Home Depot's Clearance Sale: Everything 0% Off!

Yellow stickers at Home Depot indicate a clearance sale. Except at the store in Somersworth, New Hampshire, where yellow stickers mean 0% off.

Reader Jon explains:

Back in May, a Home Depot near me was closing (well, moving to a more convenient location), and they had a big sale on most of their inventory. They put yellow price stickers over the normal white stickers. Curious about how much the prices were marked down, I peeled off one of the yellow stickers, only to find that the “sale” price was the same as the regular price!

I thought it was an innocent mistake, so I took a picture of it with my phone to chuckle at later.

Today at Home Depot, I was struck with the same curiosity about sale price, so I peeled another yellow sticker to reveal yet another “sale” price that was no lower than the original. So I peeled another. And another… ALL of them were the same price, except in yellow!

We had a conversation with the folks up in Somersworth to see if there might be an alternate explanation.

The Consumerist: What do the yellow stickers mean?
Home Depot: They are clearance items and they are usually marked down anywhere from 10% to 20% depending on the item and depending on the department.
The Consumerist: Are they used for anything else?
Home Depot: The yellow tags? No.





Edit Your Comment

  1. Buran says:

    Just wait, they’ll get on your case for taking photos in their store to expose their abuse of “sales” to sucker people into paying full price …

  2. gorckat says:

    Sounds like something that would come down from corporate as a batch of price updates.

  3. milty45654 says:

    Clearance items do not have to be marked down. Clearance means that the store is not going to reorder the item. They are “clearing” that item from the store. Sometimes, they do lower the price…on items that have not sold. It looks like those are all electronics items..they probably sell, but there might have been a contract issue with the supplier and now they are on clearance…because that shelf area will be stocked with NEW items.

  4. Zaphâ„¢ says:

    Sounds like a form of B&S to me.

  5. AlisonAshleigh says:

    From what I remember from when i worked there, the yellow tags are more for the employee because they indicate an item that the store is discontinuing. That way, if someone comes up and asks if you have anymore/are getting anymore in, you know the answer is a big fat no. The ACTUAL clearance stickers will have a “then” and “now” price on them.

  6. timmus says:

    Great detective work. In the olden days ABC 20/20 would have done a whole report on this deceptive pricing. Nowadays the journalists just tuck their tails and run another batch of corporate-produced “video news releases” as consumer news.

  7. Bay State Darren says:

    @gorckat: If the only thing they wanted to say with those signs is “we’re not stocking this any more,” then why add the price again? The fact is they’re trying to make it look like the items are on sale and therefore an especially smart buy without having to sacrifice on profit by actually lowering the price.

  8. pete7919 says:

    So the color of the sticker mandates that the price is reduced? What if they put a blue sticker on there, or a green one? This is very similar to items that are marked “As Advertised”. Home Depot does this too. They’ll run an ad in the newspaper with items advertised at full price. Just becuase it’s in the circular doesn’t mean the price has to change.

    Yes, it’s another advertising trick to entice you to buy, but no, no one is forcing you. Are consumers getting dumber, or has it always been this bad and I’m just coming out of my apathetic haze?

  9. AlisonAshleigh says:

    Yeah I’m not terribly upset about this, because no where on that sticker does it state that it’s on sale. I don’t consider it false advertisment, or trickery of any sort. Unless something specifically, blatantly says it’s on sale, I assume it isn’t.

  10. taney71 says:

    If you ever stopped at Home Depot you will know that the sticker color indicates a discount. Its a “norm” known to the store and its shoppers even if they don’t declare it on the sticker.

    I say that is false advertisement at its worse.

  11. Nytmare says:

    @pete7919: You agree it’s a trick, which is exactly the point of this entry, so why are you griping?

  12. B says:

    Well, it’s a pretty stupid trick if they show the new price and the old price right next to each other. I feel bad for whomever had to go through the trouble of re-tagging everything with the same price.

  13. TPIRman says:

    @pete7919: Not sure why you’re so baffled. The yellow tag functions as an implicit signal to the customer that the price has been lowered for clearance. Do you really not get why people might use the quick-and-dirty indicator rather than comparison-shopping every single iPod widget or table-saw attachment they’re planning to buy? Some people, consciously or unconsciously, take into account the value of their time when shopping. This strikes me as quite smart.

    There was a social contract here, and the store didn’t hold up its end, so a reader let us know. You ask if consumers are getting dumber; judging by the clever actions of reader Jon, they’re getting smarter. Thanks for the heads-up, Jon.

  14. Imafish says:

    They’ve been doing this for a while. Last January I found a small air-compressor in a “clearance sale” at my local Home Depot for like $79.99. I should note that the air compressor was sold without a box, without any of the parts, and without a manual.

    I went home to check the price online and found that the $79.99 price was the normal everyday price!

    But wait, it gets worse, because Home Depot’s website had it on sale for only $59.99!

    I went back to the store to see if I could get it for less than $59.99. Remember, it came without a box, without parts, and without a manual. But they refused to sell it for less than $79.99. I kept escalating up to different “managers” but they all required the full price despite the lack of a box, the missing parts, and the lack of a manual.

    Needless to say, I didn’t buy it. I wonder if any sucker did.

  15. gatopeligroso says:

    @Bay State Darren:

    Don’t you think its a little over-zealous of you to assume that they are trying to trick customers? Nowhere on their stickers does it say “Sale”.

  16. gatopeligroso says:

    @B: The yellow tags are placed on top of the old tag. These tags were positioned for the picture, but this is not how you would normally find these tags.

  17. Bay State Darren says:

    @gatopeligroso: So they’re just trying to be redundant? It’s either that or they’re intending to modify the message being conveyed. And by conveying it by making it the same color as their price reduction signage [I’m assuming those are yellow. I’m never at Home Depot, so I’m just assuming that because nobody’s pointed out the color being different than sales labels], what other message could they be trying add to the price? [Or are they out of white paper?]

  18. pete7919 says:

    In my entry I used the word “trick” as in “trick of the trade” not “deception”. The nonsense about a “Social Contract” is BS. Since when does the color of the tag factor into any price arrangement between buyer and seller? Since the price is clearly stated on the sticker there is no way this could be considered false advertising. The whole premise of this post is flawed because the statement “Yellow stickers at Home Depot indicate a clearance sale” is NOT true. Usually I agree with this site, but not here. You have to be smart enough to know what you are buying and whether or not it’s a deal, and not rely on a different color sticker.

    Target has a similar tactic where they advertise an item in their flyer, at full price, and put signs around the item in the store. “Advertised” and “On sale” are not the same just as “Clearance” and “on sale” are not the same. Regardless of the sticker color the price is marked CLEARLY!

  19. ukthom says:

    Hey…being an ex-HD worker, I should pass on the info that yes, these pricing stickers are lame, but when an item is marked with them, they are set to be priced lower in the future (read: keep your eyes on the yellow tags). This was a common occurance near the end of the summer patio furniture season, as the prices kept falling from 4th of July onward. Every day it seemed, I was repricing the sets, pieces, and such.

    Oh, and I happened to work a few miles down the road from the store featured in this article…I will be passing the link to my friends back home!

  20. liquisoft says:

    Seems shifty to me. People associate the word “clearance” with “big discount.”

  21. mandarin says:

    Best Buy does the same thing on every newspaper with their ads…

  22. mammalpants says:

    awesome! i can save my uncoupons!

  23. Kakiscon says:

    As an HD employee, here’s a little info that I know about the stickers, or at least what I’ve seen in my experience.

    When an item goes on clearance, it means that the store is trying to get rid of it. As time goes on the price will gradually go down, but if it has just gone on clearance it may still be full priced. When the price is reduced, the tag will usually have the former price, as well as the new price.

    Also in response to a comment further up, there are people who’s job is to move about the store and replace old stickers with new ones as well as order product that the store is running low on. When an item goes onto clearance, the machine that prints the stickers asks for a role of yellow tape rather than white, and the person needs to switch the role out, whether the price has changed or not.

  24. catnapped says:

    China Mart does the same thing, only with red/white stickers. One of ours has a ton of stuff in electronics with red/white stickers and normal/regular prices and they’ve been that way for months.

  25. Chicago7 says:

    At least they show both the new and old prices. MANY stores call something a sale and the price doesn’t change. The only way to tell (if you are a skeptic like me) is to lift the tag and see the price underneath or note that the price on the box is the same as the sale price.

  26. mgyqmb says:

    @Chicago7: That’s what happened hered. The photographer pulled the new stickers off and placed them for the photo.

  27. bldtraffic says:

    “RALPHS” is a large grocery-chain here in So. California. For many years, you could identify “Club” and other advertised prices by the yellow tag they were printed on…so much so that my eyes had becomed trained by the by the small flash of yellow to land on them when I scnned the shelves.

    A few months ago I noticed that the yellow stickers were not sale prices any more, but “ALWAYS Low-Prices” . (Translation: Regular Price.)

    When I asked the night manger about it, she smiled and said they had been phasing that it for awhile now…

  28. XTC46 says:

    @pete7919: well, at genki sushi the color of the plate dictates the price of it (its a sushi bar where small plates rotate on a conveyor belt and you grab what you want) but I agree that this is much different. Clearance means “we aren’t getting it back and want it gone” not “cheap cheap cheap”

  29. Jim says:

    I was over there yesterday with the kids and we were digging though the Halloween lights which were on a clearance table and two guys were putting these stickers on everything.

    I pick up a string of lights – the Home Depot sticker says $3.99 . I then kindly pointed out to one of the sticker dudes the box had $2.99 printed right on it…

    He shrugged and kept on adding stickers…

  30. CurbRunner says:

    Hold on now…
    There’s a simple answer here that home depot has failed to come clean about here.
    All of these sticker changes occurred at the home depot stores over in their parallel universe sale.

  31. DojiStar says:

    I noticed the same thing at the Worcester, MA Home Depot about 3 weeks ago.

    I was shopping for a new kitchen faucet and noticed the yellow clearance sticker over the old price sticker. The clearance price was $179.97. I pealed the yellow sticker back and noticed that the original price was $179.97.

    I am curious how this stuff is legal?

  32. eelmonger says:

    The current and ex-HD employees have already provided reasonable explanations. As a former tag-hanger myself I can also vouch that it is pretty common for clearance tags to go up before clearance prices take effect. That’s because you want to tell whomever does the ordering to stop ordering that item as quickly as possible. Ours were much more discrete, a “D” (discontinued) in place of the ordering barcode, but the main point is that a clearance does not equal a cheaper price.

  33. XTC46 says:

    @DojiStar: its legal because it doesn’t say anywhere that it is a sale, or a lower price. It is a yellow tag. Now if they had a sign somone that stated yellow tags = discounted pricing then there would be a problem, but they don’t.

    And on a different note, what does it matter? you shouldn’t buy something just because its on sale, buy it because you like the price (sale or not) and you need the item.If you buy for a sale price you are just wasting money.

  34. Asvetic says:

    Here’s an even simpler explanation; the HD employee responsible for printing out the new tags accidentally used the yellow sticker paper instead of the white and didn’t reprint the batch. A common problem in retail, you’d spend a decent half hour printing out that day’s sales tags, sort them and realize you made a mistake. It was a pain in the ass to reprint tags, if you messed up. Plus, some associates are just lazy, tired or didn’t care, so out went the new tags on the wrong colored sticker paper. Considering how useless some HD employees are, this isn’t a stretch of the imagination at all.

  35. the_mdg says:

    I just cannot believe he took a picture of merchandise in the store! Not to mention peeling off labels! That is a crime worthy of death! I’m surprised the HD police didn’t come flying down from the skylights on ropes and take him out right then and there.

  36. mac-phisto says:

    hey, they’re just taking a page out of the “how to win at retail” handbook. give everything a yellow tag & call the store “best buy”.

    $20 says they change the store’s name from “home depot” to “home discounts”.

  37. IndplsGeek says:

    Take a deep breath everyone. I work at the Depot. Yellow means the product is going away. Usually, but not always, the price will drop after a length of time on the shelf at which point the computer will prompt you to print a Was/Now pricing sticker. Customers in our store generally know what the yellow stickers mean and will even occasionally ask if/when the price is going to drop. Which, by the way, come in the form of price changes each day to the store. Some times it goes down…some times it doesn’t.

    But, DojiStar makes the best point of all, “…you shouldn’t buy something just because it’s on sale. Buy it because you like the price,” and want to buy it. Now excuse me, I have some labels to print.