Evolution And The Holiday Sale: Why You Just Can’t Resist

Evolution And The Holiday Sale: Why You Just Can’t Resist

“Buy three and get one free.” What an incredible deal—we can always use backup spatulas! It’s no secret that many of us are susceptible to the deals, promotions, and bargains that stores roll out around the holiday season. Even if we’ll realize the six we already have are enough reserve spatulas for one person on the way home (again), it’s awfully hard to resist the bold font and gratuitous exclamation points of a sale.

Know Thy Enemy

Smart Money knows it too, and they’ve gone a step beyond our shadow of shopper’s remorse. They have assembled a list of the seven most irresistible sales pitches, and a rundown of why we can’t say no. As far as we can tell, just the awareness of our weaknesses is supposed to help us resist the next semi-annual sales. Here’s one pitch that we found particularly interesting:

“Limit five per person.”

Aimed at: Your competitive spirit.

Why you fall for it: Limits trigger a feeling that the deal is so great that, if not for that limit-four-per-customer rule, shoppers would be filling their carts to the brim, leaving none for you, says L.J. Shrum, the president of the Society for Consumer Psychology and the marketing department chair at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Setting a limit increases the likelihood you’ll buy at least one, and it’s even more effective if you were already planning to buy one of the item.

Higher numbers in promotions have the same effect, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of Retailing. Changing the structure of a sale from “Buy two” to “Buy eight” resulted in a 55% increase in sales—regardless of the price of each option, says study co-author Kenneth C. Manning, chair of the marketing department Colorado State University. This year, limits are showing up on anything a store wants to get rid of. You’ll even see limits on items that might seem absurd to purchase in multiples, Shrum says.

The Science Of Shopping

The basis of the article’s argument is that our reaction to sales is evolutionary; we can’t help but gather and stockpile, and we’re subconsciously worried that the store might run out of lemon-verbena exfoliating scrub. Take the evolutionary argument as you will, but check out the other six sales pitches aimed at your inner cave woman (CLICK HERE)…and see through those sales.

Tell us in the comments: How do you tell if a sale is worth your money?


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