Top Tactics Retailers Use to Get You to Spend More

by John Stephens 2. December 2014

Retailer Traps

Sales and discounts seem to be everywhere as the holiday season approaches. But are these offers really all they’re cracked up to be? The truth is retailers use all kinds of sneaky tricks to get you to spend. Here’s what smart shoppers need to know to avoid being taken in.

Bait and Switch

A top brand laptop is advertised on sale at an amazingly low price. But when you get to the store, it’s sold out. Of course they have a more expensive model they’d be happy to sell you. This is often the story with doorbuster sale items, but it can happen any time. Even when advertised goods are still available, don’t be surprised – or diverted – by salespeople pushing pricier models and saying the one that brought you into the store isn’t good enough.

Bait and switch is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and even though it’s illegal to make insincere – or phony – offers, some retailers manage to skirt the law. Watch out for disclaimers such as “limited quantities,” “not at all store locations” or “no rain checks.” In addition, beware of substandard or “derivative” merchandise often passed off as popular models at super discounts.

Coupons and BOGO Sales

What could be wrong with coupons? Actually coupons can be very tricky, pushing shoppers to spend much more than they ever intended. Coupons often require large volume or expensive purchases. For example, someone looking for a $5 bottle of shampoo might end up spending $19 just to make use of a $1-off coupon that requires the purchase of four bottles.

Another concern is that coupons are often for relatively expensive brands or models. A coupon purchase may in fact cost more than opting for more affordable alternatives at their normal prices.

“Buy one, get one” sales, sometimes called BOGO, also encourage extra spending. Buying that second, half-priced item may seem like a bargain, but in reality it means forking over an additional 50% for something that you probably don’t need.

Psychological Tactics

You may have noticed clearance items at the back of stores so shoppers have to pass flashy, full-priced merchandise first, or that items often bought on impulse abound near cash registers. These tactics are just the tip of the iceberg. Probing customer minds to influence shopping behavior has become scary science. Here are some surprising examples:

  • Heat-sensing surveillance: Retailers determine the most heavily used routes through their stores with heat-sensing devices and display pricier merchandise along these aisles. They also may put up decorative “road blocks” along popular pathways to keep customers in stores.
  • Sound and scent: High-volume holiday songs and scents such as cinnamon stimulate senses, promote nostalgia and break down resistance to spending.
  • Three in a row: Three similar garments are displayed together, with high and low-priced pieces framing the mid-priced one. The high priced item is just there to make customers see the mid-priced one as a great deal.
  • Right-hand mapping: Retailers discovered that most customers turn to the right when navigating stores, so expensive items are often placed on the right side.

Forewarned is forearmed – you’re not helpless. Fight back by reading the fine print and sticking to a shopping list and your budget. Research specific model numbers to avoid being fooled by look-alike merchandise and to resist sales pressure. Check out what’s on the left. Perhaps even bring your own music and headphones. Education and awareness are the best ways to grab the real deals and avoid falling for retailer tricks.

John Stephens is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor covering banking and finance for NerdWallet. He previously worked for the Huffington Post and Bravo.

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How to Get the Most out of Black Friday Shopping

by Sara Seeger 24. November 2014

Black Friday

Black Friday has been known as the official “kick-off” for the holiday shopping season. It is a good time to shop for gifts for people for the holidays, or to get a great deal on that big ticket item you’ve been wanting all year. Even though retailers have begun airing holiday deals earlier and earlier each year (this year they started in September!), consumers can still receive plenty of savings on items they want during Black Friday.

If you are someone who is planning to venture out into the crowds during Black Friday, follow our tips to get the most out of your Black Friday shopping experience.

Spend Some Time Researching

It is important to check consumer reports and read customer reviews of items before you purchase. The product may have a low price tag, but if the product has poor customer reviews, it may not be such a good deal. Be sure to research different brands and models for a quality product before standing in line.

Browse the Deals Ahead of Time

It's a good idea to browse deals before you head off to shop. Many deals are advertised on TV and also online to give consumers an idea of what items will be on sale and where to find those items. Browsing the deals ahead of time will help determine where you should go, assist with budgeting, and aid in allowing you to see who you have to shop for.

Tip: Create a plan of action before you head off to shop on Black Friday. As you are browsing for deals, it is a good idea to create a list of people to shop for. Next to each name, write the product you want to purchase for them, the price of that product, the store/location where you can find the product, and also include any special hours for the sale.

Compare Prices

After you investigate which retailers sell the items you wish to purchase, compare their prices to ensure you are getting the best deal. Many stores will offer the same product, but it is prudent to examine what each store is offering. Some stores will offer “add-ons” when certain products are purchased, such as extra accessories or a store gift card. “Bundle” packages are also a favorite offering on Black Friday. Take the time to see what is included with each product to determine if the deal is really worth it or not.

Are You an Early Bird?

Many stores will advertise early bird specials and door busters, usually before 10 a.m., to help draw in the crowd that likes getting up early. Many early bird specials will begin at 4 a.m. and there is a limited quantity, so if you are interested in an early bird special, ensure you get to the store early. Many times, once these deals are gone, they’re really gone.

Don’t Forget Cyber Monday

If you aren’t into getting up early, limited parking, and crowds, don’t worry! You can enjoy deals right in the comfort of your own home. Some retailers offer deals on Black Friday online, but the majority of stores partake in “Cyber Monday” which is the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Whether you are preparing to hit the stores on Black Friday, or are more comfortable shopping online, there are bound to be many great deals this holiday season. Happy shopping!

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

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