Retailers Trick You Into Overspending at Their Stores

You may think you overspend when you shop because you have no willpower. But BILLSHARK wants you to know it’s not your fault. Retailers actually trick you into overspending at their stores

The retail industry has a multibillion-dollar investment in you. That is, making sure you’ll spend much more than you planned to.

In-store incentives to overspend

“Retail is a magnificent theater where a retailer is wanting you to come in and go to certain areas,” David Zyla, Emmy Award-winning stylist and author of “How to Win at Shopping,” told NBC’s Today Show.

Mental Floss talked to Kyle James, a retail expert and founder of, about their sneaky tricks.

“It’s psychological warfare and your money is at risk,” he told the magazine. “Namely, spending money on stuff you had no intention of buying but simply can’t pass up as the ‘deal’ is just too good.”

From food to clothing

Every type of retail establishment has carefully designed the shopping experience to make you more inclined to buy more. They have all kinds of tactics to encourage overspending at their stores.

For example, Today listed tricks retailers use in the dressing room. Think: strategic lighting to mirror placement to new technology and innovations such as RFID-powered mirrors to seamlessly complete a look.

“Selfie-worthy dressing rooms are a key way to get customers to spend more time and be brand ambassadors for a brand,” Melissa Gonzalez, The Lion’esque Group’s chief pop-up design architect, told Today.

Supermarket strategies

Supermarkets, of course, have been using psychology-based marketing for decades.

Business Insider writes, “Every part of the supermarket from the parking lot to the checkout counter is designed to make you spend more money and buy more food than you need.”

For example, high-profit items are placed at the front of the store, as well as at eye-level on shelves. Necessities like milk, meat, dairy, eggs, and similar items are always at the back. You have to walk past all the other enticing items to get to what you really came in for. This almost guarantees you’ll overspend at their stores.

The Independent in Britain interviewed Simeon Scamell-Katz. He’s a leading global consumer analyst and the author of “The Art of Shopping: How We Shop and Why We Buy.” He explained why the checkout lines are laden with candy and treats.

“They’re not there for pleasure,” he told the newspaper. “They’re there to make money and the best way to do that is with products that are bought as a reward for the task you’ve just completed.” Not to mention that kids’ little hands invariably reach for them as they’re sitting in line.

The tricks stores employ are almost endless. But don’t think you’re safe if you shop only online. Even online retailers trick you into overspending at their stores.

Digital persuaders

Social media influencers, of course, have one purpose: to induce you to purchase products they promote. But online merchants have plenty of other ways to encourage you to part with your money.

One of the biggies is free shipping. Studies show people are more inclined to buy if they see that word. And because Amazon offers its Prime members free shipping, other online retailers often do the same, but with the catch of free shipping above a certain purchase amount.

Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch told Business Insider that they do this to increase sales.

“Most people would rather spend more money buying things they don’t need than pay for shipping costs,” she said.

Other tricks include fast checkout (so you have less time to change your mind), lenient return policies (knowing you probably won’t bother to return an item), and variable pricing.

“The Internet is the wild west in terms of pricing,” Mark Ellwood, retail expert and author of “Bargain Fever,” told Business Insider.

Woroch added that online retailers also use a tactic called dynamic pricing. They’ll change prices based on consumer and market behavior to capture more customers.

“That means the price you saw on a microwave when you left for work in the morning could be completely different by the time you get home at night.”

Such tactics also add to the sense of urgency to buy. So do offers like “only two left” and “one-day only” or “limited-time sale.”

How to beat the tactics

Experts say it’s difficult to overcome these sales techniques. They’re so carefully calibrated to appeal to our subconscious, and are effective at spurring overspending at stores.

The best way to resist the trickery is to be single-minded. Whether in a store or online, know what you want and don’t let yourself be distracted.

That means you need a list when you go shopping. Whether it contains items you need or just things you want, promise yourself to stick to it and resist impulse buys.

Finally, don’t hesitate to return an item you’re not happy with. This strategy alone can end up saving you hundreds of dollars a year.

Another way to save hundreds—even thousands—is to let BILLSHARK review your bills for free. Remember, we charge nothing if we can’t save you money.

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