11 December 2014
Retail Sales Tricks: How Many Have You Fallen for?

Whether you shop online or at the mall, retailers have turned selling into science, with you as the test subject. From the moment you walk into a store or log on to a website, you’re exposed to the latest in the science of selling. Think you’re immune? How many of these common retail tactics have you fallen for?


Free Shipping

Nothing is free. It’s built into the purchase price of your items. Or even more compelling, online retailers offer free shipping once your shopping cart reaches a dollar threshold, as in “FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $50.” If your order totals $42.18, have you ever looked for another purchase just to get over that $50 threshold? Free shipping sounds great, but not if you have to spend more than you planned.

The Upsell

Stop by a home improvement store, buy some grass seed and, chances are, your salesperson will recommend some garden tools, crabgrass killer and a few other items related to your original purchase. Many consumers appreciate a reminder from a store salesperson that “you might need some brushes to apply that sealer.” It’s a form of face-to-face customer service, benefiting both consumer and retailer. Just be aware of it, go to the store with a shopping list, and stick to it.

Quantity Discounts

Consider your needs and only purchase what you need. BOGO (Buy One, Get One Free) is a very popular sales tactic. Everybody likes getting free stuff, but what if you only need one, or don’t really need it at all? A good deal isn’t a good deal if you don’t use what you buy. The supermarket may offer “10 Cans Just $10.” Wow – a buck a can! Good deal, or is it? Your family may be eating creamed corn for weeks. If you can buy 10 cans for $10, you should be able to buy one can for $1.00.

Buying Bundles

This very popular sales tactic is especially effective in the computer and electronics retail spheres. Computer retailers bundle hardware and software – even if you don’t need new software. Buying a big screen TV? Don’t be surprised if you get steered to the home theater department to enjoy the “full TV watching experience.” Just because it’s cheaper to buy bundled products doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. If your home printer is fine, why pay for a new printer as part of your computer purchase? Buy only what you need – even if those extras sound like a really good deal.

Sales and Incentives

“Come on down early for our doorbuster sales.” Prices are often inflated prior to a sale, so the sale price may equal what you’d have paid before the “Big Summer Blow-Out.” Do your research. Shopping online may enable you to comparison-shop for the best price and the best fit to meet your needs. Also, stores sometimes offer “loss leaders.” Items are sold below cost to pull in customers, who then fill up their shopping carts with additional items. A little self-discipline as you stroll the aisles will eliminate unnecessary purchases, and save you money all year long.

Only $9.99

Retailers know many of us tend to round down, so an item selling for $9.99 feels like a $9.00 purchase when you toss it in the cart, instead of a purchase just a penny shy of $10.00. It’s a popular practice in almost every retail outlet, so consider the real price before you buy, not the perceived price. Round up, not down. Also consider what the cost will be after sales tax is added.

Loyalty Cards 

Buy 10 sub sandwiches and get one free! So you go back over and over, have your card punched 10 times, and get a free sub. But you had to buy 10 to get one. Airlines offer frequent travel miles to encourage you to book with the same airline over and over until you accumulate enough miles for a free trip to Guam. Loyalty cards tether you to the retailer. Smart consumers shop around.

Product Placement

You walk into the supermarket and find a huge stack of chips on sale. The end units on each aisle are prime real estate, especially around holidays. Manufacturers pay stores to place their items in these “carousels” or at eye level on the store shelves. Everything in the store, from the greeter to product signage, is targeted at getting you to buy more. The best defense against these tactics? Go to the store with a list, stick to that list, and avoid the temptation to buy something you don’t really need or want…

…even if it sounds like a great deal. 


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.


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