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Shoppers enter American TV at 9 a.m. at the start of its Going Out of Business sale on Thursday.

It’s an absolute zoo at the American TV outlet on the West Beltline, as thousands of bargain-hungry shoppers have jammed the parking lot during the retailer’s liquidation sale.

But the sale, which began at 9 a.m. Thursday, is coming with a warning from the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. Just because the sale is billed as "going out of business" doesn't mean the prices are low, the BBB says.

The concern is that closing sales are frequently run by third parties looking to get as much as possible for the merchandise. Creditors also want a third party to handle the sale since they may not trust the owners of a company that is going under and owes them money.

"Consumers could actually be paying an inflated price instead of getting a discount,” the BBB says in a release.

American is filing a Wisconsin Chapter 128 receivership case, which is similar to a bankruptcy. Milwaukee attorney Michael Polsky has been appointed as the receiver.

The BBB issued the following advice for any liquidation sale:

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  • Shop around: Make sure it's a bargain, just because it is a "closing sale" doesn't mean it is the lowest price available for that item.
  • Use your gift cards as soon as possible: BBB recommends that consumers holding gift cards use them as soon as possible to avoid getting stuck with a worthless piece of plastic.
  • Use a credit card, if possible: Unlike personal checks or cash, credit cards include built-in protection if the liquidator does not deliver on promised goods.
  • Ask and understand the warranties: These are typically "as is" sales with no return policy but warranties are often serviced by a manufacturer or third party. This means the warranty may still apply, even if the retailer goes out of business.
  • Check the item you're buying thoroughly: Carefully inspect merchandise, and understand you are typically not able to return items after purchase, regardless of reason.
  • Don't expect top notch customer service: Floor staff may be limited.
  • Don't be afraid to haggle: It never hurts to ask when something is being sold "as is."

The BBB also warned that consumers should keep in mind that all liquidation sales are final and they have few options if they are not satisfied or discover they overpaid.

Madison-based American announced Monday it was going out of business and was going to liquidate its inventory of appliances, furniture and bedding and electronics. The retailer has 11 stores in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, including two locations in Madison.

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