23 Tricks Retailers Use to Get You to Spend More

Two people window shopping

Don’t let retailers trick you into spending more of your hard-earned dough.

Stores and restaurants have a massive bag of tricks they use to get you to buy their stuff. But we’re going to tell you how you can avoid these traps and put that money toward more carefully planned purchases.

It’s like when a magician explains how he made his rabbit disappear. Once you know how it’s done, the magic is gone. We hope that by telling you about these spending tricks, you’ll be able to keep the magic where it belongs — in your wallet.


People shopping for clothes

1. Cents Pricing: Believe it or not, the two digits after the decimal in an item’s price ($19.99) can influence your opinion.

2. 5 for $5: Stores create an urge to buy more by advertising 10 yogurts for $7. This is to make you think you get a deal by buying 10 instead of just getting one or two at the reduced price.

3. Anchor Pricing: Say you find a jacket you like but it costs $400, so you put it back. Then you see right next to it a similar jacket that’s only $100. Stores do this to make the less expensive jacket look like a steal.

4. Goldilocks Pricing: Similar products are grouped in 3’s — priced low, medium, and high — to make the medium-priced item seem like a deal compared to the more expensive one and better quality than the lowest-priced one.

  • Ending with a “9” or “8” ($5.98, $16.49): Makes it look like a good deal
  • Ending with “00” ($5.00, $16.00): Gives the impression of higher quality
  • Ending with random numbers ($5.87, $16.46): The price looks to be reduced as low as possible

5. The Dollar Sign: Research shows menus that include prices without dollar signs (Truffle Fries, 9) get you to spend more than menus with prices that include dollar signs (Truffle Fries, $9) or even menus with the prices written out in words (Truffle Fries, Nine Dollars).THEY APPEAL TO YOUR SENSES.

6. Sound: Slower or nostalgic songs are calming, which encourages lingering in grocery and clothing stores. While faster music speeds up your heart rate, so you eat faster in restaurants.

7. Sight: The red in restaurant logos triggers hunger and stores rose-tint the mirrors in their fitting rooms to make you look more attractive (like that’s even possible, though, right?). But red’s not the only color that can affect your spending, all colors affect you differently.

  • Yellow — grabs attention
  • Red — creates urgency
  • Blue — builds trust and security
  • Green — relaxes
  • Orange — encourages decisions
  • Pink — presents romance
  • Black — suggests luxury
  • Purple — soothes and calms

8. Taste: Stores give out free samples to trigger your appetite, which makes you shop hungry and buy food you don’t need.

9. Smell: The smell of cinnamon has been shown to make you want to buy. That’s why every candle shop always has its doors open and why you suddenly crave cinnamon buns when you walk through the mall.

10. Touch: No matter whether you’re male or female when a female salesperson invades your personal space and touches you, you’re more likely to buy. Plus if you touch something while shopping, you bond with it and are more likely to buy it.


Clothing store

11. Staples in the Back: Supermarkets put staples such as milk and eggs in the back of the store so you have to pass everything else to get to them.

12. Brand Names at Eye Level: Brand names often sit at eye level on shelves so you see the things you’re familiar with first.

13. Bargain Bins Near Entrances: Slashed prices and piles of sales are eye-grabbing and draw you into stores you had no intention of going into in the first place.

14. Going the Distance: Retailers like to place items you usually buy at the same time far apart from each other. This way, you stroll past other tempting purchases as you walk from the bread to the peanut butter.

15. Long Lines: Stores limit the number of cashiers to create longer lines. This has you waiting alongside impulse buys like gum, gift cards, and People magazines.

16. Counterclockwise Store Flow: Yep, the direction you walk in a store can make you spend more money. Merchants know that having their store flow counterclockwise puts you at ease, so you’re in less of a hurry to leave.

17. Per-Customer Limits: “Limit 3 per customer” is a trick retailers use to create the illusion of scarcity or crazy savings. Just because you can only buy 3 inexpensive power drills doesn’t mean you should.

18. Larger Shopping Carts: Having 1 or 2 items in a shopping cart that could fit a baby elephant can make you feel like you’re not buying enough. Try grabbing a handbasket instead and limiting what you buy to what you can carry.

19. “Free” Deals: We’re suckers for BOGO (buy one, get one) deals and “free shipping with purchases over $75” because free stuff is awesome but it’s still going to cost you.

20. Personalized Ads: Sites can personalize online shopping by tracking your cookies — information packets unique to every webpage. That’s why you’re only seeing ads for those shoes you looked at earlier on every website.

21. Loyalty Cards: Loyalty cards are great for deals and rewards at your favorite stores, but stores use them to more accurately send you deals and coupons for things you already buy so you’ll buy even more of those items.

22. Gender-Focused Merchandise: Marketing can target either men or women when it comes to razors, soaps, and even sodas, sometimes at higher prices. There is plenty of money-saving, gender-neutral alternatives no matter who you are.

23. Shopping Speed Bumps: Stores place actual speed bumps — changes in the height of the floor — to subconsciously slow you down so you’ll look around and linger more and, in turn, buy more things.

Knowing is Only Half The Battle

Now that you know more about the tricks retailers use to influence your spending, you can take away their magic. Become the wallet wizard you were always destined to be.