With consumers looking for every opportunity to save, retailers are working hard at finding ways to make you spend more. Not all of their gimmicks are as obvious as an appealing front-window display or a 2-for-1 deal. Oh no, some of them are so sneaky you’ll never see them coming, which is why I wanted to alert you to a few.

Bigger Shopping Carts

It’s not the extra packaging or weight of goods that’s leading to shopping carts being bigger. Uh, uh. It’s just another sneaky way retailers encourage you to spend more money. Also, you may have noticed those cute smaller-sized shopping carts and thought “what a great idea!” Although they can ease the load of carrying a basket, they too prompt you to buy and spend more, so watch out.

Monitoring Your Buying Habits

Retailers are increasingly using technology to monitor your spending habits, sometimes in cahoots with manufacturers. For instance, some stores use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to track products you place in a shopping cart. When you buy the items, you may also have your loyalty or points card swiped afterwards. In some cases, reward programs are tied to RFID technology and can track your spending habits. In turn the retailer can send you better targeted coupons and discounts in the mail or by email so you’re motivated to go in and buy more products. Or, these sweet deals may persuade you into returning to the store sooner than you intended.

Removing $ Signs from Displays

The next time you spot a price display without “$” sign, keep this in mind. Retailers don’t want you to associate the price of the product with spending money as you’ll be less likely to buy it. So they’ll post “0.99” or “4.49,” to keep you from thinking about your budget or bills.

Placing Cheaper Items Too High or Too Low

I caught on to this one a few years ago, but you may have missed it. Retailers in a wide variety of stores, including pharmacies and supermarkets, tend to place the pricier items at eye level to reel you in. They know that most of us don’t want to struggle to reach up high or bend down low (especially if we’ve got bad knees) or bother a store attendant to assist us.

Making Items Hard to Reach

It’s a rare occasion when you see toilet paper at the front of the pharmacy and I’ll bet you’ll never see milk at the front of the supermarket. The reason? Retailers know that their customers come in often to buy these daily essentials. But they don’t want you to get at them until you’ve meandered down several other aisles so you can see other items you might need or deals on items you had no intention of buying. It pays to keep blinders on and make a beeline for the product you need.

Keeping Fewer Sales Products on the Shelf

If you’ve ever hurried into a store to catch a sale and found only a few of discounted items on the shelf, don’t assume that’s all the store has left. With this tactic, stores make you think that they’re about to run out and you’re more likely to pick up several of the items instead of just one. Ask a store employee to check if there are more of the sales items in stock. Also, check to see how long the sale lasts, because if it’s a few weeks, chances are the retailer will be restocking the shelves.

Now that you know some of these marketing tricks retailers use, you can tweak your shopping habits so you don’t get duped into spending more money.

Have you noticed any other tricks retailers use to part you from your money?

This has been a guest post by Andrea from Ontario, Canada
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47 thoughts on “Buyer Beware: Sneaky Ways Retailers Make You Spend More”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Watch the price on larger size items. You think your getting a better deal buying a larger size but if you look you can buy two of the smaller size for less. (and also use two coupons)

  2. Alissa H says:

    my safeway has lighter ceiling tiles/brighter lights on the aisles, and dimmer lights/darker ceiling tiles over the checkstand.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ive noticed that sale itmes at my local walmart are hardly stocked, Ive asked a stock person to check for more and I am told they are out. Ive also noticed that supermarkets are looking more like casinos in their designs. Mostly to keep you inside as long as they can, more time in the store means more money for them. I spoke with my Walmart manager and explained my concern to him about sale items. If the items I want arent available here then I can get them elsewhere along with everything else I needed. We will see if he intends to make an effort to stock the sale items.

  4. Anonymous says:

    no they don’t. CVS has a waaaay better policy.

  5. Taking a bite from sample food cart at the store, makes you buy products you have not really tried. And probably you go in the store with an empty stomach, you would buy the sample you just ate thinking hmmm that was good. Come to find out, you don’t really like the food that much. Snacking at stores is a bad idea…

  6. I have noticed something not mentioned in the post – CVS and Meijer (I’ve even seen Target do this) will give out catalinas/extrabuck bonuses with your purchases for “$X off your next purchase of $X0 or more”.  While it DOES encourage larger/previously unplanned purchases (the amounts required range from $20 to $100 and the amount off ranges from $3 to $8.50 in the ones I’ve seen), they can be stacked with ANY other store coupons and manufacturer coupons and be used to stock-up on items you already wanted or to sweeten deals you already came prepared to make.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Agree..One night we stop at walmart and I seen those box full of colgate toobrush and toothpaste that was price .99 cents then I have coupons for $1 each, got 2 for free…then the next day the price change into ROLL BACK 1.99..It’s rediculous the raised into a dollar and put the rollback sign..ughh theres noway I will shop @SunnyHavens:disqus  walmart like we use to..I only go there if I have coupons that can steal there items ..as revenge lol

    • Whitney says:

       Even though they get reimbursed for those coupons you use, I totally agree! If I’m getting an overage for an item (which they do not get back) I will buy it there. I love thinking about sticking it to Wal-Mart. Hate that place!

  8. Lori Loomis says:

    I see some products sold as multipacks that are actually more expensive than if you were to buy each item separately.  Examples I see a lot are tuna fish and soup multipacks.  I suppose they think we will assume it’s cheaper to buy in bulk and won’t compare.

  9.  One more thing to add to your list:

    I’ve noticed this on many occasions.  Walmart is especially guilty.  They’ll post a big “rollback” tag next to an item to make you think it’s on sale when it’s the same exact price it has always been, and always will be.  They seem to do this every month on Tide detergent.  They’ll even set it on the end caps or in the middle isles to try to dupe people into buying it.  And, that’s not the only item they do that to.  Buyer beware of normal prices.

    • Kohl’s does this too. All their clothes are always ON SALE. It’s pretty pathetic. They never don’t have “Sale” signs up. It’s not really a sale then.

      • Anonymous says:

        you’ve noticed that too huh? LOL it’s such a joke, I mean I get some good deals at Kohl’s, but I’ve learned how to wait for the proper coupons, sales, etc. You also have to price compare because yeah things are “30%” off but they mark everything up like the dickens.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. Potato Chips too. On the isle…. regular price. Back by the cokes…”Roll Back””…. Same price…. huh?

  10. Anonymous says:

    I hate it when we have better coupons our walmart will “run out” supply right away..I know they don’t restock the items when the good coupons are available…Before we spend atlest $550 a month @ walmart..now that i know  how to coupon they’re lucky if we spend $50 a month at their store.

    •  They’re notoriously lazy about restocking at Walmart.  No matter what time or day that I go there they never, ever have Schick disposal razors in stock.  It’s no coincidence that that happens to be a great freebie a lot with coupons.  But, you can’t tell me that people run out there at 6am on a Monday morning to buy the whole basket out.  They’re never there. 

      Just when I thought it might be possible that people were clearing the basket over and over, I noticed other things weren’t being stocked either.  I went shopping on Sat night.  Then, I had forgotten a few things on that trip, or couldn’t get them due to lack of stock, so I went again Tues morning.  The very same items I was looking for Sat night were still untouched.  Even the couple of items I moved myself were in the same spot.  Items that didn’t have coupons, they just didn’t want to restock them for whatever reason.  They don’t really care when you ask, either.  I’m starting to hate that store, and wonder what it is exactly they do in the middle of the night if it’s not stocking…

      • Anonymous says:

        Sometimes, it’s not just people are lazy. I work in a walmart and sometimes it’s just the system. Walmart has messed up their systems and screwed everything up so bad that sometimes items don’t order when they are suppose to. A PERFECT example that happened at my store lately was the $5 of purina dog food. Our store sells a box for $3-4 and we’ve been out since the coupon was released. Now, to be fair to my store (could be a problem for yours but i highly doubt on everything) the computers are suppose to order things automatically. My department manager ordered some, and we still haven’t received them.  I think relying on computers as much as walmart does has a huge effect on what they have in stock. The schick razors last year that had the insane coupon that gave like $1.00 overage they had the same problem with, at my store. By time we finally had ours come in, it was well over a month after the coupon (i had anyway) had expired. If your store is this bad, you should report them. My store has a reputation as being very, very unfriendly about everything, but we’re probably the best trained cashiers when it comes to price matching and coupons. During your orientation you’re given specific rules, a copy of the coupon policy (with our managers tweeks) and even have a test run with a csm checking out with some coupons, its crazy. So anyway, didn’t mean to babble on, if your walmart is really this horrible, call corporate, because this sounds like a lack of leadership or caring.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ll tell you what they do at my Wal-Mart instead of restock…..Chat on the phone….. I have turned two girls in twice. I am a Dental Hygienist… Can you imagine the “flak” I would get if I chatted with my friends on the phone, while I was cleaning your teeth? Obviously that cell phone use during “business hours” is a real pet peeve of mine.

      • Anonymous says:

        ughhh don’t get me started on Walmart. I feel like we can’t blame the workers completely since they get paid diddly squat and probably treated badly. But I’ve almost given up shopping there. They never have anything I want in stock and the whole thing just ends up being a big hassel.

    • jamie maiden says:

      Think about how many people shop at walmart and use these coupons…  Walmart probably can’t get the product from the manufacturer in big enough quantities to fill all the shelves everywhere

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don’t like the $4/2 or $2/2 shelf tags.  Most of the time it is not necessary to purchase two. Some people (like my mother) think you have to purchase pairs for the “deal”.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree!  Giant Eagle does that and you don’t have to buy several to get the deal.

    • In some cases you do have to buy the 2 or more to get the sale price. I’m in SJersey and shop mostly at ShopRites and they have a lot of sale items that state “must buy 2″ (or 3, or 4 or more) to get the sale price. The ad will also state that lesser or more quantities will ring up at a higher price. I have noticed in the past few weeks that a lot of Rite Aid sales are worded that way also. For example, Rite Aid has General Mills Cereal on sale this wk. 2/$5 but the single purchase price is $2.99 with Wellness+ Card.  

      • Anonymous says:

        Exactly.  Many stores word it as though you HAVE to purchase two when it is not necessary though.  That was my point.

  12. Jan Hunnicutt says:

    I worked in the grocery business for years and this is so true.  The thing I notice the most at our stores is no sale items left on the shelves.  I’ve been asking for rain checks and using them with my coupons. 

    I think the biggest thing the retailers count on is everyone is in such a hurry and they get lots more of our $$$.

    Have you ever noticed that after the B1G1 sale is over the individual item price is lower?  buyer beware again!

    •  Yep, a local grocery store does this all the time.  Most recently, I saw an ad for B1G1 Doritos – with ONE bag priced at 4.99.  They’re normally 2.50 each anyway, but they hiked them up to make you think you were getting a free bag.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Walgreens is the worst store about not having in stock the things they have on sale.  They restock after the sale ends.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yay for the raincheck!

    • Anonymous says:

      Boy Is that the truth. I noticed that way before I really got into couponing.Another thing Walgreens does, is, they don’t have an item in the circular. Then when the sale is over, it mysteriously appears.And, lots of it.

      • I guess the management really does make a HUGE difference. I’ve noticed the same thing you guys are mention,  BUT there are several Walgreens in my area that are simply amazing! I’m never hassled, they 95% of the time have the sales in stock (throughout the week), and they are super friendly and helpful. However, I have been to the ones you guys are talking about.  I wish all of these places realized how much money they actually make off of couponers and were atleast semi consistent with trying to keep things in stock and being helpful!

        • Anonymous says:

          Rachel, Thanks for reminding me how my neighborhood Walgreen’s used to be. Loved everyone, enjoyed going in……and….. spent a lot of money….. THEN……they got cranky. Now, it’s “just not worth it” and 2 calls to corporate, without a resolution, and me going in and and getting that “oh, no, there she is again” look…. I’d rather stay home… ha.

      • Whitney says:

         Infuriates me! How dare they put something on sale IN THEIR OWN AD and then pull it off their shelves. What’s the point in that?

    • Whitney says:

       Walgreens is the worst store for a lot of things. It irritates me that they almost purposefully pull items when they do go on sale or coupons come out for them and then when the sale is over or the coupon expires, they bring it back out. Makes me want to boycott them!

  14. Tamar Wiener says:

    the kroger that i always go to not only has milk, eggs, etc. in the back of the store, but they also have a small refrigerated endcap at the front of the store with these types of essentials.  when i need to run in and get some eggs or coffee creamer or something because i’m completely out, i’ve never had to run all the way to the back.  perhaps that’s just my particular kroger.

    • Anonymous says:

      Two of the three krogers in my area have the coolers in the front of the store right behind the cashiers. It is nice! The walmart I work at gets people to fall for their “sales.” For example, my walmart stopped carrying the pillsbury scrambles. But they were in a cooler incap marked down to $1.00 for the longest time. They finally took them out of the endcap and put them in a buggy at the front of the store with a sign that read “Everything in this cart now $1.00″… they were gone in less then 10 minutes lol. I was thinking to myself you know, they’ve been a dollar for some time now. They do this a lot most recently we had all sorts of hair dye (big money make for my mom and i btw :D) on sale for $1.00 a box, none sold when they were in the hba area, however when they brought them to the front they were gone within minutes!

      • Katherine Abbott says:

         Wegmans also has a cooler section at the check-outs for milk, etc., so you don’t have to walk all over.

      • The merchandising strategy for carrying those items behind the registers is to encourage the consumer to shop at their store, even when you are in a hurry and need to get in and out of the store quickly. Most consumers would rather stop and shop in a CVS, Walgreens or Convenience store when they are in a hurry and don’t want to deal with shopping in a big grocery store. They also merchandise other enticing items nearby to encourage you to buy more, especially at the registers. The closer dated products are an extra sales strategy to move through those products quickly.

        • Anonymous says:

          I would NEVER buy milk or anything like that from walgreens or cvs. In my area Kroger is the cheapest place to buy milk, and cvs is the most expensive if not the most expensive of them all. Whatever their strategy it doesn’t work with me. :P I’m smart enough to know don’t touch what I don’t need! lol

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree: not only is it too expensive there but when I have bought milk at CVS it tasted terrible like it was going bad. I went and exchanged it for another gallon and it too was bad. I just gave up and threw it out and vowed I’d never buy milk anywhere but the grocery store ever again.

            • Anonymous says:

              Well Kroger in my area has milk on sale for $2.49 for a gallon or 3/$4 for 3 half gallons everyday, no matter what. In ad scans I see for cvs (but never show in my areas ad) have ecb deals on milk, but it’s never in my area or any part of TN that I’ve been to. I don’t see the sense in paying almost $5 at cvs for a gallon of milk when I can just run in one of many krogers and get it for almost nothing or even a gas station and get some thats marked for quick sale! Now that I’ve read your comment I will def. never try it! lol

          • Anonymous says:

            Wow – CVS is almost always the cheapest place in my town to buy milk.  Almost every week to every other week, you can get a gallon for $1.99 after $1RB.  Kroger never marks their gallon of milk down below $3.25 in my town, it’s usually sale priced around $3.40 or so.  I haven’t bought milk anywhere other than CVS in a few months.  Also most gas stations here have 2% for $2.99 but we only drink fat-free in my house.  Normal price of milk at my CVS in paducah, ky is $3.59

    • Kroger puts eggs and milk in the front of the store often.  There are FOUR Kroger locations in my area within a decent distance and one I sometimes drop by on the way to visit family.  In all five stores (all of which have very, very different floor plans) there’s one or two refrigerated endcaps visible from one or both entrances to the store.  I have noticed that the dates on the milk and eggs are a couple days sooner than those at the back of the store though (but there is still plenty of time to use it before it spoils) so I suspect that they are being clever there as well and encouraging people to take perishables closer to their expiration.