Ways Stores Trick you Into Spending More

Scoring a bargain can feel like an amazing rush. You are probably enticed by big bold numbers and a language that tells you now is the time to buy. The thing is, many retailers use persuasive language and choose numbers for a particular reason in order to appear as though this is the bargain of the century. In reality, however, they are playing you for a sucker. Here are four sneaky ways stores use language to trick you into spending more. 

Oftentimes, this is called price psychology. There are tactics that retailers use in order to get you to buy more or buy something only because you think it is a deal. In most cases, it is indeed not the greatest deal you have been privy to. You probably are wondering now how in the world retailers are tricking you through price psychology. Look no further. 

Charm Pricing

This is definitely one that you’ve seen, but it probably gets your more times than not. It is the tactic of reducing the price by a single penny to sound more enticing or charming. For example, let’s say the price is $3 for an item, but instead, the retailer will list it at $2.99. It is basically the same price but your brain processes the number differently. In your head, $2.99 is closer to $2 than to $3. Many retailers have found that numbers ending in 9 outperform other numbers, even if it is more expensive.

This is also called the left digit effect. A study found that if the left digit was not changed, for example, the price was $3.40 vs. $3.49, it did not increase sales. Whether you call the “charm” or “left digit” effect, it all means the same same thing. Changing the digit on the left will have a bigger impact on you and sales in general.


Who doesn’t like a good ol’ buy one get one sale? Sometimes it is buy one get one free or get one 50% off. Either way, it always feels like one heck of a sale. Essentially, this tactic throws logic out the window. You wouldn’t probably pay full price for the item, but with the chance to score a little extra deal, now you will do just that. It is super easy to take the bait.

Since this tactic is getting a little old, some retailers are trying to sweeten the deal. You must ask yourself if you really need all the extras they seem to be throwing in. For example, they throw things in like:

  • Buy one and get 25 percent off your next purchase.
  • Buy one and get four bonuses valued at $50, for free.
  • Buy one, get three for free.

Visual Representation of the Prices

Comparative prices are great when they are visual. Most retailers do not just post a sign that says sale and then the current price. Psychological pricing comes into play when they showcase the old price next to the new sale. It makes sense. They want you to see how big of a bargain you are getting.

Additionally, the new price might be a different font, a larger size or different color. This is all to draw your attention to the new price. Your brain automatically thinks the price difference is bigger and better when they use this tactic.

Using Artificial Time Constraints

Time is of the essence in many cases of bargain shopping. Urgency tends to get people to drop a few extra bucks. You have definitely seen the words before: “today only 50% off” or a combo of BOGO and time with “today only, BOGO free!”

As a consumer, you might be afraid of the sale ending and retailers use that to their advantage. They know you would rather score a deal if they add time constraints than wait til next week to see if there are any deals left over. It’s like playing a game of hard to get. You can only get it now or you are stuck either paying a higher price or walking away empty-handed. Who wants to walk away with nothing?

Final Thoughts

The price psychology is very fascinating once you understand how retailers are grabbing your attention and sucking you into a “sale.” In reality, you could be scoring a deal, but you must be honest with your purchases at the same time. Is it something you need or are you more in love with the price? Have you researched the true value of the product you are buying? Be smart and aware when you go shopping at your favorite retail store.