I’m sure you are no stranger to the “Target run”. Have you ever noticed how you go into the store for one thing and leave with much more and a side of guilt?
So what are the tricks stores use to keep you buying stuff you don’t need? How do stores manipulate you?
I Was Tricked Into Buying Stuff on a Spring Day
It was a beautiful spring day in 2021 and I was fully vaccinated. I decided I could go inside a store, Target to be exact. After using pickup services and Amazon for a long time I felt the need to actually go look at stuff for a change.
It started innocently. I did actually need something. I can’t remember what it was.
The first thing I saw was a bunch of color-coordinated, trendy, and CHEAP things. I didn’t even know what the things were but they looked so good.
Then I smelled the sweet combination of kettle corn and Starbucks. It wrapped itself around me.
I decided it wouldn’t hurt to run through the women’s clothing, and shoes, and home décor as soft music played.
The thing that I came for was at the far end of the store. It was something practical like vitamins. By the time I got there, I felt a little woozy. A feeling of shame and then a shock of recognition snapped me out of a daze. I had been seduced.
When I went into the store I didn’t need clothes or home décor or shoes. The store had convinced me that buying stuff was fun, relaxing, and deserved. In the battle of minimalism vs. maximalism the store wins if you choose MORE, not less.
I stood there about to buy a few dozen things I didn’t need at all! And I’m trying to live the minimalist lifestyle so I felt like a total sucker! Why is it so hard to stop shopping!
It wasn’t easy to escape…
I hate to admit it, but by the time I made it to the checkout, I was back in a stupor and I went ahead and bought those things. Why? I felt I deserved a treat after the last year of staying home.
I redeemed myself when just two days later I was back at the store returning almost everything I bought that day. That time I left the store like I was running for my life.
That’s the first time I ever really noticed just how seductive being inside a store can be. I started to notice all the little tricks stores use to keep you shopping and buying stuff you don’t need.
Carefully Planned Locations To Trick You Into Buying Stuff
Remember the first thing I saw when I walked into Target? I saw an assortment of color-coordinated items with dollar store prices. All those sherbet-colored knick-knacks fed my eye hunger for new fresh things. And that wasn’t an accident.
Many stores put cheap and colorful things at the front of the store because they know that if you pick up one thing you will probably go ahead and buy more stuff to justify checking out.
Your journey is planned…
Stores also engineer your journey through their store. Have you ever noticed that all the basics like food, medicine, and toilet paper are at the far end of the store? That’s how they get you to look at everything else, everything you don’t really need, first. That way you start buying stuff before you even get to what you came for.
That’s what happened to me. After the knick-knacks, the next thing I saw was the women’s clothing section with fresh colors and pretty “new” styles. That naturally led me to shoes and that naturally led me to home décor.
If you were a man in that store you would have gone to men’s clothing and then electronics and sporting goods. Smart huh?
But that’s not all. Most stores use lots of sneaky retail tricks you don’t even notice. For example, they put the more expensive items at eye level so that you will see them first and feel like you are settling for less if you buy something that is above or below it.
They also strategically place clearance items and cheap complimentary items on end caps so that you will continue moving through the store looking for deals and buying stuff you don’t need.
Limited Time Offers are Retail Tricks Used to Keep You Buying Stuff
Limited time offer! Buy while supplies last! One-day sale! This weekend only! You have seen those sales and felt like you were scoring big-time!
A little while after my Target fiasco, I honestly needed some shorts and I saw one of those “this weekend only” sales offering some shorts I liked. But guess what? I couldn’t try them on and so I got the wrong size.
When I returned them to get the smaller size I was worried that I would have to pay more. But that’s not what happened. The store was actually running an even better sale at that point. And later in the summer, those shorts came across my Instagram feed on an even better sale!
Sales are gimmicks…
The point is, those sales are gimmicks. They focus on your scarcity mentality and literally try to scare you into buying stuff on impulse.
What will happen if you don’t snatch up the deal? There will probably be another deal next week and many more after that. The stores will continue changing up their sales so they can continue pulling you back in.
Did you know most clothing is marked up 55-62% over the wholesale price so that the stores can give you a 50% off sale and still make a profit? That means that the sale price is just a lure, and you are the fish.
Do you know what saves you more money than 50% off sales? The 100% you will save by not falling for it! Buying stuff always costs more than not buying stuff.
Buy Two Get One Sales Trick You Into Buying Stuff You Don’t Need
Have you ever found yourself scouring a store looking for two more things than you actually need because if you buy two you get one free? Have you ever bought one thing at full price to get the second thing at half price?
That happens a lot! And it’s just another way that stores trick us into buying more than we need or even want. Somehow the idea that we are getting something free or half off makes us magically forget that we are still buying stuff at full price and then buying more for something we wouldn’t have bought in the first place.
Next time you are confronted by these sneaky sales tactics ask yourself: “Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?”
Stores Carefully Price Items to Trick You Into Buying Stuff
Have you ever wondered why stores always put a .99 at the end of the price instead of rounding it up? Because they know that you will focus on the dollar amount more and will thus associate something that is 1.99 with $1 more than you do with $2 and so you will feel like it is cheaper and buy more.
They also leave commas out of big-ticket items to keep your brain from associating the price with thousands of dollars.
Another trick you might see often is that there isn’t a dollar sign in front of the price because it’s not really money right?
They even get you used to buying a product for a certain price and then keep it that price but reduce the size.
When you think about it, it’s amazing how many small ways stores trick us into buying stuff we don’t need and spending more than we should!
An Inviting Atmosphere Seduces You Into Buying Stuff Over and Over
You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite movies and in it, Joe Fox is going to open a big box book store that will effectively wipe out the mom and pop shops in the neighborhood, including the one belonging to Meg Ryan’s character, the charming Kathleen Kelly.
In one scene Joe Fox is explaining why people will love the big box store in the end and he said;
“It’s because we are going to sell them cheap books and legal addictive stimulants.”
That pretty much sums it up. Stores aren’t just offering you “great” prices. They are offering you an experience. An experience that includes delicious smells, addictive tastes, and beautiful displays. They are feeding your eyes, ears, nose, and hearts with their branding.
All those old favorites playing softly over the speakers are carefully chosen too. One website where stores can buy playlists promises up to 10% more sales!
Target’s branding is fresh and trendy, Old Navy is like a vacation, and higher-end stores dim the lights and make you feel like you’re in a fancy restaurant.
Because of the sweet smells, tasty treats, ambiance, and colorful displays, you become addicted to a brand and that’s what keeps you coming back for more, even when you don’t need more. You are going back to the store and buying stuff simply because you enjoy the environment.
What Can You Do To Stop Being Fooled By The Tricks Stores Use to Get You To Buy More Than You Need?
None of us want to waste our money or fall victim to impulse shopping but stores have marketing down to an art form. It can be really hard not to fall for their tricks. How can you resist buying stuff because of these sneaky retail tricks?
Here are some ways you can become a more conscious consumer and keep your money in your pocket and clutter out of your house!
How to Fight Back:
- Be aware of the retail tricks the store is playing on you and the feelings that they are invoking in you whether that be FOMO, desire to fit in, or feeling that “you deserve to treat yourself”.
- Go to the store with a list. Even if your not grocery shopping, if you go into a store you should know what exactly you are going for.
- Before you buy anything over $30 you should probably research it online and read reviews. This is especially true of consumer electronics.
- Don’t fall for “big sales”. If you do not genuinely need an item, even if it wasn’t on sale, you will not be saving money by buying it. You will still be spending money you didn’t need to spend for something you didn’t need in the first place. Ask yourself: “Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?”
- Consider using a pickup service for grocery shopping. Did you know that Target also has a pickup service for anything in their store. You can get the things you need without being tempted by all the eye candy and seduced by the atmosphere! This will help you avoid all the retail tricks and buying stuff you don’t need.
- Institute at least 10 NO SPEND DAYS a month! That’s right! 10 days where you aren’t buying stuff at all!
- Unsubscribe from store e-mails. Especially is this true if you have a store you especially enjoy buying from. I found myself in a buying loop with my favorite store because of all the “credits” I earned that I needed to use. That had me buying stuff like it was a game!
- Don’t go shopping for fun. Don’t go to check out a sale or just to hang out at the mall. If shopping has been a hobby consider what kind of creative or active hobby you might pick up to fill your time instead of buying stuff. You will be much more satisfied with these types of hobbies and save tons of money.
You Will Be Happier When You Don’t Fall For All Those Retail Tricks!
When you learn to be aware of the retail tricks stores use to get you buying stuff you don’t even need you will end up saving lots of money! You may even be surprised by how much impulse shopping you were actually doing. And the best part is, when you don’t clutter up your house with junk you wish you didn’t spend your money on, you will have more money for the things that will actually add value to your life!
How do you avoid impulse shopping and buying stuff you don’t need? What helps you to avoid spending more than you should? I would love to hear your good ideas in the comment section below.
Fight Consumerism with Minimalism!
There is really no reason not to start enjoying simple living!
Now is the time to try the minimalist lifestyle! Learn why minimalism is good for your mental health and relationships, how it can transform your finances, so you can start having more energy and time for the things that matter!
But what if simplifying your life sounds like an overwhelming task?
If you want to simplify your life but the big bad word MINIMALISM scares you let me help! I wrote Doable Simplicity (Minimalism For Normal People) to help you get the inspiration you need to simplify your life and then take solid steps that make simple living doable for you!