March 13th, 2012

Shopping Gimmicks That Make Us All Suckers

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Spring cleaning season might get you in the mood to do some spring shopping. After all, you have to refill those recently purged holes in your wardrobe, don’t you?

But before you head to the mall, make sure you’re armed against the tricks retailers use to lure you to buy.

Here’s how to spot them and keep your eyes on your budget.

Can’t Touch This

A tactile experience with an item in a store could induce a sense of ownership, reports SmartMoney. Even more, if you decide to try on an article of clothing, something called the endowment effect could set in. This effect occurs when a sense of ownership increases an item’s perceived worth. Seeing yourself wearing a new dress or sweater in a fitting room mirror could make you imagine yourself owning the item, which could cause you to think the price isn’t so steep after all. Make sure you only try on items on your shopping list and avoid touching every item that draws your attention.

Paint the Town Red

In color psychology, red is the most emotionally powerful color. What color are all of the “Sale” signs in the mall? You got it: red. Don’t be tempted by the bright red signs if a store isn’t in your budget. And when you head to the food court, watch out for the appetizing color combination of red and yellow. Since red is emotionally intense and yellow speeds up the metabolism, the combo could cause you to salivate even if you’re not hungry.


Call a Spade a Spade

One of the most common strategies is the 99 cent effect. An item that costs $19.99 seems a lots less expensive to a shopper than one that costs just a penny more at $20. Stores using this tactic have seen an increase in sales. “Price endings in nines deliver higher unit sales volumes than the next higher or lower price near the same area,” according to Dealnews. Avoid falling for this trick by quickly calculating your state’s sales tax. You have not excuse not to; even the simplest of cell phones come with a calculator. For instance, an item that costs $29.99 in San Francisco will be approximately $32.54 after the 8.5 percent sales tax.

Smell You Later

Retail marketers have been exploring the effects of aromatherapy on a consumer’s shopping experience for quite some time. According to a 2003 report, “The use of ambient scent in the retail environment can be beneficial if congruent with the shopping environment.” But it’s also noted that a fragrance can be ineffective on shoppers—or even cause them to stop shopping—if used inappropriately. It may be difficult to note a scent meant to induce you to shop, but you can avoid stepping into stores not on your shopping list. Who knows? Once you’re in, a pleasant-smelling candle could cause you to linger—and spend.

Discount Love Is Blind

Store sale signs will sometimes advertise the amount of money you’ll save due to a discount, rather than the new price, reports CBS News . You’ll see, “Save 50%!” in a large font and the new price will be in smaller print below. In this instance, the discount draws you in, and the price becomes less important. To avoid being sucked into a price that may not be the best deal, use a price comparison smartphone app like Price Check by Amazon, which compares in-store pricing to prices, Google Shopper or PriceGrabber.

Bottom Line: These suggestions might help you recognize when you’re being subliminally coerced into spending, but no one knows your shopping style better than you. If the mall tempts you to overspend, shop online instead. If online shopping makes you click-happy, head out the door to do some in-person buying, sticking to a traditional shopping list.

Have a Karmic Day!

Bethy Hardeman, Social Media Maven

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.


  1. It’s funny to see some of the lengths companies will go in an effort to squeeze extra dollars out of you ie aromatherapy! Lol.. it’s crazy that something like that might actually make a difference.

    For me, Buy 1 Get 1 deals can cause a problem: it’s easy for me to justify spending on things like that, even if I don’t need them.

    Tyler S. at 10:49 am on March 21, 2012
  2. I have to admit, I’m much better off shopping online (where I can only choose what I’m searching for) rather than in a store (where I might pick up a “treat” here or there). I’m better off with a list and a mission. And I almost never visit the mall!

    Dona Collins at 6:30 pm on March 12, 2013
  3. I like the ones that say fix you computer for free. YES FREE Downloads.
    You spend 10 minutes downloading, another 10 minutes scanning.
    Wow look at all of the dangerous errors.
    Click next to repair.
    All of the above errors will be fixed as soon as you pay $49.95 on a one year contract @ $19.95 per month. Your contract will be extended at the end of one year if you don’t cancel before the next contract takes effect.

    Dale at 4:36 pm on August 3, 2013

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