I went on a Walmart 'treasure hunt' to find hidden deals on clearance items - here's what I found
- "Hidden clearance" shoppers scour
Walmartfor deals and share tips online.
- Insider spoke to one shopper about her experiences, and then tried it out in person.
With over 500,000 members, the Walmart Clearance Shoppers Facebook group is a community unto itself where shoppers share deals that seem implausibly good, with markdown prices as low as a few pennies.
Walmart has a huge amount of inventory in its stores and online. The community of clearance shoppers approaches finding these hidden markdowns as something of a "treasure hunt." Click2Houston first reported on the phenomenon on Thursday.
The premise of the "treasure hunt" is that the in-store tag doesn't always match the actual price of an item. So these shoppers take matters into their own hands, downloading the Walmart app and scanning items' bar codes directly to find hidden deals.
The Clearance Shoppers Facebook group is run by Kendall Motzny, who uses the name "The Freebie Guy." Motzny is one of several administrators of the group. They enforce the rules - no selling, no calling corporate, no spam - and set the tone for the legions of bargain shoppers.
Shoppers share their deals and congratulate each other in Motzny's group, which is a surprisingly collaborative effort. Posters often share the codes for their items so that other shoppers can check availability in their own stores using the website BrickSeek, which tracks deals and inventory at major retailers like Walmart, Target, and CVS Pharmacy.
Another Facebook group run by Mama Deals has nearly 400,000 members and a similarly active community of bargain hunters - extreme coupons for the digital age.
Heather Robbins, a Walmart clearance shopper based in Kansas, recently left her job in a hospital to care for her children.
"Between going through a pandemic, my husband working swing shifts, and myself staying home with the children all day, I needed a hobby," she told Insider.
She heard about the hidden clearance hunting through The Freebie Guy's social-media platforms. "So, I decided to give Walmart hidden-clearance hunting a try, and turns out I'm actually really good at it," she told Insider.
Her favorite finds are typically blankets, though she's also proud of snagging a crib that was originally $299 for $25. Even if she can't use an item right when she buys it, she'll donate it to someone in need or save it for a holiday gift.
What it's like to hunt for hidden clearance deals
I went to Walmart in Philadelphia to check out exactly how the process works for myself. Once there, I made a beeline for the clearance section. All you need is a smartphone with a camera, the Walmart app, and a bit of patience. Then, you want to scan, scan, scan.
Robbins had told me a bit about her strategy.
"I look around on the Walmart app, I pay attention to the hidden clearance pages, and I scan the items when I'm in the store. Once you get going and understand the process more, it's a lot easier to figure out," Robbins said.
The Walmart I went to was somewhat daunting - it had one small clearance aisle, but the deals weren't confined just to that area. Armed with the Walmart app and the BrickSeek website, I looked around for deals and scanned bar codes on my phone. Thankfully, turning on location services in the app allowed Walmart to register I was inside the story, which came in handy when looking for inventory.
In a report from Click2Houston that spoke to Kendall Motzny, a.k.a. "The Freebie Guy," Motzny advises shoppers to focus on items on the top shelves, or tucked away on the sides: it's easiest for workers to miss these tags with price updates. From there, it's something of a game of chance.
The clearance aisle had good deals - and ones that were cheaper than the retailer's website, but I didn't spot any mismatched labels. Some labels, particularly those on the top shelves, didn't scan. When they did scan, the app came up with a price and a location in the store.
So I followed the deals on BrickSeek, which led me to the jeans section. The Levi Strauss Signature jeans were priced at $21.94, but when I scanned them, they came up as $15 - not a life-changing steal, but a small victory nonetheless.
When I moved to candles and homeware, which BrickSeek listed as one of the most heavily discounted sections, I found that many of the deals were very specific: a particular scent of a candle, but not the whole line, or one color of a knife set.
Shoppers in the Facebook groups say that every trip isn't always a home run: some go to multiple stores to track down deals they've heard about from fellow clearance shoppers. But the community is very collaborative, and the atmosphere in the Facebook groups is both congenial and helpful - shoppers celebrate each other's finds and share tips of their own to maximize savings.
"It has been so addicting to get into," Robbins said, "but it's a lot of fun and helps to save and make money!"
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