Credit Infocenter

Sneaky Sales Tactics Used by Retailers to Spend Your Money

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: September 8, 2017

In our budgeting section of articles, you will find information on retirement, managing your personal finances, how to save money, and where to put your saved money. But when you think of budgeting, you probably think about spreadsheets where you have to keep track of all your spending only to find out you are spending your money in the wrong places. No one likes to be on a budget, and no one likes to have to curtail their spending habits. But one major way to keep your budget in line is to watch your spending, which can be hard with all the land mines laid before you as soon as you walk into a store. Every time you walk into the mall, grocery store, or big-box retailer, remember it's you against them — them being the marketers, CEOs, and sales professionals who are bound and determined to help you spend your money. We have uncovered some sneaky tricks they may use on you as soon as you step into their stores.

Free Shipping Offers

Shopping online is booming and who doesn't love shopping from their home computer while wearing p.j.'s and drinking coffee? Online shopping is so convenient, but paying for shipping can be expensive and a real downer. Web retailers know many of us have an aversion to paying shipping costs, so they often offer free-shipping deals. But these may come with a catch — spend so much or buy so many items in order to get free shipping.

Before you fall into the free shipping trap, think about how much you are going to pay for that item (the one you really don't need) so you can meet the requirement. When in actuality, you could have just paid the $5 for shipping instead of the $35 for that useless item. 

Multiple Item Discounts

This sales tactic is rampant in grocery stores. How often have you gone into your local grocery store to see all kinds of signs offering "10 for $10" or mix-and-match 10 items for a set price? Who doesn't need 10 bottles of ketchup — really? We are not saying all of these multiple discount offers are bad, it is just why spend $10 on 10 items (when you really only needed one) and you could be saving yourself money. Unless you really need multiples of something, it is best just to buy the number you really need and save the money for something else in the store.

BOGO Deals

No, we are not talking about a dice game (that's Bunko). We are talking about the Buy-One-Get-One free sales. BOGOs work similarly to multiple purchase pricing because retailers are trying to get you to buy more than you normally would. Now, if you are already planning to make a purchase and a second one is free, then score for you. But, if you find yourself justifying the purchase of un-needed new shoes because of a BOGO ad, then score one for the retailer. Before you make that BOGO purchase, think long and hard if you really need to make the purchase in the first place. Don't just emotionally buy something because you are getting something for free.

Coupon Savings

We love using coupons and we devoted an entire article about how to use coupons to save money. That said, coupons have a sneaky way of making you buy items you would never purchase at full prices, or even sale price. Word of warning; coupons make it feel like you are getting a deal even if you aren't. Double check and make sure the after coupon price is in fact a bargain.

Rewards Programs and Loyalty Cards

Open your wallet and we bet you have at least two reward or loyalty cards in there. Many grocery stores offer loyalty cards which afford you money off gas for your car — or you have a card to Sam's Club or CostCo — or maybe you have a rewards card from Sears or Kohl's. All of these are how a retailer gets you to keep coming back to their store when you have other options. Having these cards makes you stop "comparison shopping" and just head off to the store where you have the loyalty card from. Word to the wise — make sure you are getting the best deals at your "loyalty" store and make sure it is worth your while to continue to shop there. If not, find a different store where you could be saving money instead of just racking up loyalty points.

Psychological Pricing

You would think by now we would be savvy enough not to be tricked by seeing the number 9 at the end of a price. And yet, we continue to think that something priced $19.99 is a better deal than an item prices at $20. Who knew we could be so manipulated by a price tag? Known as "charm pricing," ending sales tags with a "9" is one way businesses use psychological pricing to their advantage. They may also trick you into spending more by dropping the dollar sign, using small font, bundling items together, or reducing the left digit by one (1.99 instead of 2.00). Not surprisingly, if you Google this topic, there are countless articles on the psychology of pricing and the many ways to price items to affect a customer's buying urge. Our advice is to try to not let your emotions get in the way of a purchase because an emotional purchase equates to spending more money.

Point-of-Sale Add-Ons 

Grocery and big box stores are great at this sneaky tactic, just take notice of all the display items on either side of you as you are checking out at the sales register. Gum, candy, batteries, little flash lights, are all things we really did not go into the store to buy, but man they look pretty good as you are standing in line waiting to check out. Who hasn't snuck in that snickers candy bar or pack of gum into your grocery cart as you wait to unload all of your groceries on to the conveyor belt.

Besides the stores who shamelessly put all of these goodies right in your face, what about the sales clerk who promotes the monthly deal just before she hits the "total" button on her register. One store/restaurant that is so good at this is Cracker Barrel. You are paying for your meal when the cashier hits you with all kinds of "specials" they are having on candy, jams or jellies.  Don't be tempted to make this type of emotional purchase. Do you really need 10 candy bars or a jar of homemade jelly?

If you noticed a common thread here, it is to not make purchases based on emotion. Marketers are betting they can trick you into making an emotional purchase luring you into buying too much or buying something you really don't need. All of these tactics mean one thing for you — you will spend too much money. Budgeting means cutting back spending and not spending money on items and things you don't really need. If you have to stop and think about whether or not to buy something, chances are you should not buy it. Keeping your emotions in check while shopping will save you a lot of money in the end.