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Top 10 Ways Companies Scam You Into Spending More $$$

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Michael Wynands.

Ever ask yourself: how do marketers trick consumers? There are lots of retail sales tricks and advertising tricks and techniques that explain how stores make you spend more. Whether it’s the layout of the supermarket, buy one get one half price sales or even dropping the dollar sign from prices, this is how companies trick consumers. WatchMojo counts down ten ways advertising persuades consumers to buy products.

Special thanks to our user EmJay for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/The%20Top%20Ten%2010%20Ways%20You're%20Secretly%20Tricked%20By%20Companies


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Script written by Michael Wynands.

Top 10 Ways Companies Scam You Into Spending More $$$

We’re all puppets in a material world… and these are how they pull our strings. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 ways you’re secretly being tricked by companies.

For this list, we’re looking at the techniques, strategies and tactics employed by businesses and marketing agencies that get us to buy more, even when it’s not in our best interest.

#10: Manufactured Trustworthiness

While most of us have given up on the idea of only working with companies we personally know, trust still plays a factor. Enter: the marketing department. Large companies can’t realistically send their most endearing employee to meet you, but they can put their best face forward to inspire confidence in their brand through advertising. From hiring well-respected spokespeople to casting actors with trustworthy facial features, companies know how to inspire faith in their brand regardless of the actual quality of the products or services they offer.

#9: The Illusion of Bulk Value

To a certain extent, the more product a company can move, the lower their cost per unit, so naturally they encourage customers to buy in bulk. But does bulk purchasing actually benefit the consumer, as advertising suggests? In reality the savings are marginal, and you may end up taking home more of a product than you actually need. If it’s something with a short shelf life then you’ll likely waste what you don’t use, hurting the overall value of what you bought. Worse yet, sometimes bulk bargains aren’t even a deal, but rather deceptive wording. Being excited about buying four items at $10 just means you’re spending $2.50 a unit… even if you’re just buying one.

#8: The Supermarket Layout

When attempting to navigate your local mega supermarket, do you ever feel like a rat in a maze desperately searching for the handful of items you want? Grocery stores aren’t thrown together haphazardly, they’re strategically designed to keep you distracted and tempted to buy at every opportunity. The essentials you most likely need have been spread out, to maximize the ground you have to cover to find each one. The end result is more impulse purchases and unintended spending.

#7: Buy One, Get One Half Price

When perceived savings are dangled in front of you, it can be very hard to say no. But when purchasing one item gets you another at 50% percent off, you need to stop and look at the big picture. The first item you purchase is usually at full retail price. If you’re at, for example, a shoe store that you visit regularly, you need to ask yourself, aren’t these shoes almost always being advertised at 25% to 40% off anyway? By buying one pair at full price, and a second at half price, you’re pretty much just buying two pairs of shoes, at the price they usually charge, when you probably only need one pair.

#6: Deceptive Labeling

This one really hurts, and not just the pocketbook either. Ingredient lists and nutritional information is supposed to be listed to help us make informed decisions, but the reality is that many processed food companies are doing everything in their power to keep us in the dark. They hide ingredients in blanket terms, and use intentionally dense terminology to avoid telling you exactly what’s in the product you’re eating. Of course, there’s also the use of buzzwords. “All-Natural” has no legal definition as it applies to food and can essentially be slapped on anything, while “fat-free” and “sugar-free” don’t automatically translate into “healthy” either.

#5: Dropping the “$”

You’ll most often see this little gimmick on restaurant menus. Where the prices are listed, there will be numbers, but without the “dollar” sign beside them. Though the monetary connotation is obviously implied, you likely don’t think about the omission of this symbol. On a subconscious level that missing dollar sign actually has a significant effect on you, one that’s estimated to cost you an 8% increase on spending – and restaurants bank on this. It seems that our psychological association with the almighty dollar is so strong that just by hiding it, we become less financially conservative. Menu design… it’s craftier than you’d think.

#4: The Illusion of Scarcity

“While supplies last.” Three seemingly innocuous words that, when strung together, cause our consumer hearts to fill with anxiety. Although you may not be committed to getting a particular product, knowing that you could miss out on the opportunity to purchase it, particularly at a reduced price, can serve as a strong motivator to make the sale. People hate missing out, but scarcity works as a long-term marketing strategy too. By marketing diamonds or gold as inherently rare, or offering limited edition products, companies make us believe that these goods are worth the inflated price tag.

#3: Free Trials

When employing this tactic, companies take advantage of two problematic human behaviors. First, they prey on our inability to pass up something at no cost with the offer of a free trial. Whether it's an online streaming service or a gym membership, that one month free trial might make a convert out of you, but more importantly… it gets you to sign up and sign off on automatic monthly billing. That’s where the second human behavior comes in. Companies know that consumers have the tendency to willfully ignore their finances and, as a result, are likely to forget or ignore these memberships even if they don’t use the service.

#2: Decoy Pricing

The theory may is simple, but based on the results it's genius in practice. When a consumer is given two options, they’ll naturally lean towards the least expensive of the two in the name of savings. Using the principles of the decoy effect however, companies introduce a third, mid-range option to their list of offerings. Priced between model A and model B, but leaning towards the more expensive of the two in terms of pricing, features, or size, this decoy ultimately leads you to throw down more money on something that’s perceived as the better value even if it isn’t.

#1: Smaller Packaging to Make You Consume More

There’s something about those small serving sizes and so-called reasonable portions that makes you feel good about yourself. So good, in fact, that you don’t feel guilty when you reach for a second or even third helping. From snack-sized packs of cookies and crackers to those little mini soft drink cans, small formats have really taken off. In the end however, consumers ultimately wind up buying and consuming more. From the perspective of both manufacturers and retailers, the end result of the small portion trend means a lower price point, but a greater number of total sales, and tallied up that means greater profit.

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