Ever walk into the store for milk and eggs and walk out with shopping bags so full that their handles leave red marks on your forearms and a hundred dollar dent in your monthly grocery budget? Join the club. Even a Krazy Coupon Lady devotee can enter a store armed with a tabbed binder of coupons, a typed shopping list, and laser-like focus and still make unplanned purchases and overshoot her budget.
Oftentimes, your over-spending is no fluke—retailers consciously set up “tricks” and “traps” to dupe you into spending more. Earlier this year, KCL published an article addressing such sneaky retailer behavior entitled "Buyer Beware: Sneaky Ways Retailers Make You Spend More". However, this past article did not cover every sneaky way retailers make you spend more. Unfortunately, it seems retailers have even more tricks up their sleeves. Read on to learn seven additional ways retailers get in your head and ultimately in your wallet:`
- Frequent Stops: If you are going to place an item in your shopping cart, then your cart has to be stopped (unless you are a contestant on the 90’s game show Supermarket Sweep). Store merchandisers know this and deliberately set up stores in ways that get you to stop your cart. Aisles are made deliberately narrow (many are just wide enough for two carts) to get you to stop. Vendors give out samples to get you to stop near high-priced merchandise. Likewise, store deli counters where you have to wait to be served are flanked by displays of expensive gourmet cheese, bakery breads and fresh desserts.
- "Bargain" Bins: If you shop at discount stores, then you are used to seeing clearance or marked-down items displayed in bins or barrels. Often, higher priced stores will take advantage of this visual cue that many shoppers associate with bottom-barrel prices and place full-price and high mark-up items in bins or barrels. Remember, looks can be deceiving!
- Vegas Lighting: Taking a cue from casinos, stores turn up the fluorescent lights to keep you alert and unaware of the time. Normally, night shoppers who are aware of how late it is getting cut their shopping trips short. As such, stores crank up the fluorescent lighting to make shoppers unaware that it's getting late out and in turn keep shopping. For similar reasons, you won't find too many visible clocks placed inside stores.
- Commodities Placement: Retailers often place popular staple or commodity items such as sugar or flour in the middle of aisles and then place higher priced, non-commodity items near the ends of the aisles. As such, for a shopper to buy basic staples such as sugar she must walk past non-commodity items that have high mark-up values such as cake decorating kits or mini-cupcake pans twice—once on the way to the sugar and once on the way back from the sugar. The more times you pass that non-commodity item, the more likely you are to buy it.
- “Sale” Display Dupes: Just because an item is displayed in a way commonly associated with sales, does not mean it is on sale. For example, this week at the grocery store I noticed the store stacked 12-packs of soda in a giant pyramid in the front of store with an oversize sign overhead stating the price. I’m used to sale goods being displayed in a similar pyramid formation; but upon closer inspection I noticed that the price displayed on the giant sign above the pyramid was not a sale price—it was the same price the store normally charges for a 12-pack of soda. Moreover, the brand of soda displayed in the pyramid was the most expensive brand of soda the store carries.
- Placement of Impulse Items: Retailers stock the checkout lines with quick-grab, high mark-up impulse items such as candy, gum, small cosmetics, chilled beverages, and magazines. When you’re stuck waiting in the checkout line, it’s easy to chuck one of these impulse items in your shopping cart. Also, many shoppers find shopping stressful; as such, when they finally reach the checkout line they may feel entitled to a stress-busting treat such as a chocolate bar or a mindless celebrity gossip magazine. Likewise, children are well aware of the treats that line the checkout aisle and may end up with a case of the “gimmies” and demand a treat as a reward for their good behavior on the shopping trip.
- Location of Desirable Departments: Ever go to Target for some laundry detergent and have to walk all the way across the store through the electronics, toys, and clothes department just to get to your desired cleaning supplies department? This is no accident. Stores often place desirable departments in the back of the store to force you to walk through as many other departments as possible where you will be prone to make unplanned purchases.
Next time you go shopping, keep these tricks in mind in order to combat retailer sneakiness and stay within your budget. After all, knowledge is power when it comes to being a savvy shopper.