Tips | December 2, 2014

Do you want accessories with that? Five tricks that can trap shoppers

What psychological tricks do retailers use to get people to spend more money?

Users of question and answer website Quora have been posting on the topic and came up with some thought provoking observations.


Learning about the tricks shops use to encourage customers to buy more may make them easier to spot – and avoid – in the future. The full list is here.

1. In comparison, it looks cheap Website contributor Mira Zaslove gives the example of a breadmaker machine that was not selling well until a more expensive model with some extra features was introduced. In comparison, the first machine looked like a better deal – and example of anchoring, commonly seen on restaurant menus and elsewhere.

2. Do you want accessories with that? Jack Menendez disclosed his experience working in a sports store and selling a well-known brand of jacket at a marked down price. Not only did they make sure the original price was visible, a mid-point mark down price was added emphasising how large the discount was. An added bonus for the store?: “People who bought the jacket felt like they got such a good deal that they also bought a pair of ski pants at full price along with gloves, hats, goggles, even skis.”

3. Were you intending to buy? Ken Miyamoto writes of the temptation to use offers of $15 off when you spend $50. It seems like a good deal – as if the store is giving away $15. But he warns: “You're then spending $35 that you likely wouldn't have spent had you not gotten that offer. Funny how that works.”

4. What’s the deal? Half off, three-for-two, buy two get and one half-price – these are all examples of in-store deals. Several commenters highlighted difficulty comparing the deals. Kathleen Grace says offers that give a discount for buying two “is usually making you buy more than you would”. Esteban Vargas spells out that “three-for-two” is 33% off (if all items are the same price) but a thinking trap means shoppers can feel like it is more of a saving.

5. Read the fine print Garrick Saito highlights discount coupons that have “undefined exclusions”, such as the deal only applying at “participating” locations. He writes that once people are in the store, they will often end up buying something even if the coupon isn’t valid. It’s perhaps an example of people falling trap to the sunk cost effect of having travelled to the store.

Your tips
Have you noticed a pricing trick? Perhaps you’ve used them to boost sales yourself? Send us your views using the contact us form or tweet them to @eZonomics using the #moneytips and we will publish the best.

eZonomics team
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