Money Saving Articles

Retailer’s Tricks That Get You to Spend More

Back in the 80s, I got my first ‘real’ job at a big department store. The training was about an hour on how to run the cash register and an entire day on how to sell. Some of the techniques I learned were eye-opening, to say the least.

The funniest part to me was realizing how I still got sucked in by them. My favorite one was at the Gap, if I bought a colored top, the cashier always offered me the matching socks, and I almost always bought them. In fact, I was offended if the offer wasn’t made! Times have changed, and matching socks are not a current trend (are they?), but retailer’s methods to part us from our money haven’t really changed.


Top 5 Grocery Store Tricks

  • Ranked shelf space: the most expensive or highest profit items are at your eye level and kid-friendly things are at their eye level. For your best overall values, look up or down, and keep your kids in a shopping cart so the tempting things down low aren’t in their line of sight.
  • Bulk items or large sizes aren’t always the best deal: check the per unit price. Sometimes it’s tricky because the shelf information isn’t in the same units for all items. I’ve noticed at my grocery store the one pound ‘sample’ bags of premium cat food are cheaper per ounce than the larger bags. When I’m really watching my spending, I’ve been known to buy multiple small ones instead of the more convenient large one.
  • Dairy & eggs in the back: this way you have to go through a lot of expensive areas to get to the basic items you need every trip. There are also lots of impulse items near the dairy section like pre-made iced coffee, a small display of seasonal produce or cookies, or seasonal dairy products such as eggnog or flavored creamers.
  • Hot garlic bread or pizza: both are designed to get your attention with the seductive smells. However, both are probably the less expensive store brand items you can take home and heat up on your own for far less money.
  • They rearrange things: my grocery list always starts with cream, bananas, fresh spinach, and yogurt. I can write my list so it’s pretty much in order based on store location. But the grocers know this and move things around every so often, so you are forced to search, and then get tempted to buy impulse items.


Top 5 Big Box Store Tricks

  • Multiple item pricing: my favorite is socks, $1.99 a pair or 3 pairs for $5. I used to train my cashiers to point out to customers that another pair was less than a dollar more. I had one cashier who said to customers who only had one item “Sorry ma’am/sir, this isn’t an express lane. You need to go pick out a few more items before I can ring you up.” It worked about half the time and made the customers laugh.
  • Regular sale cycles: there is a well-known hobby & décor store that has a set rotation of sales. If you are aware of the cycle, you will pay fair prices all the time. For the retailer, it makes stocking the store easier, the company always knows what category will be in demand, so they can keep stock at the right quantity.
  • Confusing floor plans: have you ever been to Ikea? It is nearly impossible to get from the entrance to the cash registers without going through every single department. Many grocery stores and department stores use a similar tactic. The longer you spend in a store, the more money you are likely to spend.
  • Fake sense of urgency: phrases like “while supplies last” or “today only” are designed to encourage fast, impulsive decisions. When you see these phrases, don’t fall for them unless it’s something you already planned on buying.
  • Helpful employees: this is a blessing and a curse. I was trained to recommend add-on items to every customer because the easiest person to sell to is someone who is already buying. So, while it’s great to have a person who can help you find specific items and answer questions about them, it’s also dangerous to your wallet.


5 Sneaky Restaurant and Bar Tricks

  • No dollar signs on the menu: it isn’t actually money if you don’t see the dollar sign, right? In that same vein, not having the price set off to the edge by itself makes it less obvious, so it’s harder to decide based on price.
  • Asking for cocktail and appetizer orders right away: before you have seen a menu or really had a chance to look it over, the server always asks to get you started with drinks/appetizers. And with cocktails, they ask if you want a refill when your glass gets low. Alcohol is the highest profit margin item in a restaurant, so the more you spend on drinks, the better their profit margin.
  • Bright colors: a server wearing red gets better tips. So, pay attention, is your brightly clad server actually good, or just memorable because of the color he or she is wearing?
  • Incentivized waitstaff: if there is a slow seller or something that is in danger of expiring (think fish), the waitstaff may be getting a bonus to push it. Asking a complete stranger what their favorite dish on the menu is will most likely get you the highest profit margin item, or the push item. The same thing with specials, the chef comes up with items to use up food in most cases.
  • House brand merchandise: this is more common in chains, but lots of establishments sell non-food items or signature food items to take home. T-shirts and baseball caps are the most common apparel items, and signature sauces or dressings are the most common food items. There is a barbecue chain here in Texas whose “sause” (sic) is really good, and I used to buy it before I figured out my personal recipe. Again, you are already making a purchase of a meal, so adding on a memento or food item is likely to be easier.


Top Provider Trick

Over time most providers that BillCutterz deals with raise their prices without increasing service. You may not even notice it at first! We are here to help keep your bills at a manageable level, all it takes is a few minutes of your time to sign up and submit your bills on our website.

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