There are two official sales per year in Greece. This summer, they start July 14 and run through August 30. In winter, sales typically begin January 15 and end February 28.
However, with the debt crisis and austerity forcing households to cut back, retailers offer ongoing discounts, interest-free payment programs and VAT-free purchases.
By law, an establishment must display two signs: One showing the original price and another showing the sale price. Retailers not displaying both signs are subject to fines ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 euros, and repeat offenses are calculated as a percentage of total sales or an amount determined by the secretary general, plus imprisonment.
Sale prices are valid until closing time of the last day, according to law 3769/2009.
Value-added tax (VAT) was raised to 23 percent on July 1, 2010 and remains at this rate, contradicting promises to lower sales tax and stimulate the economy.
*Article last updated July 7, 2014.
A special 10-day sale period ran nationwide from November 1-10 for 2013, with discounts officially ending on November 9 at 23:59.
A special 10-day sale in Athens from November 1-10, 2012 — originally an effort to increase sales and keep merchants in business — was marred by transport strikes, a 48-hour general strike and protests against Parliament passing new austerity measures.
A special 10-day sale event held in Piraeus from December 13 to December 23, 2012 also failed to attract consumers.
The law allows for two 10-day sales outside the official summer and winter periods in May and November, during which all retailers must be open sometime between 11:00-20:00 (varies by city) on the first Sunday of a sales period. Article 4177/2013 also grants permission to any merchant wishing to open every Sunday as of November 3, 2013, but this is not obligatory.
ΦΕΥΓΟΥΜΕ means “We’re leaving” aka, It’s a closeout sale.
Some stores artificially raise prices during this period to fool a consumer into thinking they are getting a bargain when they’re not. For example, the original price of an air conditioner on July 10 was 400 euros, but raised to 599 euros on July 15. The shop then displays the ‘original price’ as 599 euros and the sale price as 400 euros (the true, original price), thus advertising a 33 percent discount.
Do people really do that? In a word, yes.
My friend Eva was the first to tell me about this practice, citing a large retailer she visited some days before a sale. She had her eye on a certain jacket, noted the price and then went back a few days later to get it on sale. To her surprise, the price had been changed, and the sale price was only 1 euro below the price she originally noted, not the 40 percent discount the store was claiming.
The clothing store I walk past each day on the way to work did the same thing. All the shirts in the window are tagged 25 euros. But on July 15, the original price jumped to 50 euros, had a red slash through it, and the “new” sale price was 25 euros, supposedly a 50 percent discount.
If you’re not sure it’s truly a bargain, it’s best to pass.
Photo credit: Yiannis Panagopoulos/Eurokinissi
Where to file complaints
If you know for a fact that a store is inflating prices or engaging in other dishonest business practices, the
Development Ministry’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security’s Department of Consumer Affairs encourages you to call ‘1520.’ Open Monday-Friday from 8:00-22:00 and Saturday 8:30-20:00.
Complaints regarding defective merchandise or low quality products can also be filed with the Consumer Protection Agency of Greece (KEPKA or ΚΕ.Π.ΚΑ), where 99.6 percent of cases recover compensation for the buyer. Call 801-11-17200 or visit www.kepka.org.
“Τελευταία ελπίδα για τα καταστήματα οι χειμερινές εκπτώσεις” — Ta Nea
“Special offers to encourage consumers during crisis” — Kathimerini
“Πρεμιέρα για τις πρώτες φθινοπωρινές εκπτώσεις” — Naftemporiki
“Θεσσαλονίκη: Στις 3/11 η πρεμιέρα για ανοιχτά καταστήματα τις Κυριακές” — To Vima
“Greece woos consumers with a novelty — Sunday shopping” — WSJ