How to Outsmart Retailers During Major Sales

Who doesn’t appreciate a good discount? As inflation and rising costs wreck us all, we wait for major sales with bated breath to score huge deals.

Before you head to the stores or shop the Black Friday/10.10/11.11/12.12 flash sales online, however, keep in mind some tricks retailers play to ensure you spend way more than you intend to! We’ve all fallen prey to one or two at some point.

Watch Out for False Discounts

Retailers sometimes mark items up weeks before a big sale on places like Shopee or Taobao, just so they can mark them back down to the “original” prices — or lower them just a little. This makes the discount seem much larger than it really is. Do some research on the typical pricing for items you want before sales start, and note the lowest price the item has sold for. That way, you’ll know if you are truly getting a good deal.

Comparison shop at other stores, too, to make sure that the “sale” price really is the best available. Retailers are counting on your excitement to distracted you from seeing if the same product is cheaper somewhere else.

Bait and Switch

Ever gone into a store for a hard-to-beat deal, only to discover the item is “out of stock”? If you’re offered something similar that costs just a little more, beware: the “bait and switch” tactic may be at work.

How does it work? Stores first lure you in with appealing sale items in ads or online, but in reality have very limited inventory (or sometimes none at all). After attracting your attention, they try to sell you a pricier substitute.

Don’t fall for it—if the deal you came for is sold out, walk away. More stock may become available again soon, or you may find a comparable deal elsewhere.

Limited-Time Scarcity

Creating a false sense of urgency or limited availability is another tactic retailers frequently employ. Phrases like “only two left!” or “sale ends tomorrow!” are designed to provoke a fear of missing out in you. Unless it’s a truly limited collectible, the item will likely still be available later at a similar price. And if it’s not, another similar product will probably pop up to take its place.

Strategic Placements

Items placed at checkout lanes, aisle endcaps (the shelves at the ends of aisles that often show discounted goods), and entryways are strategically located to catch your eye and trigger impulse buys. Walk past these areas if possible, or go in with a list and a budget. Don’t pay too much attention to the racks of candy, magazines, and knick-knacks on your way out: this could be an instance where staying glued to your phone screen comes in handy.

Sensory overload

Cheerful lighting, slow music, enticing scents — stores engineer an energizing ambiance to loosen your purse strings. The more relaxed you are, the more prone you’ll be to impulse buys. To combat this, shop at off-hours when the store is less chaotic. Bring noise-cancelling headphones. And avoid shopping when hungry or tired (#hangry), as you have less willpower during these moments.


Cashiers and salespeople are trained to upsell related products, warranties, and memberships during checkout. Politely decline their suggestions, as these add-ons are rarely good deals and often go unused.

The most powerful way to overcome impulse buys is awareness. Know the tricks, make a list, set a budget, and don’t shop when vulnerable. With some savvy strategies, you can outsmart sneaky retailers and avoid spending more than you intend.

If you still find yourself weak to sales, here’s something that may help: don’t go to the malls or shopping sites when sales begin. Switch off push notifications for Taobao or Shopee, for instance. After all, out of sight means out of mind.

What if you really must buy something? ‘

Use Cash-Back Apps and Coupons

If you do, apps like Shopback offer cash back for your purchases at many major retailers. Simply link your credit or debit card and your cashback will as you pay. You can also use Kris+ , GrabPay, and ShopeePay, too.

Don’t forget the mall’s or store’s reward programmes too.

Skip the Basket

Carry your items in your hands so that you’re constantly aware of what you’re purchasing, and have less capacity to spend more! Remind yourself you can only buy what you can reasonably carry. When your hands are full, out you go.

Take An Accountability Partner Along

Have a friend or family member who budgets well, or doesn’t enable you? Before you cart out, ask him or her if your purchase will be worthwhile. If they say no, there you have it.

With that, Happy Shopping!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here