10 Sneaky Ways Retailers Fool You Into Spending More

10 Sneaky Ways Retailers Fool You Into Spending More

Each day, stores are trying to convince us to put more in our carts and rack up a bigger bill at checkout. From strategic displays to all those tasty freebies, stores try to make a fool (and year-round over spender) out of customers. So in the spirit of the season, let’s take a look at how shops convince us to open our wallets — which might help us spend just a bit less.

Image by Jurik Peter and Doremi (Shutterstock).

Layouts Designed to Make You Buy

Have you ever wondered why the one item you’re looking for is somehow always in the farthest corner of the store? Whether you’re walking into a department store or a grocery store, this “coincidence” happens by design.

Making you walk the length of the store gives you plenty of opportunities to be tempted by every display you pass. Yes, this is why the dairy department is inevitably on the far side. Stores with convoluted layouts, such as the maze-like IKEA, make you pass as many products as possible before you leave. The more items you see, the more you’re likely to take home.

Handing Out Freebies

Giving out free samples of everything from food to cosmetics is a retail staple — especially on busy weekends, when more people are shopping. While snacking your way through the grocery store can spice up your grocery run, it’s another way for retailers to convince you to buy. Not only are you checking out new products, but you may also feel obligated to buy something after taking up someone’s time.

Being Helpful

Some stores go out of their way to be helpful. Just think of the Apple Store, where employees meet you at the door to ask what you need and direct you to the right place. Then there are even more employees to demo products, answer questions, and even provide tech support.

This is more than just good customer service: It’s the sort of helpfulness that tempts you into buying a new iPhone when a low-end smartphone might have done just as well. Plus, a friendly face can make shoppers feel obligated to pick up a product, whether they realise it or not.

Encouraging You to Stop

You can’t put something in your shopping cart unless you stop to do so, which means it’s in a retailer’s best interest to make you stop as often as possible. So while you’re making that long walk across the store to pick up milk, you’ll find your progress halted by an obstacle course of narrow aisles, flashy displays, friendly employees handing out freebies, and more.

Crowds can form bottlenecks at these places, and while you’re stuck, that’s one more opportunity for you to pick something up.

Attracting Attention With Endcaps

You’re sure to find lots of eye-catching, colourful items positioned towards the end of the aisle, while the things you’re shopping for are often in the middle of an aisle. The result? You have to walk past these other, more tempting things twice before you can checkout with the one thing you wanted.

Catching Your Eye

The next time you’re at the grocery store, take a moment to consider what’s on eye level — because that’s where stores want to direct your attention. It’s often brand name products with stylish packaging, or temptingly priced store brand items. Anything the store is less interested in selling will be on higher or lower shelves, where you’re less likely to see it.

Similarly, in toy stores or toy aisles, you’ll find the most desirable goodies at a kid’s eye level. Even if these items don’t catch your gaze, your kids are definitely seeing them.

Careful Product Placement

The way stores arrange products on a rack or shelf plays a big role in encouraging you to buy, too. Imagine you’re shopping for a coat and you see a $US250 ($329) designer number that’s just what you want. One rack over, there’s a similar style for just $US199 ($262). Naturally, you pick up the cheaper coat and walk out thinking you’ve scored a deal — without bothering to check around the corner, where there’s yet another lookalike coat that costs $US50 ($66).

The Right Sounds and Smells

Shopping goes well beyond what you can see and touch: The background music and even the scent of the store can put you in the mood to shop. Music with a slow tempo might encourage you to linger, unconsciously following the beat. The subtle scent of baby powder in the baby section, or a faint tropical scent in the swimsuits, may subtly put you in the mind to buy.

Giant Shopping Carts

The next time you head to the grocery store, consider skipping the shopping cart. When you have to carry your purchases yourself, you’re going to think twice about picking up extras. But when you have a cart, that extra purchase might not seem like such a big deal. Or worse, you’ll find yourself attempting to fill the cart entirely.

Encouraging You to Accessorise

Padding a sale with accessories is an easy way for a store to improve its bottom line, especially with electronics. Say you’re shopping for a new TV. After you’ve picked a model, the salesman will helpfully offer to show you stands or wall mounts. Perhaps you could use a new Blu-ray player to go with it? Or a high-end set of cables? Or an upgraded warranty?

These unnecessary extras might not seem like much at the time, especially when you’re buying a big ticket item. But they add up fast.

While companies aren’t necessarily out to deceive you, they have a whole host of ways to convince you to spend just a bit more. But by knowing their best tricks ahead of time, you can keep a bit more cash in your wallet on your next shopping trip.

This post originally appeared on DealNews.

10 Sneaky Ways Retailers Fool You Into Spending More [DealNews]

Elizabeth is a professional writer and a non-professional technology enthusiast, with a keen interest in how tech is changing the world we live in.


  • “Encouraging You to Stop”
    I don’t stop.. Whenever I have to go to one of these dollar traps all you see is a flurry of arms and legs and the smell of smoke from the trollies rubber wheels. Obviously, the checkout is the penultimate trap, but keep your eyes on the prize man, keep your eyes on the prize. Finally, the final desperate bid to get free of the granny driving, bogan parking horror that is the car park and.. Safe!

    • I am with you. I avoid the shopping mall, these tricks add to the stress of going there. I now go to one of the ‘big’ supermarkets, but a smaller one in a local shopping strip. These tricks are counterproductive when applied to a lot of people. You don’t have to even analyse the reasons behind them to reject them. Most of them boil down to stop, look at me, forget whatever you wanted, what about this. Likewise, the ‘reality’ TV shows that repeat the last 2 minutes of the ‘drama’ before the ad-break, push people towards TV recorders or switching off. This sort of behaviour because it is so obvious I find so annoying it only works for a while before I decide, no thanks. We adapt.

  • the thing that pisses me off the most about supermarkets in particular is that they put bread and milk at opposite ends of the store so you have to cover the whole perimeter from where you walk in, to when you get back to the checkout.

      • yes, i know that that’s exactly why they do it. its just annoying when all i literally need to buy is bread and milk.

        • Yeah, it’s a pain in the arse for sure. At least my local coles the milk isn’t at the opposite end of the store from the bread, unlike the local woolies.

  • The Right Sounds and Smells

    My local supermarkets all you can ever smell is stale seafood along with mouldy fruits & vegetables, as for sounds either tinny overly loud pop music or screaming children that their parents refuse to correct.

  • For long-life products sure. Fresh meat, fruit & vegetables nope. I prefer going to any one of the dozen or so local butchers or fruit & vege shops in the area.

  • “… a coat and you see a $US250 ($329) designer number that’s just what you want. One rack over, there’s a similar style for just $US199 ($262). Naturally, you pick up the cheaper coat and walk out thinking you’ve scored a deal — without bothering to check around the corner, where there’s yet another lookalike coat that costs $US50 ($66).”

    Why would a store have three products that look the same that are so different in price? It’s not only about looks.
    And what’s with the conversion of US$ to AUD if they are merely example prices???

  • I have given up Woolies. They got rid of the Butcher , send local meat to Victoria to be packaged and send it back at nearly double the price. Foodland in town has 3 Butchers and good local meat.Much fresher and beautiful to eat. IGA the same. When Foodland and IGA beat Woolies on prices you know they are finished. And it took brands away and replaced with “select” which is another Woolies brand. Useless , ALL about them.

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