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No one wants to pay full price when shopping if they can find a good deal, a discount, or a sale. Companies know this and have configured a number of tricks to make you believe you’re getting the best possible price when you might really fall for some smart psychology or staging. Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, mental health therapist and founder of, an offer site for health professionals, said: “The key is to make consumers believe that they often save money. money by giving them just enough proof of those savings. to justify the purchase.

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Businesses know that consumers aren’t likely to be doing the research to determine if this rebate or sale is really a good deal. “With a little skepticism and vigilance, consumers can avoid the deceptive prices and feel a little better with these great products that they take home,” she said.

But first, you need to know what tricks you are facing.

To find: Buying mistakes you make and how to stop them


If a business can trick you into believing there’s a limited supply of something you want, you’re potentially more likely to buy it and believe you’re getting a good deal when you buy it, said Emily Cooper, founder of the Italian luxury brand for men Oliver Wicks.

In fact, a relatively famous study in 1975 asked 200 participants to rate the value of cookies in identical cookie jars, one with 10 cookies and the other with only two. “Surprisingly, the cookies in the empty container were deemed more valuable,” said Susan Melony, founder and editor of “Today, airlines and other businesses frequently use the concept of scarcity: ‘There are only a few seats left at this price! “”

Learn more: 15 times you should splurge, settle in, or jump when shopping

Loyalty cards / Rewards programs

You probably have one or more loyalty cards in your wallet right now, from Target to CVS and many more in between, which either reward you with points for the frequency of your purchases or offer special member-only discounts. “This can be a great deal for you if you are actually a huge fan of this store, but be aware that this is also one of their tips for getting you to their store even when you have other options.” , said Robert Banks, founder. by MrStocks. “You are subconsciously wired that you will be rewarded if you keep coming back to them…” However, what really happens is that most of the time you end up spending more than you expected.


If you shop online, you’ve probably fallen prey to a psychological concept known as “priming,” Melony said. Priming, according to Better Marketing, is “the act of introducing a stimulus to influence how individuals respond to a subsequent stimulus.” In marketing, it is a means of shaping user expectations…. Melony explains how the backdrop of the web page you are viewing can influence your attention, and therefore your purchases. “The researchers evaluated how the backdrop of a web page affects people who want to buy a car,” she said. “Consumers spent more time looking at the cost information when the background was green with pennies on it, whereas they started looking at the safety portion when the background was red with flames.”

Sale of the Century

Particularly at key times of the year, retailers often announce a “special” sale such as an anniversary sale, a Labor Day sale, or just a random sale that seems important, said Kristine Daub, editor. in chief founder of byCurated. “When you walk around the store, you are inundated with sales stickers where the price tags usually are. What the store doesn’t tell you is that most items are only discounted by a fraction of their regular price. So even if you save a dollar or two per item, your overall savings are nowhere near what you might have originally thought.

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Out of stock

Another common trick, Daub said, is to play bait and switch: “You see an advertisement for an offer that is too good to be true. You hardly believe it’s true, but the ad is from a trusted brand. So, rush to the store, ready to win the bargain of life. Except that when you arrive, the item is out of stock. But the retailer is betting that, since you’re there, you’ll probably be buying a few things anyway.

The decoy effect

Another psychological trick that retailers play on you is known as the “lure effect,” said Kristin Uptain, market manager at Redde Payments. In this case, “A consumer changes their mind between two options when they come up with a third option known as a“ decoy. ”She gives the example of having three coffee options: a small one for $ 2. , a medium for $ 4.50 and a large for $ 5. “You can see that if you are considering an average coffee, you can get a much bigger coffee for just 50 cents more with the large one. Consumers will naturally buy it. ‘most expensive option, which is exactly what the seller wants. ”The average price is usually the lure.


Another tip that you’ve probably seen and even taken advantage of is the free “buy one, get one” (or BOGO) approach. In a BOGO sale, Uptain said, the seller actually makes more profit than a standard sale, but you think you got a better deal.

While there are a lot of tricks involved, if you like the deal you get on an item, it doesn’t matter what the retailer has done to get you to buy it.

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Last updated: October 27, 2021

About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a BA from Sonoma State University and an MA from Bennington College. His articles and essays on finance and other topics have appeared in a wide range of publications and clients including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times , Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for many business customers. As someone who has had to learn a lot of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and how to get on with it. a better quality of life.

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