If it's important enough that it's for a limited time only, it must be a great deal, right? Sales people know that if they let you out of the door, there's a better than average chance that you're not going to come back. Car salesmen will go to great lengths to give you offers you can't refuse because they know that if you have time to think about it, the answer will most likely be no. (To learn more about limited time offers, read The Economics Of Group Buying Sites.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

E-commerce has changed the way we do business in the 21st century. The holiday season sees more business done online than in traditional retail stores, and because of this the sales strategies that once took place in a store have been adapted to work online.

Flash sites are the new way to sell online. Here's how it works. You go to one of the many flash sites and find that there's a 60% off deal on a Caribbean cruise. It definitely looks like a good deal because the retail price is a lot higher than the special price. The catch is that this sale is only for a limited time. It might be for a few days, 24 hours or a super special deal that only lasts until the countdown clock hits zero.

Because we all love a bargain, we want to believe that we found a deal that others missed, but rarely is that the case. When flash sites were in their infancy, the retail world was a different place. In 2009 the economy was at its recent lows. Those lows kept consumers out of the stores and caused retailers to have warehouses full of inventory. They were desperate to generate cash flow and even if they sold their products at a loss, it was freeing up cash which made their earnings reports look better to investors. Flash sites were the place to go if you wanted to land one of those deals.

However, 2011 was different. Inventory levels had returned to levels making flash sites full of the bargains they once had. And now that there are so many competing sites, some resort to tricks like inflating the retail price to make their price look more like a bargain. (For other ways to score a travel deal, read 7 Ways To Save On Last-Minute Travel.)

Watch Out
Remember that cruise? The New York Times reported that even if you can get a good deal, it will most likely come with restrictions that make it far less attractive. If it's a travel deal, you may not be able to cancel, reschedule or transfer the package. Later on, as The New York Times found out, better deals may appear on other sites making that impulse buy not as good as you first thought.

Also, there may be other fees and charges. That designer sweater that you bought at a Walmart price may have some hefty shipping and handling charges, and that hotel room could have taxes and other fees that were included in the price.

The Bottom Line
There are still some deals to be found on these sites, but don't assume that because it has a countdown clock that it's a bargain. Never purchase something without doing comparison shopping. If you don't have time to compare prices at other sites, let that clock run down. There will be other great deals that will come your way. (For more on travel, see The Best Bang For Your Holiday Travel Budget.)

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    Can Jet.com Affect the Costco Model?

    Find out how Jet.com changed its business model to take on competitors such as Costco, Sam's Club and Amazon. Early success shows the company is succeeding.
  2. Economics

    The Court Cases That Have Shaped US Sales Tax Law: How They Apply Today

    Explore two Supreme Court cases that established legal precedent for the treatment and apportionment of sales taxes at the state level.
  3. Personal Finance

    The Ten Commandments of Personal Finance

    Here are the simple financial Ten Commandments that, when faithfully followed, can lead to a secure economic future.
  4. Professionals

    Project Manager: Career Path & Qualifications

    Learn more about what project managers job, the qualifications necessary for the position and the most common careers for these professionals.
  5. Home & Auto

    Are Kelley Blue Book Values Accurate and Reliable?

    It’s the most popular used-car buying guide. Here’s a look at just how trustworthy it is – plus a comparison with the competition.
  6. Investing

    10 Cheap Vacations for the Ultimate Foodie

    If you are a foodie then explore one of these destinations in 2016.
  7. Personal Finance

    How Tech Can Help with 3 Behavioral Finance Biases

    Even if you’re a finance or statistics expert, you’re not immune to common decision-making mistakes that can negatively impact your finances.
  8. Taxes

    Internet Sales Tax Vs. Brick & Mortar Sales Tax

    Learn about the differences between sales taxes and Internet sales taxes, and the goods and services that typically incur each type of tax.
  9. Entrepreneurship

    How an Internet Sales Tax Will Affect Your Small Business

    Learn about how the Marketplace Fairness Act may impact small business owners should it pass in the House and what the act requires from business owners.
  10. Investing Basics

    Internet Sales Tax's Effect on Interstate Commerce

    Find out how a national Internet sales tax could affect interstate commerce, and why some bigger online retailers are lobbying for such a tax.
  1. Why are most airplane tickets nonrefundable?

    Airplane tickets are generally nonrefundable, because the majority of tickets sold are discount tickets. In exchange for ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does QVC charge sales tax?

    QVC, an American TV network, is registered with states to collect sales or use tax on taxable items. QVC is also required ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does Walmart take international credit cards?

    Foreign visitors to Walmart locations in the United States can use their credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Is QVC publicly traded?

    QVC, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corporation. It is attributed to the QVC Group tracking stock, ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How can I invest in electronic retailing (e-tailing)?

    Electronic retail is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. Every year, more people are choosing to purchase ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center