7 Pricing Tricks That Retailers Use

Retailers have had many years worth of practice to develop techniques to get you to spend more money in their stores. Subtle, but effective tricks get shoppers to turn over their hard earned cash without thinking too hard about the real cost of the items they are buying. Read on to discover 7 pricing tricks that retailers use to get you to spend more money in their store.

1. Prices that end in 9, 99 or 95 cents

Pricing things in this manner make them appear cheaper than they really are. For example, if you go to a clothing store and find a sweater that you love priced at $40, you might not buy it, but if you go to the store and the sweater is priced at $39.95 it appears to be a better value even though it’s only 5 cents cheaper. Retailers use this trick all the time to make the price of items more attractive to buyers.

2. Prices that are written in dollars with no cents

Merchants use this tactic to make people feel like they are shopping in a high end store. Even discount retailers such as Target and Walmart will put an item on sale for $6 rather than $6.00 or $5.99 to make customers feel like they are getting a high-end, luxury item. The idea behind this type of pricing is that pocket change makes no difference to a person of your status and means. This mentality creates a good feeling, which entices the shopper to make the purchase.

3. Prices without dollar signs

A study by Cornell University uncovered an odd occurrence. Shoppers presented with a menu that listed only the price without a dollar sign were more likely to order the item than diners that were presented with a menu with dollar signs or numbers written out. This method creates a disconnect between the diner’s perception of the food and their consciousness of money. The same theory applies to retailers. Those that list their goods for a single numeric value sans dollar sign sold more of their items than those that did not

4. The X for Y trick

Grocery stores are notorious for this shopping trick. Writing a sale price as 10 for $10 makes shoppers more likely to buy 10 of them. While you can get 1 for $1, the signage makes you feel like you need to buy 10 to get the special pricing. Beware though, that some stores are starting to put “must buy Y” language on their signs, so check with your retailer before loading up your cart to see if they have a minimum purchase threshold to receive the sale price.

5. Per-customer limits on sale items

Adding the phrase, “limit X per customer” creates the feeling that a product is in demand or is scarce. This makes the shopper want to buy the maximum limit of the item, even if they don’t need it. This tactic is widespread and can be commonly seen in grocery stores.

6. “Free” items

The phrase, “buy one, get one free” has become extremely common because people love getting something for nothing. However, you need to be cautious when approaching these types of sales as retailers often just increase the price of the first item to offset the free item. Often, you’re better shopping sales than buy one get one free promotions, especially if you only need one unit of the item.

7. Simple pricing so shoppers can see savings

Stores are going back to simple pricing as a way to allow customers to easily see discounts. For example, it’s easy to calculate the saving on an item that is for sale for $30 that was originally priced at $45, but seeing the difference between something that began at $39.97, but is now on sale for $31.99 is a little more difficult.

Being aware of these tricks will help keep you from becoming the store’s next victim. Stay aware and resist falling for these 7 pricing tricks that retailers use.


  1. The price a retailer sets for free shipping can also be a trick. They might discount an item that was say $39.99 to $34.99 with the free ship threshold being $35. Now, you are stuck with a shipping fee or you have to add another item to your cart.

    1. Author

      Yes I’ve seen that time and time again.

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