13 Retail Store Tricks That May Be Causing You To Spend More Money

With the biggest shopping season of the year beginning in just a couple of days, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about store tricks and retail sales tips. However, no matter what time of the year it is, knowing the various retail sales tricks can help you keep more money in your pocket….

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: October 11, 2016

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Retail store tricks may cause you to spend more money because of perceived value. Here are my retail sales tips so that you can save more money.With the biggest shopping season of the year beginning in just a couple of days, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about store tricks and retail sales tips. However, no matter what time of the year it is, knowing the various retail sales tricks can help you keep more money in your pocket.

And, the retail sales tricks talked about in today’s blog post are done throughout the year.

I’m not talking about scams or anything like that.

But it is true that retail stores, online retailers, and many other companies tend to use tricks to get you to spend more money in order to boost their revenues.

Companies may engage in these retail store tricks to get you to:

  • Buy more of their product(s).
  • To make their item(s) seem like a better deal.

While even the smallest advertisement, placement, pricing, and so on may seem insignificant to you, companies know what they are doing. They have done thousands of hours of market research in order to make more money, and they know what works.

These are businesses after all, and their goal is to make money.

But, my business is all about teaching you how to keep more money in your pocket 🙂 So, today’s post will explain various retail tricks as well as my tips to avoid falling for them.


Pricing games

Showing different prices for virtually the same product can encourage you to buy one product over another. And, it’s not always about whether a product is priced the cheapest.

Some of the pricing games and retail selling techniques that a retailer may use include:

  • Anchor pricing – This is when it says that a product costs $100, but then you find an almost equal item next to it for $50. You are much more likely to buy the $50 item, and this is a common retail store trick. Retail stores like to do this because it makes the $50 item look like a great deal, when in reality it is actually not.
  • Cents make a difference – A price like $9.99 may seem much more appealing than one priced at $10. It’s only one cent, but the retail stores know this trick well.
  • Is the price written out? – When the price of an item is written out, such as Ten Dollars, people are likely to spend more money on the item.
  • 10 for $10 – Many grocery stores and retail stores have this offer. This causes people to buy multiples of the same product because they believe that this is the only way they can get a good deal. However, for the most part, you can purchase just one and it will still just be $1. You should always read the fine print.

My retail sales tips for these is to always make sure that the item is actually a deal, and that you aren’t buying an item because of some perceived value. Always make sure that you actually need the item and be mindful of the different pricing games that may be influencing your purchases.

Related: 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month


Tax free sale days

Back to school time is just one time of the year that means tax free sale days, but in order to get more customers in the door, some stores also offer random sales tax free days throughout the year.

Surprisingly, when I worked in retail, these were always the best days for revenue. Even though the sales tax was only around a 7-8% discount, our store was always way busier than days in which we gave 20% off discounts.

I guess it was the fact that people thought they were sticking it to the man? Haha, I don’t know!

Either way, my tip is that you should always try to take the largest discount!


Sale bins at the check out

Check out lanes are always full of items, and this is because retailers are hoping that you’ll think you need something at the last minute.

Retailers will also add sale bins near the check out lanes for the same reason. They are assuming you will be in a rush and won’t have enough time to think about whether you truly need the sale item or not, plus they hope that you’ll just say yes to it because you don’t want to hold up the line.

You should only look into a sale bin if you actually need an item.

Sale bins can cause many people, even the most frugal people, to spend money because they think they are getting a great deal.


Free food samples

Whether you are shopping at a grocery store or at the mall, free food samples usually cause a person to spend more money.

This is especially true at grocery stores because a little bit of food can make you shop hungry- which then makes you spend more money. Plus, you may be very likely to purchase the item you just tried, either because you liked the item or because you don’t want to offend the person who spent their time making the food.


What you need is far away

Why is it that the items you need the most are usually the farthest away? Items such as milk, eggs, and bread are usually the farthest away, and sometimes they are even far apart. These are very common grocery items, so wouldn’t you think that they would be closer together?


This retail store trick is common at grocery stores.

This is because by placing them far away from you and far apart, you are then more likely to shop in the other aisles and spend more money.


Free trials

Free trials are great because you can test an item before paying for it.

However, stores realize that by offering you a free trial, you may be more likely to purchase the item in full, especially if you lose the item. They may then gain a customer for life just by simply offering one cheap free trial.

My retail sales tip for this is to make sure that you are actually interested in the product. If you aren’t interested in it after the free trial, you should always make sure that you aren’t going to be charged for the item in the future.

Related: Are These Bad Money Habits Making You Broke?


BIG shopping carts and a lack of baskets

Due to traveling full-time, we visit a lot of different stores and chains. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that a lot of stores no longer have baskets.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that offering baskets usually means that you’ll buy less stuff. I know this is true for me- I usually pick up a basket so that I am forced to stick to my list. After all, there are only so many things that I can realistically carry before it feels like my arms will fall off!

Stores are also moving towards larger shopping carts. This is because it’ll seem like you aren’t buying that many things when your cart looks empty. Plus, with a larger shopping cart, you are able to carry more things.

My top retail sales tip for this instance is to always stick to your list. And, if they have a basket and you think everything will fit in a basket, try to stick with just that!


The most expensive items are usually at eye level

The most expensive items on a shelf are usually right at eye level. This is because it’s what you see first. Usually the least profitable items and the ones that are the cheapest are on the very bottom shelf.

Due to this, my tip is that you should always look at all of the shelves to make sure that you’re receiving the best deal.


Free shipping with $XX purchase

Many online retailers will offer free shipping, or even a free item, if you spend over a certain dollar amount. Retailers aren’t dumb, though, and they definitely aren’t losing out on money by giving things away. Retailers know that a person is much more likely to spend money if they think they are getting something for free.

Also, if a person is right below the free shipping requirement, they may end up spending a lot of money in order to get the free shipping. This is because their purchase, in their eyes, looks to be like a better value.


Mixing up the store layout

Have you ever been to a store and been a tad angry because they completely changed the layout on you, and now you don’t know where anything is?

Well, stores do this on purpose.

By changing up the aisles and layout, a person then has to search harder for what they want. Meaning you may then come across items that you didn’t know they had, and items you didn’t know you needed. This gives the retail store more of an opportunity to sell you things.

What other retail store tricks do you know of? What retail sales tips do you have to share?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I wrote a post about scarcity marketing earlier this week – you know, where they limit inventory to create demand. These marketing techniques are real – and they work!

  2. Haha yes the infamous 10 for $10 deal. My wife and I always joke about this one… “do we really have to buy 10?!” No, usually you don’t, but reading the fine print would be a good idea. Have to run into the store for a quick gallon of milk? You’ll have to go all the way to the back of the store… and pass many other tempting items. I don’t blame these stores for pulling out the tricks, but it’s up to us as consumer to recognize them.

    1. Yes, reading the fine print is always a good idea!

  3. Lindsey

    These are such great tips to have on hand before going into the store. I can’t tell you how many of these schemes I see just within my grocery store! My favorite scheme is the waived shopping fee with you spend $100. I usually never come close to that!

  4. Pamela

    The biggest *trick* that has gotten my attention as of late is when a store offers items Buy one Get One 50% off. I just bet some people just see the 50% and don’t realize that is really just a discount of 25% off each item. Plus you have to purchase 2 to get that special “deal”.

  5. I’ll admit that the free food trick often works on me at Costco where the food is almost always delicious. I don’t always buy the thing they’re doling out samples for, but if it’s tasty and fits in with my regular meal prep style, then they’ve got me for sure lol

    The Buy 10 for 10 dollars things is interesting… where I’m from, by law they have to let you buy one for $1 if it’s 10 for $10 for example (or whatever it works out to depending on the deal) – and although they put that on the sign (albeit in tiny print), I’m sure many people miss it – your advice to read the fine print is good!

    1. Yes, same here when it comes to the free food trick. I just can’t help myself, haha.

  6. Do you know also real estate use this method, 129.990 is more appealing of 130.000 but this post is really really informative, thanks for sharing!

  7. Daniel Palmer

    Grocery stores will often have a few big ticket items (30 pack beers, etc) on display near the entry- you’re more likely to put it in your cart when the cart is empty vs full.

    Also, will prominently advertise/display items that require compliments (get someone to buy hotdog buns, likely will also buy ketchup, mustard, hotdogs, chips).

  8. Retailers are clever and with all of the new technology they are always figuring out new ways to get more of our money. Those $1-3 bins when you enter Target are a good example of the way a store is set up to distract you from your original purpose. When I worked in retail, the end of aisle items were also set up in a strategic way- good things to keep in mind when trying to save more and spend less:]

  9. These are awesome tips! Thank you for sharing the info! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. This is precisely why I hate shopping. I was an advertising major in school, so luckily I’m already aware of some of these little tricks and gimmicks. It’s hard to sway me, lol.

  11. The stores can be quite clever. I’m sure I’ve fell for some of these more than a time or two, but I’m glad I know now!

    1. Yes, they can definitely be clever ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Great advice. Another thing that I see is that highest margin items are generally at perimeter and/or front of store, so you see these first. This is also why in clothing store you see the discount items at the back.

  13. I recently stocked up on tons of fragrances and spent close to or more than $600. I’m going to chill out for a while because retailers didn’t have to run game on me. I’m guilty of being the one looking for discount fragrance prices from famous fragrance retailers…lol