smart spending

7 ways to navigate a liquidation sale

"If you live in one of those states without restrictions, you should be especially careful. Make sure you aren't at a fake liquidation. You can also check with the local courts as to whether the retailer has actually even filed for bankruptcy," she says.

Even so, the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, considers fake going-out-of-business sales as deceptive advertising. The FTC Web site recommends contacting your state attorney general's office if a store is advertising what looks to be a bogus going-out-of-business sale.

"They can go after the store if they feel it was a phony going-out-of-business sale," says FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lourdan. "They are the ones that can impose a penalty for a false sale. We haven't really had a big involvement in that issue because it's been regulated at the state level," she says.

Haggle

There's some debate over whether haggling works because liquidators are sometimes given a floor on the prices they can offer. But what the heck, give it a try.

Donny Lowy, chief executive of Closeoutexplosion.com, a Web site offering overstocked items at a discount and author of "Selling Online: Beyond eBay," suggests offering to buy in bulk and making an offer that's below the ticket price.

If you do your homework beforehand by comparison shopping online, you could bolster your negotiating position with price information culled from comparison shopping Web sites for similar merchandise or at retail stores that aren't going out of business. It's also always worth checking if you can get a better deal online.

"If you are about to buy a digital camera at a liquidation sale, print out the price pages from our site and bring it to the store in a liquidation sale," says Michelle Kane, a spokeswoman at PriceGrabber.com, a comparison-shopping site with price data on goods at 13,000 retailers, including Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart. The site often offers free shipping and no taxes on ordered items.

"It's very smart to keep all your options open and to research and stay very educated about the price point out there for items," Kane says.

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