Outlet malls use all kinds of tricks of the trade to make you think you’re getting a better deal than you really are. In fact, here are five outlet mall rip-offs, according to the financial website WalletPop.com:

  • The amount you save may be a lie. Most items are tagged with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price so you think you’re getting a great deal. However, most stores custom-print their outlet tags, so they put any price on them they wish. The fix: Before heading to an outlet mall, research the items you want so you know how much they typically cost.
  • Just because it’s in an outlet store, don’t assume it’s marked down! Some retailers carry what they call “core products,” and they’re the same price at their outlet locations as in their regular stores. Even when things are on sale, know this: The biggest average discount at an outlet mall is 37%, but at a big sale at your local store, you can do a lot better than that.
  • Another outlet mall rip-off: Being overcharged at the register. If you’re like most people, you simply pile stuff on the check-out counter. That makes it easy for the store to “accidentally” overcharge for one or two items. So, before you reach the register, do the math in your head or use your smart phone calculator so you’ll know approximately what you should owe.
  • Outlet stores don’t just carry unsold top-of-the-line department store items at bargain-basement prices. A lot of the merchandise is made for their outlet stores, and they’re often poorly-made products using lower-quality materials. So, if you want real high-quality stuff, look for an actual “clearance store,” like Neiman Marcus Last Call.
  • Finally, the coupon booklets that outlet malls sell can be a waste of money because most of them won’t pay off. You might have to spend $100 to get 10 percent off your purchase – which barely pays for the coupon booklet. A lot of times the coupons aren’t valid during sales - and at outlet stores there are almost always sales. Bottom line: Never spend money to save money!