By Libby Kane
Read more about how retailers manipulate lines from LearnVest.com.
“I’ve been waiting in this line forever.”
Or at least it can seem that way — a factor stores are well aware of.
For them, lines are the final frontier. While shoppers cool their heels, retailers have to scramble to keep us from getting impatient, feeling frustrated—or worst of all, abandoning our purchases.
To them, helping us wait it out means we’ll make it to the register and pump up their profits. For us, psychologically speaking, the longer we wait, the more committed we are to what’s in our cart, whether or not we actually need it.
“When you’ve spend so much time and effort shopping, you don’t want to abandon an entire cart full of goods and hours worth of work,” says Martin Lindstrom, author of “Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.”
Yet research shows that the best time to decide exactly what you really need is while you’re waiting.
Below, we outline three tactics stores use to keep us in line (for just the right amount of time to keep us committed) — and how you can use them to your advantage.
1. Traffic-Directing Employees
After finding full, abandoned shopping carts around the store, a Whole Foods in New York City wised up and realized there’s a limit to a shopper’s patience with grocery lines. They also found that customers stuck in line find updates reassuring, so now, on weekends, when lines can be hundreds of people long, Whole Foods sends out workers to update shoppers about their estimated wait time. Stores like Trader Joe’s and Home Depot have also adopted the practice, but it’s not just to placate restless buyers: It’s also to make sure we don’t leave.
If you’re wondering about how to have the shortest wait, ironically, you might want to gravitate to the longer line: Research has proven that the quickest way to get customers through checkout is to have a single line that branches off to registers as they’re available, despite the fact that we feel greater control when we get to choose our own line. So, while those helpful employees may not be saving you money, they may be netting you time.
How to Beat Stores at Their Own Game:
Use that wait time to evaluate whether your chosen purchases are needed. Some smart shoppers we know “edit” their cart before they ever get to the register—a smart decision, as you’ll discover below.