says:

    @mikemar42: I hope your next job brings you just as much reward and satisfaction as CompUSA did.

  36. Womblebug says:

    @mikemar42: Because honestly we don’t give a fuck.

    For someone who doesn’t give a fuck, you sure are upset.

  37. Floobtronics says:

    @mikemar42: Oh yes, they cared about us. Excuse me, while I go off in a corner and weep for them all. Oh wait, are we talking about the same gang of (mostly) incompetent teenagers who know less about the products I’m considering than I do? Oh yeah, that’s exactly the people we’re talking about. I’m curious to find out what your reaction is to the 50% vs 15% announcements, profanity aside.

    For the minute quantity of quality people that work for CompUSA, do you think they won’t be able to find jobs? Hint: competent people are always in demand.

    Are we entitled to an automatic 90% discount on products? No. Are we entitled to take note of deceptive practices and share the info with others? Yep.

  38. uricmu says:

    This all reminds me of the permanent “Going out of business” electronics store on Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

  39. iTommy says:

    I work at a compUSA and we are closing soon, it is unfortunate that you had a bad time but its not our fault, the Gordon Brothers, who bought compusa are the ones who raised the prices and are offering the ridiculous discounts, they don’t even let managers lower prices anymore, our general manager was almost dismissed today for returning something and then marking down a price for something that was mislabeled, well guess what all of the people who stuck around are losing their jobs, and probably couldn’t care less that you didn’t get the cheapest price around, because guess what, we’re going out of business because we haven’t profited in 2 years because of consumers only coming to get the cheapest stuff the can then just returning it.

  40. iTommy says:

    @Buran: we have a signed reciept saying no returns all sales final, its all legal buddy.

  41. cheviot says:

    Sigh. I was there during the first round of closings and I just confirmed with people that are there for the second.

    On the day Gordon Brothers took over the stores all the sales were canceled and all the prices were locked in the POS system at normal (not on sale) retail price. Then they sent people around with price guns to mark everything with that full retail price so that it would be easy for customers to see the correct pricing of items, and to fulfill price labeling requirements, as no shelf price tags are being printed anymore.

    For the original person complaining… care to post the SKU of those disks? You know we could look them up on CompUSA.com (which isn’t closing) and see if original retail was $5 or $10… but you really don’t want us doing that, do you? Makes for a much worse story “CompUSA misprices item! Film at 11!”

  42. Giolon says:

    I went to the CompuUSA liquidation in the first round of closures earlier in the year, and I picked up a marked down Saitek Eclipse II keyboard for $30. It’s still $60 retail (available for $50 after $10 off at Newegg).

  43. HOP says:

    i think a lot of ‘em do that with “sale” prices……they jack up the p;rice ,then knock a small percent off……

  44. humphrmi says:

    @mikemar42: Your post demonstrates to all of us why CompUSA is going out of business. Good job.

  45. B says:

    I’m shocked, shocked, that CompUSA’s overcharging…Well, really not that shocked. However, I’m pretty sure that selling something at a higher than normal price and calling it a sale is illegal. Well, depending on state laws.

  46. edebaby says:

    @mikemar42; your post is excellent. It’s understandable that you might use profanity to express your derision at what has happened. It’s also understandable that you despise the greedy bargain-seekers that only now show up to your shop to try and find ridiculous deals, which just shows how stupid some people can be, as all smart consumerists know that liquidation sales are a joke.
    Bring your passion to your new job, you’re sure to be a success.

    @ME: never heard profanity before? Crawl back under, Pansy.
    @DANB: maybe, and probably more than at your job.
    @WOMBLEBUG: Wouldn’t you be?
    @FLOOBTRONICS: If you know so much, brainiac, why would you need assistance from those teenagers?
    @HUMPHRMI: really? How is that?

  47. ChristopherDavis says:

    When Lechmere was closing, I went into the store a day or two before the liquidation started. There was a stack of boom boxes under a sign “SALE! $89.99 reg. $109.99″, not moving at all.

    Two days later, the same stack was being sold for 10% off retail by the liquidator, and they were flying out the door.

    $109.99 – 10% = $98.99. But hey, it’s a going out of business sale, so it must be a good deal, right? Why not pay $9 more than they were being sold for last week?

  48. skwigger says:

    People fall for this crap all the time. I say that they deserve it if they’re too stupid to check to see what the value of the item really is before purchasing it.

    When the CompUSA by me went out of business, I got a wireless network card for a good deal ($27). CompUSA had the original price at something like $90 before the mark down. I knew it wasn’t worth $90, but it was probably worth $50 or so.

  49. Floobtronics says:

    @edebaby: Perhaps you’re just missing the point. I know a small bit about a particular type of item, and ask for assistance trying to decide between 2 similar items. Most of the time, you got the “pleasure” of dealing with some goofball who dropped pearls of wisdom like “This one’s from Sony, and the other one’s from Brand X.” No kidding? Oh, is that what those funny symbols on the box mean? I just thought that was art.

    If I’m an expert on a particular item, why would I bother talking to the in-store staff who I already know is blissfully ignorant about the majority of the merchandise being sold in the store?

    @ChristopherDavis: Because people are bad at math. That’s why companies like BlueHippo exist. For those who don’t know, those guys get people with lousy credit to pay $2500 for $500 computers.

  50. Buran says:

    @mikemar42: You’re getting paid to give a shit about customers and to help them out. Good to know you don’t take your work seriously. No wonder your employer is going out of business if it has jerks like you who work for them who don’t give a shit about customers.

  51. SaraAB87 says:

    @mikemar42:

    We as customers really don’t care, as the smart customers already know that liquidators are just trying to trick the public into thinking they got a good deal.

    We as customers are at the liquidation sale to GET A BARGAIN, after all the company spends time convincing people that there should be a deal at the store since the store is closing, so yes there should be a deal and the prices should not be hiked up before taking the measly percent off. The more I find out about these practices, the more I share them with my family and friends and the internet, and the less I shop at liquidation sales.

    Employees like you are the reason why a lot of us are taking our shopping online so we do not have to deal with employees like you and the overpriced retailers that hire you. We don’t really care if you hate your job, we are honestly just out looking for a bargain.

    I really wish someone would organize a boycott for one of these liquidation sales so that no one goes into the store until the percent off reaches at least 70% off, then the liquidators would have to sit on all their merchandise for weeks with no one buying. Of course this probably wouldn’t work but its a nice thought.

  52. parad0x360 says:

    Sears use to do the same thing with video game sales all the time.

    I went in to to buy Zelda for n64, normal price was $60 at sears. They marked it up then said X% off and it ended up costing $70, then after the sale the price went back down to $60.

    I went and got the game at EB.

  53. coren says:

    Gotta agree with Mike. People know exactly what CompUSA is like, know what liquidators are like, and yet still go in expecting something different to happen. That’s the definition of insanity.

    But I love how CompUSA gets the blame when this is standard practice for this liquidator (and liquidators in general). I know we all hate compusa cuz they’re evil evil evil, but come on now.

  54. dantsea says:

    @edebaby: Somehow, I seriously doubt that, though I’m duly impressed that someone of your obvious socioeconomic status understood the intent behind my words. Gold star for you, now get back to the register.

  55. kingdom2000 says:

    I recommend passing on CompUSA for the first few weeks. The sale prices start on the MSRP of an item and slowly drop from there (about 5%) a week. This is to maximize the profit the liqiudator will get.

    Also, when this occured near me last year, I find items I wanted and hid them behind the shelving or low sell objects like the paper products and what not. Every week, since I was monitoring the sale anyway, I would check the items, move them or add to them as needed.

    The end result is while some of my hiding places where found (do to the “shrinking” of the store as the edges where cleared of product), I got most of my stuff at over 50% off.

  56. s25843 says:

    I actually just picked up a new Sprint phone at a CompUSA yesterday. Sprint wanted to sell it to me for $400 without a contract, $250 with a 2 year contract. I picked it up at CompUSA (with a 30% Discount) for $280 with no contract, brand new.

  57. AlphaWolf says:

    When the CompUsa near me closed, one of my co-workers and I went to the store once a week. In the final few days, we were able to buy software at 50%. That was the only time buying anything made sense.

    It is mandatory though to know what price it should be, before you walk through the door.

  58. MrNYOB says:

    This liquidation sale of theirs is a big joke. I went to the Akron, Ohio location and they had 2000 Nintendo Wii Points on sales for $25.00. Don’t they know that Wii points are a penny a point.

  59. FullFlava says:

    Been sayin this since the beginning. It was junk deals from the start.

  60. ekdikeo says:

    When they cleaned out the Michigan stores, I picked up a bunch of neat stuff for cheap. Most of which I dumped off as gifts to friends. As the time for their closing gets closer, they’ll dump the prices lower and lower.. but by then, they’ll have sold most of the interesting stuff out, anyway.

    Used to be reading the Consumerist was a bunch of useful and interesting stuff, over the last year it’s turned into a whole bunch of people being alarmed at perfectly normal and not underhanded things.

  61. jtmal0723 says:

    I know this comment is over a year and a half late, but after reading this post, I had to comment. You had mentioned that you visited the Mt. Laurel CompUSA store, and that the person over the loudspeaker announcing/welcoming the liquidation event sounded like they were saying “50 percent” instead of “15 percent”… I happened to be that person in charge of making the liquidation announcements and we had a script we had to read. I wasn’t aware that day, that it was sounding like I was saying “50 percent” until I walked in the following day and was told this. After this revelation, I began to use a little more enunciation in my speech when making the announcements until the end (March 2, 2008). I apologize if you heard some mistakes that day.