Some people claim there is a psychology of pricing that explains why we tend to be so loose-fisted with our hard-earned money; they believe we are wired to think in certain ways. Personally, I believe it is a combination of two things. One, use men aren’t used to shopping on a regular basis so we become too distracted to notice blatant marketing ploys. Two, retailers are working harder than ever to make us spend more money than we normally would.
I believe in symmetry; if there are two causes of vulnerability, there should be two solutions. First, inexperienced male consumers need to be aware of various marketing strategies. Knowledge is power, my friends. Second, shoppers must maintain constant vigilance. Sneaky pricing strategies are everywhere.
Without further ado, six sneaky retail tricks that men should avoid.
1. Nothing is Ever Free
Free is such an appealing word. It would be so fantastic if things actually were free. But, alas, they rarely are.
Retailers know the average consumer is ignorant to the “nothing is ever free,” concept when in the midst of shopping bliss. Males are especially susceptible to this marketing strategy. Whether we are surrounded by bags of our favorite chips in the grocery store, must-have tools in the hardware store, or cases of beer in the liquor store, we are bound to be seduced by the buy-one-get-one-free sales tactic.
These marketing tricks cause us to buy something we wouldn’t normally buy, just because we want what is “free.” We don’t notice we are actually spending money instead of saving it. Don’t buy a case of beer you aren’t particularly fond of just so you can get a second case free. All that beer will just sit in the fridge and get skunky.
2. Something is Missing
Restaurants have started being extra sneaky. So sneaky, in fact, that you probably haven’t even noticed that something is missing from their menu. No, it has nothing to do with the foods they are offering. It has to do with the price.
A lot of high-end restaurants have eliminated the dollar sign from their menu. A price that would normally be noted as $25 is now just 25. They want to limit distractions and make you focus on the food instead of the price. Tricky, tricky, tricky.
Keep an eye out for this the next time you take your woman to dinner. Did you (or she) get sucked in? Did you pay more attention to the eloquently worded description of the flame broiled steak and totally disregard the price?
3. You Don’t Need to Buy in Bulk
I was in the grocery store the other day and saw a woman with ten boxes of the same type of cereal. I couldn’t help but make a comment. Her reply: “They were on sale—10 for $10.”
I had to turn around and walk away, biting my tongue. Ten for $10 is just a fancy way of saying one for $1. Those boxes of cereal would be the same price if she bought one or 20. Even if she had figured out the obvious marketing ploy and not bought all 10, she probably still would have bought more than she originally planned (or actually needed).
I almost fell victim to this one myself recently. I wandered past the concession stand at the ball park during the seventh inning stretch. A concession stand worker was putting up a hastily jotted sign that said, “3 candy bars for $3.” For a moment, I thought it was an end of the game sale. I was tempted to buy three candy bars just because it was “such a good deal.” Seriously?! As tempting as it might have been to take down three candy bars, I would have kicked myself the next day at the gym.
4. They Won’t Run Out
We’ve all seen signs that say something like “limit 4 per customer.” Stores originally put limits on the amount of items purchased because they wanted to reduce the chance of things being sold on the black market. But this practice sparked an unlikely outcome; people interpreted the purchase limit as scarcity. Consumers will buy their limit because they are afraid the item will be gone the next time they want it.
My brother was suckered by this the last month. He went online to buy concert tickets for him and his wife. When he went to check out, he saw the limit per customer remark at the bottom of the screen. He fell for it—bought two extra tickets. He justified his purchase by saying he was sure someone would want to go on a double date with him and his wife. Instead, he practically gave the tickets away because no one really wanted them. Plus, he ended up making his wife angry by mentioning the idea that another couple was going to barge in on their date night.
5. Keep Reading
There is something in the retail world called “left-digit effect.” Since we read numbers from left to right, our brain often encodes the first digit before reading what follows. As a result, we read $8.99 as $8.
Sure, mistaking $8.99 for $8 isn’t a huge blunder. But what if you purchased ten items that were actually $8.99? You’ve just unknowingly spent an extra $9.90. Now, take this idea and apply it to the flat screen HDTV you’ve had your eye on that is listed for $899. Will you think it is $800 or will your brain kick in and acknowledge it is actually $900?
6. Fight the Impulse
Did you know impulse buying is more prevalent in grocery stores than any other retailer? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into the grocery store to grab just a few things for my wife and end up with a shopping cart full of junk. There are three simple ways to combat this phenomenon:
- If you only need a few items, don’t take a cart/bag/basket. Once your arms are full, you’ll have to stop shopping. Using a cart keeps your hands free, making it that much easier to grab unnecessary items as you pass by.
- Leave the kids at home. Kids are good for two things in the grocery store: convincing you to buy things you don’t need and distracting you from your original goal.
- Pay with cash instead of a debit/credit card. You’ll feel the impact of your shopping decisions more severely.
Image of happy man shopping courtesy of Shutterstock