We hate Math, too! – Sneaky little Sales Tricks that you fall for

Pricing policies of stores and retailers tend to elicit two different reactions from me: they either make me giggle like a five-year-old on a sugar rush or they make me roll my eyes so hard I’m afraid they will stay at the back of my head.

Let me explain the first reaction first.

When I see a sale sign on a window display I immediately go into shopaholic mode. That’s because I’m a girl. And I’m human. Surveys have shown that just seeing the word “sale” evokes certain brain reactions in people. It’s the opportunity of getting a product for less money that makes us think we made a good deal.  In that certain situation, not buying feels like missing out on a chance. Therefore we buy things even though we might not need them.

Retailers know this weakness and they do everything they can in order to hit that bull’s-eye. They use sneaky little tricks like flattery for the customer, timed sales or scents marketing. Bloomingdales for example diffuses coconut spray in their swimsuit department to create that beachy and sunny atmosphere. The most common sales trick however is playing around with words. What sounds better: buy one and get the second for 50% off or buy two and get both for 25% off? Another thing stores do is making the 70% sign the largest part of the window display even though only a few pieces are affected by that percentage. Apart from that the initial price is often marked up so that it seems like the discount is very huge.

All of this leads me to the explanation of my second reaction: the eye-rolling.

I admit that a sale makes my body all tingly because it means same clothes for less money. However I do realize that a sale is not a gift from the store managers, it’s just another way of making profit. Do retail stores really think customers are oblivious to their pricing strategies? Do they really think we need 100 red “sale” stickers, 20 “70%” signs and the word “SALE” printed out in the font size 100000 on a single window display? I don’t think so. Some sale strategies are just too obvious. Others are even worse: they are stupid.

Let me give you an example. Last week I went to the Australian retailer Cotton On. They offered a revolutionary deal: one shirt for €20; two shirts for €15. Seriously? What am I even supposed to do with that deal? Say no to the second shirt?

Another example comes from the American store Target. The retailer currently sells four 3-packs of Red Bull for $ 16.47 and one 12-pack of the soda for $ 17.99. Now do the math.

Yes, you are correct. Target offers the same amount of the same product at two different prices. Yet, the deal is still labeled as a price cut. Clearly someone at target needs a new calculator.

That just makes my eyes roll.

You see not every sale is a lucrative deal for the customer, so think before you buy or you will shop until your bank balance drops!

Recap: What you need to remember – the most common sales tricks:

  • flattery
  • manufactured scarcity
  • marking down the markup
  • playing around with words and numbers

Ps: For those of you who feel brave enough to take on the bewildering world of pricing policies and sales: H&M Germany is currently having an exclusive sale for their facebook fans. Everyone who likes H&M’s facebook page will get a 35% discount on one piece of clothing they choose. The sale lasts until the 13th of May.