Why do we almost always come home from the store with more than we need or planned to buy? Why do we let ourselves get tricked by those bright red “Sale!” signs — and why do we grab all that candy that definitely wasn’t on our grocery list? If it makes you feel any better, you’re certainly not the only one.
Stores and companies have countless tricks up their sleeves to lure us in, keep our attention, and make us buy almost anything. Maybe if we keep some of these ploys in mind, we won’t fall for the advertising gimmicks and stick with only buying what we need. This list of ruses may be your wallet’s only hope…
1. Samples are meant to slow you down! Sure, one of their purposes is to get you to try a product, but it also keeps you from rushing through the aisles, buying only what you need. Don’t fall for this trick…unless they’re offering something really tasty of course.
2. The necessities and the most popular items are usually all the way in the back of the store so that you must pass every delicious, intriguing, and wonderful product you really don’t need — but very much want — on the way there and back.
3. Certain scents make you want to buy certain things. For example, the scent of apples and cinnamon will make you hungry for desserts and other sweets, while the scent of lavender will lead you to buy beauty and cleaning products. Next time you get a sudden impulse to buy, have a whiff and wonder why!
4. “Good things can come in small packages.” Is that why it’s suddenly trendy for companies to sell ant-sized versions of their products? Nope, it’s to charge you relatively more and make you keep buying when you run out.
5. Have you ever been lured into a store by giant “SALE” signs? Don’t worry, we all have. Once you go inside though, the items on sale can be hard to spot — on purpose. This is so you get distracted and take home that full-priced top you see the moment you walk inside.
6. Celebrity endorsements are brainwashing you! The reason seems obvious. You trust someone you know (or know of) more than a complete stranger. When a celeb recommends something, you’ll totally gobble it up.
7. Perhaps the best example of advertisement pulling on your heartstrings are the sad commercials of pets that need rescuing with depressing Sarah McLachlan songs in the background. Whether a commercial makes you sad, happy, angry, or jealous… they’ve already won.
8. In high-end stores, the employees might be snobby to you on purpose because it makes you want what they imply you can’t have, and your need to prove them wrong takes over. A study by Prof. Morgan Ward shows people are willing to spend 10 percent more when treated badly.
9. Free trials are not for potential customers — they are for the seller’s benefit. It’s always great to get free stuff, but that stuff will totally get you hooked until you can’t back out anymore (or just forget to cancel on time and pay for the next month anyway). Now you HAVE to listen to Dave Matthews Band. So sorry.
10. Bulk deals can be great, but be careful. Practice some quick math and make sure the deal is really worth it, and that you’re not suddenly paying 67¢ instead of 59¢! Also, keep in mind: if you walk out with more than you need and you spent more overall, you didn’t save anything.
11. Music completely affects your shopping mood. Studies have shown that no music makes people buy less, loud music makes people want to leave, but slow, quiet music makes them want to spend! Check out Stop ‘N Shop 2000s pop playlist on Saturdays and thank us later.
12. There’s a reason why stores that can afford it are usually located in the biggest buildings owners could find. While this, of course, allows them to have a larger inventory, the high ceilings and wide aisles also help keep customers calm and keep the whole experience pleasant so they stay longer and come back often.
13. “Would you like some bubbly or a cup of coffee while you shop?” Fancy boutiques sometimes offer a beverage or even a small snack to enhance your mood, keep you longer, and make you feel appreciated. Just don’t spill any on the clothes or you’ll have no choice but to buy them!
14. Rewards cards are tricky. While reward points on items you were already going to buy are wonderful, they can also trick you into buying something that costs more. For example, your eye will catch a yellow sign that says you get 20 points for buying something when the same product of a different brand is already cheaper.
15. There’s a reason people might get a little lost in some stores: when you lose focus of your task at hand, you’re more likely to buy on impulse. Hint: that’s also why they keep all the good stuff like candy and gum near the registers.
16. Businesses THRIVE on FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out). Whether they urge you to have the newest tech or simply use tactics like “only a few tickets left at this price,” you won’t hesitate very long before giving them all your money and increasing the hype.
17. Have you ever stopped to wonder why so many advertisements are set in a home, starring a family or at least a couple? It’s because they want to create a sense of nostalgia and make you feel comforted while looking at their product without even realizing it.
18. Some clerks will mimic you in order to sell. It’s a delicate balance: when someone mirrors our behavior, we tend to like them more, and thus buy more products But if we notice someone mimicking us on purpose, we’d probably all get angry and leave. Workers on commission have often mastered this trick.
19. Have you ever heard of the term “top-shelf liquor?” Well, this is not always accurate in stores. Instead, the most expensive drinks will likely be at eye height, with slightly cheaper bottles on top and the least pricey ones on the bottom. Don’t be lazy, check all the price tags — you might come home with a sweet deal.
20. Trying on clothes, playing around with electronics, or simply holding jewelry will make you want to buy it. Not just because you won’t buy something you’re not familiar with, but also because once you’ve touched it, it kind of feels like it’s yours already. So, touch and look selectively.