Humans love the idea of a deal. It triggers a strange part of our brain that makes us feel like we’ve won something. Like a “HA! I got product X at such a bargain. Those poor suckers who paid full price!”
The thing is, you didn’t really win if the sale was advertised. The retailer wanted you to know about it. If anything, you did them a favour by clearing out old inventory that they might have thrown out anyway, or they simply tricked you in thinking it was a sale when the sale is actually just a price point that’s always there.
Take for instance the Canadian Banana Republic site (which I am not hyperlinking to for obvious reasons). As an office worker, I get a lot of my wardrobe there and 100% of the time, they have a 40% off sale. Their dress shirts aren’t $95.00 regular. They’re $57.00 regular price. Always. Because they will always be 40% off.
Still, it’s easy to get tempted…
This past fall on a New England road trip, I suggested to my girlfriend we stop at the Destiny USA outlet mall to stretch our legs. What was supposed to be a 30 minute stopover ended up being 90 minutes, fully because I decided on buying $75 USD worth of merch. On the other hand, my girlfriend was incredibly disciplined and left empty-handed (keeper, right?).
I fell victim to what marketers call “touch points”. On the highway, I had seen several signs for the outlet mall, then when googling where it was, I saw an image of the giant building and the list of available retailers. Walking into the mall, I was greeted with happy mall music, and an impressive array of retailers that goaded me to dive deeper.
These touch points got me to go from “yes, let’s stretch our legs” to spending my hard earned cash. We encounter touch points every day. We get them in our email promotions, on TV, on our walks and drives from point A to point B, and even when we interact with other people when we see fancy logos imprinted on their attire. One touch point may not influence our purchasing behaviour, but several of them will. There are only so many pokes that the brain can take.
So what can we do?
It is nearly impossible to fully avoid all the marketing that comes our way. But we can take steps to slow down how often we see them. Notably, these are some of the steps I’ve taken:
- Unsubscribing for almost all email communications from non-essential retailers. The internet is a fascinating enough. I don’t need to spend my time looking at your discounted sweaters. Groceries on the other hand, I still keep track of.
- Not watching television. TV has tons of ads, even the shows on them (product placement, folks…). Plus, I save more money not having Netflix or cable.
- Not downloading retailer apps. Apps are amazing things. They’ll buzz you when there’s a deal. But apps are a rabbit hole that will lead you to further touch points. Save your phone space.
- Staying away from malls. Malls are fun sometimes. You can walk from store to store, compare prices, try stuff on you can’t afford, until you find that thing that’s “Just perfect” (guilty as charged, here). If I need to go to the mall, I identify the one store I want to go to and beeline it. I don’t mill about.
- Focusing on necessities or time-sensitive needs. Toilet paper. Chicken. Vegetables. That special airfare for your vacation you’ve booked time off for. You get it.
To Spend Less is to be Contrarian
As I wrote in a previous post, I don’t shop on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Boxing Day. Perhaps that makes me anti-establishment, but if it means I save more and accumulate less, then I’m all for it.