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How Your Senses Cost You Money

Retailers use a variety of ways to manipulate your senses in an effort to get you to spend.

When you walk into a store, it's unlikely you contemplate the different ways the retailer is trying to make you spend money. You assume that you are there to purchase whatever you had planned to buy, but the fact is that the store has been set up specifically to manipulate all of your senses to get you to spend as much money as possible.

Retailers use various tactics, often on all five of your senses, to try to part you from your money.


: This is the obvious sense that retail stores spend the most time attempting to manipulate. Your sense of sight can end up costing you -- here are some ways how.

1. Big-Mark-Up Items at Eye Level: As you walk down the aisle of a store, you will find that the most expensive products are usually at eye level. This is because you are much more likely to purchase something that you see right away and is in easy reach rather than something that you have to search for on the shelves. By placing at eye level the items that generate the largest profits, the store is able to get you to spend more. A notable exception to this rule is children's breakfast cereal. Instead of placing most of the expensive children's cereal in the center of the shelf, retailers often will put these products on the lower levels, where children can most easily see them.

2. Brightly Colored Packaging: The next time you walk into a retail outlet, take a minute to notice the packaging colors. Most packages will be done in reds and yellows because they are the colors that will attract your attention most. Again, you are much more likely to purchase something that you see right away than something you have to search for.

3. Sales Advertising: As you're walking through the store, you will see brightly colored signs advertising discounts and sales. Products piled on the ends of aisles will have attention-grabbing advertising that will make you believe those items are on sale or a good bargain. While this may be the case, many times these items will not be the good deal that your eyes tell you they are.

4. Packaging Sizes: Another way that products manipulate your sense of sight is with the size of the packaging. Consumers assume that a bigger package will contain more of the item inside, but this is not necessarily the case. Companies often package their products to make it appear as if there is much more product contained inside than there really is. Just because a package is bigger doesn't mean it's necessarily a better deal.

5. Placement of Products: The placement of every product in the store is made in an attempt to get you to walk past more products and spend more time inside the store. Popular items or staples are often located in areas that force you to walk through the entire store so that you end up looking at, and possibly buying, many other items. The check-out counters will be filled with small, impulse items to try to squeeze that last little purchase out of you. The stores know from studies that the more time they can keep you inside, the more you will spend.

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: Have you ever noticed that when you walk into a grocery store, the bakery is usually located directly beside the entrance? There is a very good reason for this. The store wants you to smell the fresh-baked goods the minute you enter the store. They know from studies that the aroma of food will make you feel hungry and that those who shop while they're hungry spend more money.


: When you walk into a store, rarely will it be silent. There will be some type of background music that will put you in the mood to shop more. The music selections may even contain subliminal messages, and some stores will make announcements about certain sale items to draw your attention to them. The stores create a sound pattern that entices you to spend more.


: Stores would sell a lot less merchandise if you couldn't touch it. Stores have display items for this specific reason. Sit down in a massage chair and you'll swear that you need one even though the thought of purchasing such a chair never crossed your mind until that moment you sat in it. Stores want you to touch and feel the products because they know if you do, you are more likely to buy them.


: There is a very specific reason why stores are willing to give out food samples as you walk down their aisles. They know that if you taste a product, you are more likely to purchase it. In addition, a small bit of food can whet your appetite, prompting you to feel hungry. As stated before, studies show that those who are hungry while shopping will end up spending more inside the store.

Stores spend a lot of time and money analyzing how they can tap into all of your senses every time you enter the door. While there is nothing you can do to shut off your senses, knowing that these manipulations are taking place can go a long way toward helping you defeat their intended purpose. The next time you walk into a store, keep the above information in mind and see how pervasive the tactics are. You may be surprised at how thoroughly stores target your senses to earn more.

Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs