Retail Tricks That Make You Spend More Money, Part 2

Last time, I began reminding you of the common yet tricky retailer strategies that you will be facing now that the holiday season is actually here. Trick or treat doesn’t just apply to Halloween now that it’s in the rearview mirror for a while. The retailers like to extend that into the entire November-December shopping time frame and that translates into what is the only and/or most profitable time of the year for 99% of them. The war they wage and win is no accident. Don’t be fooled into thinking it starts on Black Friday and ends on Christmas day. Thinking that November doesn’t really matter when it comes to wheeling and dealing is wrong. November has many promotions waiting to tempt you from Veterans Day promos to “pre-Thanksgiving” and even more yet to be named.

It may be difficult to go out shopping and not spend a lot of money, but these retail tricks are making it even harder. Here's what to look out for.

We covered five ways they fight to get your money on Tuesday. Here are five more that you will be up against so you should be ready to deal with them before you shop the 2018 holiday season! Continued…

Retail Tricks That Make You Spend More

6. Coupon Savings

I love coupons, so I’m obviously not advising you to ditch or ignore them. That said, coupons have a sneaky way of making you buy items you would never purchase at full price, or even at sale price.

Bottom line: coupons make it feel like you’re getting a deal even if you aren’t. Double-check and make sure the after-coupon price is in fact a bargain. If you’re looking for a break on a specific item, check out coupon websites. Again, be clear about whether the deal on the item is what you really need and it is really a bargain.

7. Upselling Everything

Upselling is truly an art and I am here to tell you that salespeople are really trained in that art. Even if you’re now chatting with an online sales or “customer service” person live these days, you can bet they will attempt to upsell you if given any opportunity to do it! It can be very subtle, but the goal is to increase the sale amount.

Whenever you’re asked whether you want an extra shot of espresso with your coffee or a bucket rather than a bag of popcorn at the theater, you’re being upsold. In fact, even the language they use is finely tuned to maximize your chances of saying yes. Employees are trained and even required not to ask, “Do you want anything else?” Instead, they were told specifically to ask, “What else would you like?” By using those words, they created the expectation that you would, in fact, like to buy more. There is a science and an art to this and it has proven time and time again to be successful.

8. The “Super Sale” Events

I actually worked for a department store that used the term “Super Sale” once every quarter to dramatically grab customers to shop! It was so successful that it produced results like increasing sales for a normal day from $50,000 to an incredible $1,000,000 for the sale day! I am not kidding.

Picture the big scene from the movie “The Ten Commandments” and you can get some idea of what Super Sale days were like for me (minus the walls of water crashing down I mean).

The fact that a store declares a sale to be phenomenal does not necessarily mean that it is, in fact, a great deal. You could walk into a store that has announced sale prices “as much as 75% off” and then discover that everything except for one lonely rack is only 20% off. There are specific state laws about sales and what retailers must do to make them legit but it isn’t false advertising when they do the kind of thing like I just mentioned. The ad clearly includes the qualifier “as much as”.

Remain skeptical of sale claims, and don’t get caught up in the hype of a supposed once-in-a-lifetime deal. Trust me there will always be another deal, and probably an even better one to boot coming soon. Sometimes soon is tomorrow.

9. Rewards Programs, Store Credit Cards and Loyalty Cards

Rewards programs are how retailers get you to keep coming back to their store again and again when you have other options.

Maybe there is a better sale at Kohl’s, but you have a Shop Your Way rewards card or a Macy’s credit card so you don’t even bother checking Kohl’s. You head straight for Macy’s instead. It works the same way if you have a loyalty card for a gas station, grocery store, coffee shop, or hotel chain.

Despite the fact that they can help you save, the real danger is that then may make you stop comparison shopping and simply go to the business offering those rewards. That’s really good for them, but it could be costly for you. I always check and compare before I make my move.

10. Point-of-Sale Last Minute Add-ons

The final silly sales tactic that drains our wallets is the point-of-sale add-on. These are mostly all those gum and candy displays you see at the cash registers and the nice sales clerks who ask if you’d like to save 25% by opening a store credit card.

Sometimes you see them in the aisles just before you get into a checkout line. These bins or tables that appear to be super bargains, special buys, or clearances that are going to be gone almost instantly (but yet in the backroom there are dozens of cartons waiting to be filled in when the supply needs it).

At a gas station in my town, the sales clerks are rather shameless about promoting the monthly candy deal, informing each customer that they are competing for who can sell the most candy that month. That tidbit is followed by an appeal to help them out by making a purchase.

The only thing missing is some slight whimpering and big puppy dog eyes. I’m sure some heartless folks can say no to their pleas, but it takes a lot of willpower to resist and I know I have trouble doing it.


Ultimately it is you who is responsible for your decision to spend or not. The holiday retail war wages on and continues year after year. I guess I am a battle-scarred veteran, but even if you aren’t right now, just one holiday season can make you one. Know what you are up against and be prepared!

Stay aware of how the retailers are shaping the environment to encourage you to spend, and resist!

Do you fall for slick tricks that encourage your spending? Are you a focused shopper or are you distracted by the shiny objects and bells and whistles retailers use to get you to buy? How will you make sure that you don’t fall prey to these tactics this holiday shopping season?

About Gary Weiner @ Super Saving Tips

Over the last 45 years I've worked in retail (department stores and supermarkets) and financial planning. In addition, I am a shopper, born and bred, who enjoys the challenges of finding the best items for the best prices. When I'm not busy saving money or writing here at Super Saving Tips, I enjoy baseball, music, and classic movies. I am retired and live in New Jersey with my wife.
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4 Comments

  1. Upselling is the bane of my existence. And I’m a sucker point-of-sale add-ons when a young person is at the register and the add-on is in the form of a tip jar. Young people are screwed in so many ways and buying the “candy of the month” or dropping a dollar in the tip jar is my way of giving back. Great post, my friend.

    • I think all of us have a hard time turning away those puppy dog eyes and a big tip jar. I’m constantly trying to restrain myself to provide a tip for someone who’s actually providing exceptional service. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, Mr. Groovy. I definitely understand your pain.

  2. I’m fascinated by the psychological techniques marketers use. My favorite is the “feel good music of your generation” that is played while you’re shopping – and not just during the holidays. Listen next time you’re shopping. You’re likely to hear Matchbox Twenty and other popular groups from the 90s. That’s not on accident! It’s another trick to get you to spend more money.

    • OMG, you are so on target. Normally, I wouldn’t pay any attention to the music, but when I’m shopping in some stores, I hear the best of the 60’s. And for me, I tend to linger because of it. As weird as that is, music while shopping definitely is an attractive feature and you hit the target with your comment.

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