How to Get Around Huge Markups on Furniture, Prescription Drugs and More

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Kiran Foster under Creative Commons

Ever wonder why some stuff is so expensive?

The answer is usually that a product’s markup exists because somewhere, there’s a customer willing to pay for convenience. Or a higher price leaves the impression that a product is worth more money.

A markup is the price you pay at the register above the wholesale price that the retailer paid to sell the item. A 50% markup above wholesale is pretty normal, but what about 200%? Or 400%?

While high markups might be the industry norm for some of the items you shop for, there are ways to work around the ridiculously high prices.

Wisebread recently called out “The 9 Everyday Products with the Biggest Markups,” with a whole heap of culprits that will surprise you.

Here are three unexpected places you want to be aware of markups — and ways to beat them:


If you shop for furniture at higher-end stores, you could be paying an 80% markup for that couch or headboard. Even when you check out a big sale, those seemingly rock-bottom prices still net around a 40% profit for the retailer.

“Because of the high markups, you should always try to negotiate a deal, even if the price is already discounted, as the majority of furniture stores have plenty of room to come down in price and still make a profit,” Kyle James explains at Wisebread.

Even better: Offering to pay in cash could get you an even better discount, as the retailer won’t have to pay credit card fees on your purchase.


Choosing a new pair of eyeglasses while you’re still at the optometrist’s office is easy, but it could cost you hundreds of dollars more than you need to spend. James explains that a pair he chose at the doctor’s office cost less than half price if he had purchased them online.

Want perfect vision without an empty wallet? “Always shop eyeglasses frames and lenses online as well as warehouse clubs like Costco and BJ’s Wholesale,” James recommends. Taking this extra step when buying glasses is especially important if you don’t have vision coverage that pays a portion of the cost of eyeglass frames.

Prescription Drugs

Perhaps the worst markup offender is prescription drugs, which can be marked up a whopping 443%. While you probably know to ask for generic versions of the medications you need, did you know that you can ask for samples from your doctor?

Pharmaceutical reps hand out drug samples like candy, hoping that doctors will prescribe the medication to their patients. If your drug isn’t yet available in generic form, asking for samples could help you save hundreds of dollars by bypassing the pharmacy counter altogether.

How else can you avoid crazy markups in your everyday shopping? Head over to Wisebread for the full list of markups to avoid.

Your Turn: How do you avoid markups? What are the worst ones you’ve seen?

Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Washington, DC.

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