A joke runs in my family that my mother is the only one who ALWAYS gets the best shopping deals. Before anyone assumes anything, I have a clarification to make. She does not buy for herself but enjoys getting things for her kids and grandkids. According to her, she purchases most things on sale, and it sometimes surprises us how those brand names come for such amazingly low prices. It does not need a detective to figure out that she does not disclose the actual price lest we say that she has paid too much!
Stereotyping is something that I like to avoid, but it’s a generally acknowledged fact that women are more avid shoppers than men. A quote from American humorist Erma Bombeck comes along in that direction: “Shopping is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.”
A 2013 study done in the UK came up with the results that while the average man’s interest during a shopping trip wanes in 26 minutes, an average woman gets tired only after close to 2 hours. Although it’s a survey done in a different continent, I can quite agree with the findings from personal experience. The father-son duo in my house does not show much enthusiasm over shopping unless it comes to spending time in the electronics section!
It’s a very common scene where ladies brag about their good shopping skills. I’m still not sure how much we really saved, but my friends Pri, Sush, and I were totally floored by the purchases we recently made at a clothing store. We focused more on the 40% off and totally ruled out the possibility that the discount could have well been on previously inflated prices.
For a long time, I wondered why most prices end in 99 cents till it made proper sense why that is the case. A fellow teacher was raving about the exceptionally reasonable price of $9.99 for each of the 5 scarves she bought. In her words, “They were all below $10!” She perhaps did not realize that had each scarf been priced at $10, she would have paid just five cents extra on the total bill. This brings me to talk a bit about what is called psychological pricing or charm pricing. Certain prices have a psychological impact on the consumer. Usually, it’s the first digit of the price that resonates with consumers because we read from left to right. For instance a price tag of $5.99 makes the consumer think that the price is closer to $5 rather than reasoning that it is almost $6, and he or she is lured into buying the product with the feeling that it’s a decent deal.
Next comes the marketing strategy of “Buy one, get one free”. The word “free” has such a magical impact that very few interpret that the price is intelligently spread among the two products. Rather it is felt that the retailer has been extremely kind in offering a free item.
Celebrity endorsements form another angle of the marketing game. Forbes reported in 2016 how companies see their stocks rise up by .25% the day they publicly announce that their brand is being endorsed by any celebrity or athlete. I heard about someone, who on being gifted a Lancôme perfume, was more excited by the fact that Julia Roberts was the face behind it. The sweetness of the fragrance had no role to play and took a back seat.
Should I next delve into the rules governing an intelligent shopper? Well, the safer option is that I should call it a day and wrap up my observations of the shopper’s mind. The chances are very high that I would come up with honest confessions of the times when I was fooled by marketing gimmicks. Well I am pretty confident that at some time or the other, most of us have been victims of the pricing game. So, it would be comforting to take consolation in the fact that it’s experience that makes us learn and after being deluded once, we will not be outsmarted again!