Five Tricks Retailers Use

Every time that you make a purchase, you are working within the retail system:  they offer a product that you want, you check out the price, and you decide whether you want to purchase the product at that price.  Sometimes you can negotiate the price, like on a car or other large purchase.  However, there are tricks that certain merchants will use to make it harder to figure out the actual price, or come to a sensible agreement on a price.  If you know the tricks, you will be able to make better decisions and wiser purchases.

So, what are these tricks?

  1. Bait and Switch:  There are a number of variations on this maneuver.  Usually it involved advertising a product at a great price, but either being out-of-stock on the item or having only a very few.  Once you are in the store, the sales people can then upsell you to a more expensive purchase.
  2. Limited Offer/One Day Only/Last One:  These tactics are becoming commonplace in American retailing.   These offers benefit the retailer because you don't have time to comparison shop before the offer is gone.
  3. Low Monthly Payments:  In this scenario, the salesperson concentrates on the amount of the monthly payment instead of the price of the object.  Often you will be deflected if you ask the sales price.   Persistence will pay off in this situation.
  4. Individual prices for the parts:  This happens with cameras, cell phones, all sorts of things.  Want a charger for that?  Only $19.99!  Be sure to find out what is and isn't included before agreeing to a purchase.  Sometimes they are things that you wouldn't even think of – I recently purchased a new printer, and had to go back to buy a cord to hook it up to the computer.  Silly me, I just figured that it would have a cord in the box!
  5. Silly negotiation tactics:  There are a variety of these, including the famous "let me talk to my manager" ploy, where the sales person goes off to confer with his or her boss.  This wastes your time and gets you emotionally involved in the purchase.  Other variations include keeping you in the store or showroom after closing time, which makes you feel obligated to make a purchase, or adding up the total incorrectly in hopes that you'll agree to a higher number. 

There are an infinite number of variations on these ways that stores and salespeople can manipulate us into spending now and spending more.  Of course, most stores and sales people are honest and not trying to be deceiving.  It does seem, however, that these strategies are becoming more mainstream.  If you know them and remain alert, you'll be able to make good shopping choices.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • CARL B

    I couldn’t agree more. There is another item that wasn’t mentioned that probably should be. Some banks, like Bank of America, have negotiated with dealerships to give the consumer lower interest rates and the dealerships are supposed to let you, the consumer, know about the different financing rates.
    Ford of Ocala (FL) does not do this. Ford Credit was at the time over 11.5% and BOA was just under 6% and the term was shorter, which would have saved lots of money. Another thing you DO NOT NEED is GAP Insurance. That $800.00 would be better put to use outside the deal. Remember, in most states, you pay the sales tax on things like that.
    I ended up refinancing with another bank. The original debt 22,000 +/-. 72 mos =$444.00 per mo.
    Refinanced $22,000 +/- for 60 mos, the payment went to $460. Even though it went up on the payment $20.00, I save over $1,300.00 in interest charges for just 12 months difference!!!
    Bottom line, it’s a buyer’s market. Shop the banks before you shop for a car. I know it’s a hassle, but for $1300 in savings, it’s worth it.
    Florida does charge fees for loans ($100 per 10k) plus other fees. It will definitely save money to look and compare first and don’t allow them to force feed Ford Credit or GMAC or Chrysler Credit or whatever on you. It’s your money.
    The dealerships can also initiate loan papers with BOA or whatever institution you want to use. See a KNOWLEDGEABLE finance counselor.
    Finally, what was said earlier about closing and making you feel guilty into buying is another thing Ford of Ocala does. It took them 9 1/2 hours to do the paperwork on the truck I bought and then they wanted me to give the salesman a glowing recommendation! FOR-GET IT!
    I got railroaded by this place. I did get most of my money back (gap insurance-Note: cancel it as soon as you REFINANCE. The money will come back to you. Otherwise, it will go to pay off the note at whoever financed it first Ford, GMAC, etc.), but the time it took to get it back and the unnecessary inconvience, made it seem less inviting.

  • Jim F

    When Montgomery Wards was still in operation, they used a tactic others might be using. They would have about 30 of the same item, refridgerators, washers or whatever lined up with a special sign on them. They would leave the special sign on them for a month or more and maybe sell one or two of them. Then they would have a sale and sell almost all of them. The sale price was the regular retail price, but everyone thought they were getting a bargain.

  • Loree

    Walmart, put a lower price in front of their item and when you get to the counter it ring for more, sometimes double. If you don’t pay close attention to the register you will have bought items that you may not need for much higher price then you want.

  • Gosh, businesses can be so sly. I always avoid personal interaction and decline offers of assistance when I shop – I prefer to browse and make a decision on my own. Only if I have a question that the product packaging can’t answer do I ask questions.
    It’s hard not to get sucked into limited and 1-day only offers, but remember that there will always be other opportunities and stores.

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