Ethics Question: hiding sale merchandise

So, there’s a certain well-know national bookstore chain (OK, the only one left, really) that regular does a clearance sale. The standard pattern for this sale is to start at 50%, then after a few weeks, 75% off, and then whatever’s left after a bit goes to $2 each. Since this is a well-known pattern, I’ve heard people online talking about hiding the items they want (in the store) and waiting until the price drops. This seems a bit shady to me, but I others seem OK with it.

When I was at one such store recently, I noticed an item that should have been on the clearance shelf (because others copies of the same item were), but was apparently hidden behind some unrelated merchandise. So I wondered what my ethical obligation was. I ended up leaving it where it was, since I didn’t want it myself, but I thought it merited an unscientific poll.


I would have moved it, either back on the shelf with the others, or to some random third location. People who do stuff like that should be discouraged whenever possible, because they’re being assholes.

I voted “I wouldn’t do it, and I’d expose what I found”, but I’m not sure even after reading this thread that I am observant enough to notice something like this.

Honestly, if I’d even noticed it (which is unlikely) I would probably have assumed someone was going to buy it and changed their mind while walking through the store but didn’t want to walk all the way back to where they got it. Hiding it for later would never have occurred to me.

Exactly this.

I’ve never heard of that practice before. I think I would inform the sales assistant if they were a friend or it was a small store, but if it’s a big chain (huge supermarket, for instance) I’d wish the person hiding it luck. Massive supermarkets make billions per year out of their customers who they don’t really give a crap about.

Restocking misplaced items is not my responsibility as a customer. Let the clerks straighten their shelves up.

I wouldn’t move the book. Not my job (anymore) to stock the shelves.

I wouldn’t move merchandise or hide it either. That’s wrong.

I’ve done it, would do it again, and would not rat someone out who did it.

Lemme guess, Barnes and Noble’s board game sale? This time they’re selling Kingdom Builder and there’s a lot of shady stuff going on with that one. First store I went to had 3 copies on hold (against BN’s policy to put clearance on hold). The next one I went to had games hidden behind others and in different parts of the store. I put them back in the clearance bins because I knew exactly what was going on.

Gah…screen jumped. I hit #2 and I meant to hit #4. I wouldn’t do it, and I’d probably move the merchandise, or take it to the front desk with me to tell the clerk it was out of place.

I hate it when people try to game the system, it usually results in other people losing something. In this case, the store loses the sale at a higher price, and another customer loses out on the chance to buy the item. If you want the lower price, then you take the chance that someone else will buy it first at the higher price.

Seems like any experienced sale shopper would check around for clearance items in other parts of the store. This isn’t a new scam at all.

Regarding “exposure,” I do that sort of thing all the time. If I see an item woefully out of place, I’ll pull it and set it in whatever the designated recovery area seems to be.

Which I’d edit to:

  • When people game the system, it results in other people losing something.*

The problem is that by the time you eliminate the gamers who think such things are their right, and the smug who think anyone who gets gamed is stupid or gullible, there aren’t many of us left who see the situation for what it is.

I don’t frequent B&N but I’ve seen this and other lame schemes at Target. Their clearance policy is also well known and there are topics on FatWallet where people post the deals they’re finding. I check out the clearance areas every couple weeks and I’ve seen hidden items and things with the clearance tag peeled off. If I find something that seems like it was hidden I’ll pull it to the front of the shelf where an employee might see it, but that’s about it. If I want something bad enough I figure 50% is a good enough deal and I’ll buy it. Then I’ll check back in a week and if it’s been marked down further and there are some left I’ll buy another and then return the first one. If not, I’ll just be happy I got one for 50%.

Ding! Ding! Ding! It was a Kingdom Builder on the main game shelf hidden behind all the Ticket to Rides (which weren’t on sale)

Having known a number of people who worked at Target, I can say that the floor staff is probably doing most of the hiding. The really exceptional deals never make it out of the back room.

I wonder what the store’s position is on stock hiding? PITA for sure. But it probably doesn’t cross the line and break any laws?

Switching price tags or bar codes crosses that line. I’ve heard of people getting arrested for that.

I wouldn’t do it cuz I’m not a dishonest asshat.

I would put the book back because fuck dishonest asshats.

I chose #4 for this particular circumstance. As previously noted, it is in everyone else’s best interest to not help someone game the system. I would feel no obligation to potentially assist some anonymous person cheat in this manner. That said, I would not be above hiding something ahead of time if the time-frame was shorter–if it was going on sale the next day, for instance.