5 Tricks Retailers Use to Make You Overspend

If you have ever come home from shopping with the nagging feeling that you’ve been had, you are not alone. I’ve experienced this feeling more than once in my lifetime and decided it was time to find out why.

We all overspend when we shop, but it isn’t our fault. We overspend because we don’t know the tricks retailers employ to cajole us into buying more than we need or things we don’t need at all!

Knowledge is Power

If we understood the tricks, maybe we wouldn’t be such easy prey for savvy retailers. We head to the store with a shopping list that would fit on the back of a postage stamp and return from our shopping expedition loaded down like a pack mule.

The marketing geniuses have been studying consumers for decades. With the advent of the internet, these marketers have been able to gain insights into our buying habits heretofore only dreamed of. Of course we play right into their hands through social media sites, online surveys and the like. Chances are they know you better than your mother knows you. After all, we keep secrets from our mothers, but there are very few secrets on the internet.

From the moment you walk in to a retail establishment, you are under its spell. You don’t realize it, but much of what you see, hear and smell is part of a diabolical plot to part you from your money. Here are five examples that you should know:

1) Jumbo Carts

Nature abhors a vacuum. Being part of nature, we don’t like vacuums either. All that empty space! Naturally, we want to fill it. Don’t be sucked in (no pun intended). Grab a hand basket if you’ve got a short shopping list. Remove the temptation. The retailer is trying to make you feel like you didn’t buy that much.

2) Sensual Seduction

Have you noticed that you often pass through the perfume department or the leather goods section of a department store or a floral department in the supermarket upon entering? This is no accident. The sensual smells of perfume and leather can have a seductive effect on us. Retailers know this and put us in a stupor by forcing us through this labyrinth of scents as we browse the store. They may also utilize soft lighting and music to deepen our fog.

3) Visual Direction

All retailers employ this tactic, but supermarkets are the masters of visual direction. Have you noticed that the most expensive items are at eye level? If you want the bargain prices, look up or look down. Another tactic, more frequently observed in the department and big box stores, is the display of sale items you see upon entering. The retailers want you to see these items first. Why? Because chances are high that in reality they aren’t a bargain at all, but by being placed prominently in view, the hope is that you’ll buy from that display and do no comparison shopping. Always make comparisons to avoid falling for this gambit!

4) They Take Away Your Comfort Zone

We are, more or less, creatures of habit. We become familiar with our favorite supermarket, department or big box store. We’ve learned their tricks and overcome. Then BAM! They change the whole layout. Suddenly you can’t find anything, and you are back to square one! This is exactly why they do this rearrange-the-store thing. Don’t fall for it! Be patient, comparison shop and stay alert!

5) Beware the Bargains

These are known as loss leaders and often used to get you in the door. While a particular item may in fact be a bargain, if you remain in the store your savings will quickly evaporate. Buy the bargain and hightail it out of there. You can be sure they intend to make up the loss on other items.

Also be alert to the 10 for $10 and buy 2 get the 3rd at half-price ploys. Our brains are trained to believe that buying in quantity is a money saver. You can save a great deal more buy buying only what you need. Do the math on these offers and be certain the savings are real and not imagined. Finally, always bring along a healthy dose of skepticism when you shop. All is not as it may appear in the retail jungle.

Join the conversation. Are you influenced by any of these tricks of the trade to overspend when you shop? Maybe you have noticed other tricks you would like to share with readers?



  • Bargains really annoy me, they make me buy things I don’t need! I’ve become better at building my immunity when it comes to the marketing ploy. I feel sorry for people who go in for a carton on milk and comeback with a trolley full of goods, guess they’re shopping their future away. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  • I use to work at Hollister. My then store manager told me that every time they had big sales, the company would mark the prices up to keep profits up.

  • I shop online now, I always have a list and stick to it. If the items are on promotion I buy them, I never buy items just because they are on promotion. I’ve now managed to become more disciplined with my spending thanks to making these changes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Teach me how to improve my finances, 

so that I can buy a home

and stop wasting my money on rent