Watch Out for the “Up to” Sales

All Toys on Sale up to 50 percent off!” “Save up to 70 percent off on all clearance sweaters!” “Going Out of Business! All books are up to 90 percent off!” These are some of the most recent sale signs that I have seen on store windows this holiday season. Are the desperate retail stores trying to unload as much as they can before Christmas, giving you the rock bottom deals while they still can? Well, yes and no.

There is truth in advertising and then there is truth in advertising.

The “up to” sales work well for the stores. It gives them the opportunity to sell a lot of merchandise, and do it honestly with a straightforward statement. Unfortunately, though, not many ‘shoppers understand the wording on these sales.

Take that first statement for example: “All Toys on Sale up to 50 Percent Off!” Our shopper minds tend to read this to understand that all of the toys are 50 percent off. In reality, all toys are on sale, but only some are 50 percent off. Stores can have just one particular toy marked 50 percent off in order to be able to make this statement.

Why do shoppers get confused? It probably has something to do with that “up to” wording. We just tend to ignore it or not see it in the first place. Our eyes are drawn to the number, 50 percent, in the ad instead.

Some consumer advocates, such as the founder of, Edgar Dworsky, wants to see the “up to” wording disallowed because it can be deceptive. One state, Massachusetts, has already outlawed the term. Instead, stores and advertisers must word their ads to include both the minimum and the maximum saving, such as “Save 5 to 50 Percent Off.”

Train yourself to look for an recognize the words “up to” on a sales sign, so you will know exactly what you can expect in savings when you shop.

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About Mary Ann Romans

Mary Ann Romans is a freelance writer, online content manager, wife and mother of three children. She lives in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods but close enough to Target and Home Depot. The author of many magazine, newspaper and online articles, Mary Ann enjoys writing about almost any subject. "Writing gives me the opportunity to both learn interesting information, and to interact with wonderful people." Mary Ann has written more than 5,000 blogs for since she started back in December 2006. Contact her at maromans AT or visit her personal blog