The Compare At price

I just got, what appears to be, the deal of a lifetime.

I bought a dress for 93% off the "compare at" price. To put that in perspective, I paid less for the dress on sale than the I would have paid in taxes for the same dress at it's "compare at" price. Sound too good to be true? I thought so too.

I started to wonder where they came up with the "compare at" price. The dress is lovely, but I never would have dreamed of paying $440. Would anyone? If not, then is the "compare at" price even worth mentioning?

I did some research and found shockingly little information about "compare at" prices.  Here is how one online retailer defines "compare at":

The term "Compare at" means the price at which an item or comparable item may, in the reasonable judgment of our experienced buyers, be sold on an everyday basis. (i.e. excluding special promotions or sales) at retail stores.... You may wish to use the "Compare at" price as a guide in your evaluation of our prices. Because we sell our merchandise over the internet on a national basis, and because some of the items offered are closeouts, overstocks, end-of-season or otherwise remainder inventory, it is not possible to know if our merchandise is sold at the "Compare at" price in any particular location or at any particular time. Comparative prices may be used as an approximate guide as to what you would or could have paid elsewhere.

My translation: The "compare at" price is just a guesstimate of how much some other store may have charged for the item at some time.  It does not mean that a reasonable person would ever pay the "compare at" price. 

My advice: Decide for yourself how much you think an item is worth and never buy something you don't love just because it appears to be a good deal.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.