Who would turn down a chance to get a great deal? No one, of course. Retailers are aware of this, and they know how to trick you into thinking you’re getting a deal when instead they’re manipulating you to spend more than you want to. This may come as a shock, but coupons can actually be no more than a retailer’s tool to convince you to open your wallet. Here’s how they do it, and how to resist:
Online Coupons; Not Always Deals
Online shoppers love a good coupon code. What they often don’t know is that many stores release coupons only after inflating their prices to full retail. That takes the joy right out of your 25 percent off coupon code – especially when you realize you could have saved more money the week before, when the same website marked their entire new fall collection 30 percent off, no coupon needed.
A few online retailers notorious for advertising coupons on full-price items include Ann Taylor, American Eagle, Old Navy and Macy’s. Keeping track of their pricing schemes is always in your best interest, particularly if you frequent a store regularly. Pay attention to when they release coupons as well as the timing of site-wide sales; only buy when the price is truly at its lowest. If possible, time your purchase for when you have a coupon code in hand and they’re having a site-wide sale – you’ll definitely maximize your savings.
The BOGO Illusion
Another favorite trick retailers use to get you to spend more money is “Buy one, get one half off,” also known as BOGO. In reality, unless it’s “Buy one, get one free,” you’re rarely getting a good deal. “Buy one, get one half off” equals a 25 percent off coupon – not bad, if you really do need two of that item. Be aware, however, that many clothing and shoe stores – along with other retailers – consistently offer coupons for more than 25 percent off, which reveals the BOGO offer to be just another spending trap. Kohl’s, Land’s End, JC Penney, and Gap are a few prominent stores guilty of this tactic.
Free Shipping! … But Not Really
How many times have you finished shopping on a favorite website, only to realize at checkout that you’re $10 under the required amount for free shipping? Many online retailers set a minimum threshold requirement for free delivery at $25, $50, $75 or even $100 to manipulate customers to buy more, thus padding their profits.
Next time it happens:
- Search Google for “[Store Name] free shipping coupon”; this may well bring you a coupon code for free delivery.
- If not, do as our grandmothers taught and try asking politely: live chat operators employed by many websites have a certain number of coupons designated for those who ask nicely.
- Open a chat session, then tell the operator you’re close to the minimum order threshold for free delivery, and that you’d complete checkout if the shipping charge was waived.
There’s an excellent chance the results will pleasantly surprise you with the reward of free delivery, without spending more money on things you don’t need.
‘Spend this minimum, get this percent off’ coupons
We all see those ads: ‘GET 30 PERCENT OFF WHEN YOU SPEND $100!’ This is another trick. Doesn’t matter how much you have to spend for the discount – it comes to retailers wanting you to spend more money, but knowing they need to make you feel good about spending it; the way to do that is to convince you you’re really ‘saving’ by spending.
It’s the same con game run by hucksters who invite you to shoot down a prize in a carnival booth: you’ll spend more than you planned, with a dubious reward for your efforts. Better idea: know exactly what you’re buying to match the coupon before you walk into a store with one. Or at least make sure you’re buying things you’ll actually use at some point.
How to Use Coupons Wisely – for Dummies has some great tips in this regard.
Bought Coupons with Expiration Dates. Popular websites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer discounts and coupons for entertainment activities like golfing, skydiving, cooking classes, yoga classes, etc. However, many people don’t realize these deals often expire. They count on you to impulse buy, then forget about it or decide you don’t want it.
Steps to avoiding this tactic:
- Set a 30-day deadline. If you’re sure you’ll use the coupon within 30 days, go for it. However, if you’re even slightly uncertain, pass it up.
- Once you do buy something, book it immediately to make sure it gets used rather than languishing in a forgotten junk drawer.
Being aware that a retailer’s true reason for releasing specific coupons is to make you overspend gives you a better chance of real savings on things you actually need.