There’s a long line of tried-and-true marketing strategies retailers use to try and get you to make a purchase on impulse. In stores it’s all about product placement, colors, in-store coupons, price-cuts and environment. Online, retailers have to get a little more creative. The latest in the long line of marketing gimmicks? Creating false popularity by telling shoppers there’s ‘only one left,’low inventory’ or ‘only one in stock!’

I’ve noticed this message on more and more of the retailers I frequent, including Zappos, Gap and many others. A couple of weeks ago, I purchased an item from Zappos when there was “only one left!” A few days later I noticed the same item had the same message. I thought, perhaps someone made a return or new inventory was acquired and it’s only a coincidence that there’s only one left. . . .again. I decided I’d check back again in a few days. When I did? Same message. Here it is two weeks later, and the ‘only one left’ is still there. On a popular pair of Uggs in a average shoe size, I highly doubt no one has purchased a pair in nearly three weeks from the nation’s largest online shoe vendor.

My conclusion? “Only One Left” is an unreliable tip at best. And at worst, it’s a dirty little ploy to create a false sense of urgency in hopes of convincing consumers to make a purchase! The moral of the story is to not be swayed by the inventory warnings. If you’re sure you want the item and the price is right, by all means, make the purchase. But, if you’re on the fence, don’t let the message lead you into a transaction you’ll regret.

"Only One Left!"—the Latest Online Marketing Ploy