How Stores Trick Us Into Spending More

by Guest on December 2, 2011 · 19 comments

The holiday season is here and whether we want it or not, it is also the gift buying season. I enjoy gift giving and most of all I enjoy shopping for gifts. Some of us shop on-line, and some of us go to stores.

I love the holiday season, and one of the reasons I love it is the shopping. I love going to stores, browsing through shelves, trying on different clothes and accessories. Most of all I enjoy the shopping process itself. It can be quite enjoyable. It also, however, can be pretty frustrating.

When I shop for gifts, I start with a list of things to buy and a budget. I always make sure I evaluate what I can afford this year and try to stay within my budget boundaries. However, somewhere between a scarf for a girlfriend and a purse for my mother-in-law, my carefully prepared and accessed budget goes out the window.

Every year I promise myself to stick to my budget, and every year I fail miserably . It does not happen on purpose. I just think that we, the shoppers, are surrounded by carefully orchestrated opportunities to spend more than we actually planned.

Stores simply trick us into spending. If you want to stick to your budget, watch out for these sneaky ploys that the stores use on us.


Have you ever noticed the similarities between Vegas casinos and stores? The fluorescent lights are turned up all the way, creating an endless impression of a bright day. Shoppers lose track of time, staying longer in stores, browsing through the stuff and, ultimately spending more than they initially planned. Why not make a note of the time and even set an alarm on you phone that would indicate for you the time to leave. Just make sure you do leave!

Price Tags

I have a weakens for so called “charm” prices such as 9.99, 59.99 or 18.99. Somehow those price tags can be very alluring. Don’t be like me and make sure to watch out for those price tags that make clothes and shoes seem cheaper.  All these price tags are doing is making you feel that you need to have this particular item because the cost of it looks cheap.

Just Say No

Have you ever noticed that if you ask for an item you are looking, the sales associate hands it to you. Or while you are trying on a few clothes, the sales associate brings something else with the words “This is going to look so good on you.” How does it make you feel? I feel like I have to buy this item that was just handed to me and which, indeed, looks good on me. I learned the hard way that it is perfectly okay to say “Thanks” to that eager to help sales associate and put the item back.

Consumer Report says that we blow more than $40 billion (!) a year on gifts that get returned. Let’s make a resolution this year to not be part of this statistic.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Penny December 2, 2011 at 7:46 am

Your last point about feel obligated to buy something after a sales associate helps you is one that I struggle with. I went into a clothing store a few weeks ago to try things on to put on my Christmas list. I’m getting out of school in May and starting a new job, so I need work clothes and I have no idea what styles work on me or what sizes I would need, so I decided to try on some basics so I could ask for pants in style x, in size #, from ___ store and make it a little easier. Even though I told the sales woman that I was just trying to get a sense for what I wanted to I could ask for things as gifts she got really involved in picking things out for me. I had a hard time not buying the one outfit I kind of liked, even though I knew it wouldn’t ever work out for me for work and I wouldn’t have a lot of opportunities to wear it.


2 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:42 pm

It took me a long time to finally learn to say no. It is hard and I always feel obligated. But not anymore. It takes times to overcome it.


3 101 Centavos December 2, 2011 at 8:09 am

Why are these “sneaky” tricks? The store spends a certain amount of money to physically get shoppers into the store. It is then their goal to extract as much money as possible — and provide value in return, of course.


4 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm

“Sneaky” because not everybody realizes that those tricks are being used by the stores.


5 krantcents December 2, 2011 at 10:52 am

They call this merchandising! A simple organized and disciplined approach is to have a list. If you want to buy something not on your list, you need to adhere to your budget.


6 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

It is all rational and reasonable. But when it comes down to emoitons and wants, lists and budgets might not work.


7 Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter December 2, 2011 at 11:46 am

Great post. It bugs me how sly retailers are. I think there are special mirrors in clothing stores too. The outfits always look way better on me at the store than they do at home.


8 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Haha! They definitelty have flatterring mirrors. I always look slightly different at home. lol


9 Andy Hough December 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I’m aware of all of those tactics and don’t think they have much effect on me. I’m surprised at how well the .99 pricing works. In my mind I always round up to the next dollar amount but I’ve known several people that round it down so that pricing strategy does work.


10 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:45 pm

My husband still rounds down prices. I always tell him, no, it is not that, it one dollar up. :-)


11 Squirrelers December 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm

It’s survival of the fittest when going out and shopping. Just keep in mind that if they could, the stores would take all of our money without regard for our own welfare. I know that sounds extreme, and I’m half joking, but it’s actually true!


12 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Store remind me of casinos: they would take your money and when you run out of money, they’d give you credit. :-)


13 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues December 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I is called merchandising. I love looking at the displays but never feel obligated to buy anything, no matter how much help I get (or more typically, don’t get!).


14 Robert @ The College Investor December 4, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Did you know that a peaceful environment also makes you spend more. Think about that next time you are out shopping!


15 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:47 pm

That’s one of the reasons I don’t shop during Black Friday. It is not peaceful!


16 Untemplater December 5, 2011 at 2:31 am

I never buy things that I think I’ll end up returning or that the receiver won’t like. Dealing with returns is a waste of time! -Sydney


17 Jackie December 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hm, I don’t really feel the way you mention about those tricks. If I see something cool or something that’s a good deal, I ask myself if I wanted it before I saw it. If the answer is no (and it always is) I know it’s just an impulse purchase and I leave it behind.

One trick that I actually take advantage of is the tendency of stores to put the most expensive items at the front of the store. So if I just walk in and go straight to the back to look (like when I’m looking for clothes) chances are I’ll pay less.


18 Aloysa December 5, 2011 at 10:49 pm

This is what I call rational shopping. It is good for those, like you, who can stick to it. But then there are people like me, emotional shoppers, who try to stay rational but fail most of the time. :-)


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