Don’t fall for these 5 store marketing tricks


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Over budget again?

If you want to make it through a store with more of your money, it pays to recognize some of the seductive sales strategies and defuse them.

Here are 5 common — and effective — shopping traps, along with strategies to avoid them.

1. Super-flattering dressing rooms

You try on that new suit and suddenly you’re tanner. And slimmer.

So is it great tailoring or great marketing?

Some stores will use warm lighting and even flattering mirrors in their dressing rooms, says Kendal Perez, a savings expert for But then when you get home, you and your new clothes don’t look the same.

Avoid this trap: “If you’re brave enough, walk out onto the store floor and look at yourself in those mirrors,” she says. “Or make sure it’s something you can return,” in case it doesn’t look the same at home.

2. Letting you touch — and use — the merchandise

This one is a favorite strategy with tech stores, Perez says. Think about the layout of an Apple Store, for example.

While it makes sense to test-drive an expensive gadget before you buy it, it’s also smart marketing. Psychologically, when you handle the gear, you form an attachment and a sense of ownership, she says.

Avoid this trap: Browsing rather than buying? That’s when you want to “avoid displays where you can touch the products,” Perez says.

Who's making impulse purchases? © Bigstock

3. Impulse buys at the checkout

This is one many people know about, but it’s still worth the reminder. Whether it’s the grocery store, big-box store or your favorite boutique, chances are there will be a selection of small, inexpensive items clustered near the checkout, Perez says.

From candy to coffee mugs, splurge for a few items and you can easily add $2 to $10 to your tab, she says.

Avoid this trap: “I basically put my blinders on because they’re not going to get me,” she says.

4. Sensory temptations

“Recognize that in the brick-and-mortar world, the use of sensuous cues is on the increase,” says Paco Underhill, founding president of Envirosell, a retail research and consulting firm, and the author of “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.”

“Retailers use lighting, touch and smells as a way of getting you to fall in love with something,” he says.

And those sensory appeals can be particularly effective if your energy is flagging or your stomach is empty.

Avoid this trap: Don’t shop tired or hungry. “I tell everyone if you want to be a really smart shopper, shop at 11 in the morning,” Underhill says.

5. Reaching out via email and newsletters

“Signing up for newsletters is definitely something that encourages us to buy,” Perez says.

Especially effective: Those notices hawking 1-day sales and limited deals. They create a sense of urgency.

But many times, those sales are extended or replaced by other sales also offering great discounts, Perez says.

And some sites will bombard consumers with emails virtually every day, “and so you find yourself wanting to shop,” she says.

Avoid this trap: Unsubscribe. “Better to be the person who drives when you shop versus having the retailer drive you,” says Perez.

Written by
Dana Dratch
Personal Finance Writer
Dana Dratch is a personal finance and lifestyle writer who enjoys talking all things money and credit. With a degree in English and writing, she likes asking the questions everyone would ask if they could and sharing the answers — along with smart money management tips from the experts.