The store may be closing but the prices aren’t always rock bottom.

Aside from free sample tastings in the supermarket – which according to a federal law I made up, have absolutely no calories – few sights can lure me like a “Going Out of Business” sale sign. The prospect of paying rock bottom prices offers the promise owning a new electric mixer and having that same mixer serve as a trophy for my bargain hunting. It’s like summer camp and Christmas all rolled into one.

That’s why I was myself heartbroken to learn that these deals aren’t always so great.

Turns out, it’s not usually the store handling the sale, it’s a third-party liquidator. Liquidators tend to base discounts on the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices, which are often higher than what stores typically charge. That means the sale stuff can end up costing more it did before the sale began. Geez.

And of course liquidation firms generally don’t honor gift certificates, coupons or store credits. And you know there’s going to be a “no refunds” or “no returns” policy. So buyer be very aware: we have to inspect merchandise carefully and be sure sure the instructions and warranty cards are in there. That’s particularly true of appliances and electronics.

The bottom line is we can’t assume that sale sign is going to lead us to the lowest price. We still have to comparison shop from our smart phones to see if the same product is sold elsewhere for less.

What’s more, these sales – according to a real law that the government made up – can only be held when a store is going out of business. It’s against that real law to advertise a “going out of business sale” for any other reason. If a store in your area is advertising what looks to be a bogus “going out of business sale,” contact your state Attorney General’s office.