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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.