Not All Online Deals Are What They Appear

manufacturer suggested retail price

As online shopping is becoming increasingly normal for people who aren’t in a rush to take their purchases home or who simply don’t have the time to go out and choose a gift for a friend, the perils of online shopping are more treacherous than ever.

eCommerce was once the home to the best deals for anything from craft supplies to flat-packed furniture, and although shoppers can still nab a good deal online, convenience is a much bigger selling point.

The Power of MSRPs

One of the biggest scams to watch out for online are the fake discounts offered by retailers big and small. They often post an MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) that’s considerably more than the paltry sum the item is currently listed for, leading to fast and easy conversions. Many shoppers never think to check the price of the item with other retailers, they simply take the word of their favorite retailers.

But, as it turns out, the MSRP isn’t as clear-cut as shoppers have long been led to believe. The MSRP isn’t a very well regulated or policed concept, so most retailers can get away with claiming an MSRP of almost anything. It would seem like any Internet shopper would be able to easily find an alternative product, but these high MSRPs help sell products without many questions asked.

Pricing is Sometimes Complex

“A perceived deeper discount creates a higher conversion event – in other words, more buyers,” Guru Hariharan, retail analytics firm Boomerang Commerce CEO, explained in an interview with the New York Times. “Pricing can be complex. In some places it’s highly transparent. But there are others where you have to do the math. You have to check the impact of shipping costs, promotions, coupons and loyalty rewards.”

Although the state of California brought a successful case against for illusionary discounts, other cases have not had such consumer-friendly rulings. For example, a Massachusetts judge dismissed a similar case against Kohl’s in February. He ruled that the illusionary discounts did not cause the plaintiff economic harm, even though they believed they were manipulated into making a purchase due to inflated MSRPs.


Your browser is out of date. It has security vulnerabilities and may not display all features on this site and other sites.

Please update your browser using one of modern browsers (Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, IE 10).