The holidays are upon us. We are faced with longer lists of thing to buy, a limited amount of time to do the shopping and a limited amount of money. Stores are trying to maximize their profits. There is a reason that they call it Black Friday. That is the day many of our stores enter into the profitable range for the year.
Considering what’s going on in Alaska’s economy, many of us have been on a tighter budget this year. If this is your case or if you are among those of us who just want to get the most out of your budget, it pays for us to understand the psychology of selling. What ploys do the stores use to separate you from your hard-earned money?
Watch for cheap come-ons. As you head for the store, you are met at the door with a flurry of inexpensive items to purchase. These are “open your wallet” items. Once you put one item in your cart, you’ll finish filling it up. That one inexpensive item is just like priming a pump. You’ll spend more.
That shiny shopping cart just might enhance your shopping habits as well. Nature abhors a vacuum or an empty shopping cart. If you only want a few items, carry them. The minute you switch to a basket, or from there to a cart, you will put more items in there. Martin Lindstrom, a grocery store consultant, reported an experiment where doubling the size of a cart increased the purchases by 40 percent.
The stores are filled with holiday colors. But did you realize that the color red will entice you to spend more? A study published in the journal Emotion shows that people react faster and more forcefully when they see the color red. Red stimulates and energizes the brain, causing you to act — in this case, to buy.
The stores are crowded and we are far more inclined to want to be “part of the group” by purchasing something. In addition, crowds bring out the competitive spirit in us. No way is someone else going to get a good deal without us getting the same good deal ourselves. All you have to do is view the shoppers on Black Friday to see this competitiveness. The lines start forming outside the store far before it opens.
Lest you think that you’ll beat the stores by shopping at home on the computer, the internet markets have our number as well. Your favorite website may have free shopping, but it only kicks in at a certain dollar amount. I personally have found myself searching for another item to purchase to raise my online cart over the $50 or $75 limit. If you are purchasing something you don’t need, you are better off paying the shipping. It may just cost less than another item.
Sites that offer free shipping regardless of your purchase cost are also ensuring that you will always turn to that site. Amazon Prime has ensured our continued business by having a flat fee for shipping for the year. In one way, it is smart to look at sites with free shipping first but only if you are sure that you are getting the best price on whatever items you are purchasing.
Each site wants to become your favorite. You are more likely to purchase something on a site that already has your credit card number entered. Whether it is because we are lazy about re-entering all those numbers, or we are simply not wanting to open another account and leave a digital footprint that can be stolen, the result is the same. We buy where our credit card information is already recorded.
This holiday season, buy what you need, but don’t fall into the trap of spending more than you intended. Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201.