Though today's shopping traps may look more sophisticated than in the past, their aim is the same as yesterday's misleading advertising -- not to save me money but to get me to spend more. For new and experienced shoppers, here's a look at eight of the most common shopping traps to avoid in malls.
A recent shopping trap involves giving customers a coupon at the end of a purchase. The coupon may become active in the next day, week or month, tempting shoppers to return and buy more than they had initially planned. This shopping trap can be avoided by searching for online coupons that can be applied that very day and then bringing them along.
Another gimmick that mall stores have been using recently is scratch cards reminiscent of lottery scratch cards. To lure shoppers into the store, the scratch cards are handed out to passersby. There are no losing cards, which grants everyone the joy of a win. And once the shopper enters the store with a $5 scratch card, he is likely to fall into the shopping trap of buying something he wasn't planning on buying that day at all.
Save 15% on $75
Coupons that only come into effect when the consumer spends enough money are becoming more and more common in mall stores. Typically, the offers are made to club members -- shoppers who signed up to receive coupons in the mail. Though reserved for repeat customers, such coupons present an obvious shopping trap, one that's irresistible to someone who likes that store enough to become a club member. Seasonal shopping, four times a year, can help shoppers buy everything they need at one time and make use of such coupons only when they need them.
Save 15% Today
There isn't a store in a mall that doesn't offer 15% at the time of checkout if you'll apply for the store credit card. I've even come across instances when the proverbial "would you like to save 15% by applying for our card today?" has been replaced with a tantalizing "would you like to save 15%?" This shopping trap should be avoided for the simple reason that spending cash is psychologically more difficult than swiping a plastic card.
Cash Back or Rebate
Some store cards will offer you a rebate or cash-back bonus for every dollar you spend. Such bonuses are low, typically earning you $1 for every $1,000 spent, money which you can only spend by revisiting the store. Then, once back, you're likely to spend far more than your measly rebate.
Up to 50% Off
Mall stores often try to lure us in with tempting sale signs, such as 50% off. But when words like "up to" or "no more than" come before or after the number, the appeal changes drastically. Then, it's easy for us to fall into the shopping trap of paying a higher price, especially since the item we've spent time choosing is probably on sale too, though not for the higher (poster-perfect) amount. To avoid this shopping trap, read all signs carefully.
Buy 1 Get 1 at 1/2 Price
I've found this shopping trap in a wide range of mall stores. The buy 1 get 1 free promotion is one we're all so familiar with that stores use it to get our business. This can become a shopping trap when the second item is not actually offered for free but for half its price. Mall signs will typically present the "half price" in small numbers that can easily be missed or mistaken for shorthand for buy 1 get 2. Once more, the way to avoid this shopping trap is to read signs carefully or ask the store clerk for clarification.
Sale Rack Misfit
Sale racks may be great for bargain hunters, but they can also be terribly disappointing when a full-price item accidentally ends up on them. Rather than try on clothing you may be unable to afford, it is best to compare the price tags of surrounding items on a sale rack. Most likely, sale items will have a sticker on them to indicate the price reduction. The full-price misfit will then become glaringly obvious.
written by: Tal Boldo
*Have you fallen for these? I know I have...