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Clearances and Short-Term Sales
Some companies promote business through the use of clearances and sales that last for a short period of time. These are most commonly seen being run by larger retail stores. The best place to look for sales is usually the large "clump" of flyers found in the Sunday editions of most newspapers. You can also sometimes get "advance notice" of sales within the store itself.
Online companies usually don't do short-term sales, preferring instead to make use of coupons and other promotions. Since online companies know they are competing against retail stores that don't need to charge for shipping and handling, sometimes they will run short-term "free shipping" promotions. These are the best times to buy small, low-dollar-value items from companies that normally charge for shipping. Some companies run these as often as once a month, and they are sometimes listed in the same places as online coupons.
You will also sometimes see companies run specials that are really equivalent to short-term sales. For example, a popular vehicle with retail stores in areas with substantial sales taxes are "we pay the sales tax" days. Of course, this is the same as an across-the-board percentage discount on everything in the store, equal to the rate of the tax. (OK, technically it's equal to a discount of N/(100+N) percent, where N is the sales tax in percent terms, which is a bit less than N%. But anyway... :^) )
Regardless of the type of sale or what the vendor wants to call it--and some of them are pretty imaginative!--the bottom line is the same. Compare the net price to that of other vendors, factor in the important non-price issues, and make your decision.
Tip: If a company runs out of
stock on a sale item, ask for a "rain check", which will entitle you to buy the
item at a later date for the sale price. Most stores will give these out unless they state
explicitly that no rain checks will be available for the sale.