Sneaky Retail Traps To Avoid

Although the economy seems to be recovering from the latest recession, consumers still look for the best deals they can get when they go shopping. Nobody wants to spend more than they have to. However, some retailers still use shifty sales hooks to get into the consumers' wallets by creating seemingly irresistible offers. The slashed prices and sometimes outrageous promotions will draw shoppers to their stores, but inevitably, shoppers end up actually spending more money than they'd planned on. Retailers can be relentless, but we're here to help you avoid these sales tactics and keep hold of your cash and credit for the real bargains.

1. The Free Shipping Offer

Consumers are shopping online more now than ever. And who doesn't want free shipping? But when you have to order a certain dollar amount to get that free shipping, you'll no doubt spend more than you wanted to in the first place.

The retail industry calls these deals "threshold offers." When you meet the threshold, you get free shipping. "Free Shipping on Orders of $25 or more." If you do enough shopping on Amazon, you're probably familiar with this tactic.

Yes, the shops make more sales because they're concerned with their bottom line. But when the item you're looking for is only $9.99 and you want that "free shipping," you may end up buying things you don't need just to reach that $25 threshold. In essence, you're spending more than it would have cost you just to pay for the shipping.

Be aware of this tactic and before you go spending more to get "free" shipping, head over to and look for a coupon for that retailer. Or if the purchase can wait, buy when the retailer offers free shipping without the threshold catch.

2. New Store Credit Card Discounts

We've all heard it when we hit the checkout counter. "You can save 10% today if you open a new credit card with us today." Some retailers even set up promotion booths at the front of their stores with sales clerks ready for gullible shoppers.

Use caution with these pitches. Many have such low credit limits combined with high interest rates that it costs more money to use their card than you get with the discount. So you're not saving money, you're spending more!

Online retailers are great at this tactic too, highlighting their store discounts and savings when you use their card. "Discount prices with Amazon Prime" comes to mind.

But you can get similar discounts by signing up with sites like and get genuine discounts without paying more on credit card fees.

3. Clearance Sales

You walk into the store and the first thing you see are all of the items the store has on clearance. They put bright signs everywhere: "Clearance Sale!" Walmart is very good at this.

Now if you went to the store to purchase items that just happen to be on those clearance shelves, you are going to save money. But don't be bribed into buying things on impulse that you don't need or want just because they're marked down on clearance.

4. Pricing Gimmicks

Did you know that not every item in Walmart or on Amazon is priced lower than any other retailer? You might think so because many of the items are deeply discounted.

But what many retailers do is slash prices on some items in their stores, like Walmart's "Rollback" prices, while increasing prices on other items around the store. While you're spending less on their Rollback items, you may be spending more on other items you need. In essence, you're not realizing any savings at all.

Be a savvy shopper. Do some price comparisons while you shop. Sometimes you can get a better deal on items by shopping at places like Aldi's or other discount and liquidation stores instead of buying everything at one place.

5. Limited Time Only Deals

Just about every retailer uses this gimmick. They choose select items, slash the prices and then create urgency to get shoppers to buy, buy, buy. Don't fall for this tactic. There is no "Hurry Before They're Gone!" These items will be on sale again later, not just within the next 24 or 48 hours. Retailers will always restock and have another sale.

6. The "Buy More-Save More" Paradox

When you buy more items, you spend more money. Period. It's all in the numbers. You may think you're saving money by getting discounts on your items, but if you have to spend a certain amount to get those discounts, you're literally spending more money, not saving it.

So don't fall for this shifty sales hook if you need to keep more of your money in your wallet.

7. Smoke and Mirrors in the Dressing Room

Have you ever walked through a Fun House full of mirrors? In some reflections you're taller and thinner? Did you know that by adjusting the lighting and angles of mirrors you seem to look your absolute best?

Well, stores with dressing rooms know that if you look great in their dressing rooms, you're more likely to part with your money and buy that new outfit, regardless of the price tag or their return policy.

Before you take anything into the dressing room, double-check the price tag and be sure you can return it for a full refund. You may get home and look in your own mirror and not quite like what you see after all.

8. Bounce Back Coupons

You may or may not be familiar with these types of deals if you don't pay much attention to the backs of your receipts when you shop. Many times these coupons are only generated if you spend a certain amount at the store. They also have expiration dates to entice you to come back and spend more money before the coupon expires.

Some of these bounce back coupons are offered if you spend a certain amount during a first visit to the store, also as an incentive to return and spend more money.

The best way to be a savvy shopper and spend less money is not to fall for the scheme. If you intend to go back to that store, you won't need an incentive to spend more while you're there. Get what you went for, and if you happen to get one of those bounce back coupons, only use it if you really need or want more items.

Develop Your Own Deal Strategies

Instead of allowing yourself to be enticed by any of the above shifty sales hooks to spend more money, get in the habit of looking for real deals. If a store that you shop at frequently offers a free store discount card, like a shopper's club card, get one.

Each time you shop, reward points get accumulated. Once you reach a certain amount of points, you can redeem them on any item in the store and get discounts.

Other ways to save money is to shop during "blowout" sales like President's Day, right after Christmas, End of Summer Sales, for example. These are the best times to find slashed prices on overstock or out of season items that you can buy cheap and have on hand for later.

Be a savvy shopper. Watch your budget and get to know what time of year your favorite stores have their big discounted sales and you can rack up a lot of bargains in the process.

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