Top Tricks Companies Use to Make You Think You’re Getting a Deal

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Nobody wants to pay full price when they go shopping if they can find a great deal, discount or sale. Companies know this and they have put together a number of tricks to make you believe you are getting the best possible price when you might really give in to smart psychology or get carried away. “The key is getting consumers to believe they save money more often by giving them enough evidence of these savings to justify these savings,” said Tasha Holland Cornegay, PhD, mental health therapist and founder of, a deals site for healthcare workers. the purchase “.

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Companies know that consumers are not likely to do the research to determine if this discount or sale is actually a good deal. “With a little skepticism and vigilance, consumers can avoid cheating prices and feel comfortable with those great products they bring home,” she said.

But first, you need to know the tricks you’re facing.

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If a company can make you believe there’s a limited supply of something you want, you’ll probably buy it, and believe you’re getting a good deal when you buy it, said Emily Cooper, founder of luxury Italian menswear brand Oliver Weeks.

In fact, a relatively famous study in 1975 asked 200 participants to rate the value of cookies inside identical cookie jars, one containing 10 cookies and the other containing only two. “Surprisingly, cookies in the empty container are considered more valuable,” said Susan Meloni, founder and editor-in-chief of “Today, airlines and other companies often use the concept of scarcity – ‘There are only a few seats left at this price! “

Learn more: 15 Times You Should Brag, Settle, or Skip When Shopping

Loyalty Cards / Rewards Programs

You likely have one or more loyalty cards in your wallet right now, from Target to CVS and several loyalty cards in between, that either reward you with points for the number of times you shop or offer special member-only discounts. said Robert Banks, founder of MrStocks. “You are subconsciously connected that you will be rewarded if you keep coming back to them…” However, what really happens is that most of the time you spend more than you intended.


If you’re shopping online, you’re likely to fall prey to a psychological concept known as “priming,” Meloni said. A primer, according to Better Marketing is “the act of presenting a stimulus to influence how people respond to a subsequent stimulus. In marketing, it’s a way of forming user expectations….” Melony explains how the background of the webpage you’re viewing may influence your attention, and thus your purchases. “The researchers evaluated how a web page’s background affects individuals wanting to buy a car,” she said. “Consumers spent more time looking at cost information when the background was green with pennies on it, while they started looking at the safety part when the background was red with flames on.”

horn sale

Especially at crucial times during the year, retailers often announce “special” sales like a birthday sale, Labor Day sale, or just a random sale that seems big, said Kristen Daup, founding editor of byCurated. “When you walk around the store, you’re overwhelmed with the sale labels where price tags usually are. What the store doesn’t tell you is that most items are marked at only a fraction of their regular price. So while you might save a dollar or two per item, your total savings isn’t Closer than you first thought.”

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out of stock

Another common trick plays as bait and switch, Daub said: “You see an ad for a deal that’s too good to be true. You almost don’t believe it’s true, but the ad is from a trusted brand. So, you rush into the store, ready to take the deal of a lifetime with you to the home “. Except, when you arrive, the item is out of stock. But retail banks are aware of the fact that since you’re there, you’re likely to buy some things anyway.

decoy effect

There’s another psychological trick that retailers play on you and it’s known as the “decoy effect,” said Christine Optin, director of marketplace at Redde Payments. In this case, “the consumer changes his mind between two options when presented with a third option known as a ‘decoy.’ She gave an example of having three coffee options: small for $2, medium for $4.50, and large for $5.” You can see that If you consider a medium, you can get much larger coffee for just 50 cents with the high volume. Consumers will naturally buy the more expensive option, which is exactly what the seller wants.” The average price is usually a decoy.


Another trick that you may have seen and benefited from is the Free Buy One Get One (or BOGO) method. Uptain said the seller on a BOGO sale makes more money than a standard sale, but you think you’ve come up with a better deal.

While there are many tricks in the game, if you like the deal you get on an item, it doesn’t really matter what the retailer has done to get you to buy it.

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Last update: October 27, 2021

About the author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a BA from Sonoma State University and an MA in Foreign Affairs from Bennington College. Her articles and articles on finance and other topics have appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rate, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and several Business clients. As someone who has had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower people and educate them on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.