the evil ploy of retailers - part 2 (5/8)

Read first: the truth about black friday – part 4

The retailers these days set up multiple traps both in stores and online, and due to these clever marketing strategies, they are winning big. It’s rare to see a cart with just one item in it. The giant corporations are doing all they can to keep us buying more and as consumers, it gets really hard for us to not submit to these appealing offers.  

This had led to manic over-consumerism in our current culture today that is now known as the “Target effect”, which is defined as: The result of going into a store, intending to buy a few things, and leaving with much more.

Marketers these days have many tricks up their sleeves to get us to buy more than what we truly need.  

Many retailers “recycle” Black Friday ads with the same deal pricing on some products from year to year. While consumers come to expect deeper discounts each year on a wider variety of products new and old, this hardly happens. A recent study reported that 90% of the stores had Black Friday “doorbuster” deals that existed the previous last year. The same study found retailers would often try to trick shoppers on Black Friday with knockoff deals from no names, shady rebate offers, and misleading original price tags.

On Black Friday, retailers create the illusion that you’re getting an enormous discount by reducing a product’s price by some significant percentage. But in truth, the “sale price” is often what they intended to sell the product for in the first place.

Marketers invade newspapers, TV, magazines, radio, billboards, you name it. It’s hard to escape advertisements and special offers, whether you’re out on the street, or online, the latter being full of marketing landmines these days.

Most e-commerce sites employ what are called “cookies” to track online shoppers. These tiny computer files store information about our browsing and purchasing habits, so when we return to a particular site the retailer serves up targeted offers based on how we behaved in the past. This practice can be troublesome to online consumers who don’t regularly bargain shop. An online shopper whose cookies indicate they are consistently willing to pay full price might not see the same Black Friday deals and promotions as someone whose cookies communicate a preference for discount offers, promo codes and clearance sales. That’s why it’s recommended to shop online using a web browser set to “incognito mode”. This masks your previous cookies, so the retailer site won’t recognize you by your past shopping habits.

Retailers have also found that offering free shipping is an effective way to get online shoppers to load up their carts. However, some retailers only offer this perk if we spend a certain amount, such as $35 or more per order. But if we keep adding extra items that we don’t need to our cart just to hit the minimum purchase amount, we’re not really saving money in the end, are we?

Lisa Rowan, personal finance expert at The Penny Hoarder, also warns, “One trap shoppers fall into is miscalculating the total amount of the purchase before checking out. Shipping costs are calculated after Black Friday discounts have been taken off at checkout. So even if you think you’re purchasing enough to get free shipping, you might find that you’re still a few dollars away from getting that benefit.” That’s why it’s best to fight the urge to spend more online simply to get the free shipping benefit.

Social media sites also keep the retailers happy by letting them advertise and reduce the friction to sales by using tags that directly link to their products. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

In spite of these devious practices employed by the retailers, unfortunately, most people actually don’t care. In fact, they want more of it. It’s sad but on Black Friday, we all consume gluttonously without regard for the damage we’re inflicting on ourselves and our finances. We let our greedy selves loose and we run around buying things in order to satisfy the insatiable hunger within us, and to try to fill the void within us that can’t be filled by stuff. 

It’s a shame that shopping has become such a major pastime among us. As Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus write in their blog, “Shopping. This one word, although birthed from great intentions, has fundamentally changed our outlook from blissful to grim, from jolly to anxious, from celebrating Christmas to surviving the holidays. It’s upsetting, and with consumption’s vicious inertia, it seems there’s no way for us to exit the speeding train of consumerism.”

Read next: the truth about black friday – part 6