U.S. News & World Report fills us in into some sneaky tactics used by stores to get you to buy shit you don’t need. Be on the lookout for these creepy tactics:
- Rapid Inventory Rotation: At Zara, the Spanish-owned clothing store, the turquoise and beige tunic on sale one day will be replaced by a yellow ruffled sundress the next. If you want the tunic, you have to buy it now, instead of waiting for a sale. According to the company, stores’ entire contents are turned over every three to four weeks, and new clothes arrive twice a week.
“They’re training their customers to buy an item if they see something they like, because next week it might not be there,” says Robert Swinney, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “That way you get people to buy at full price.” Swinney’s research, based on mathematical modeling, suggests that profits can be boosted by an average of 67 percent with such a strategy.
Kit Yarrow, professor of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University, says that the quick-rotation strategy has the same disorienting effect as midnight madness sales and one-day specials. “They’re training [consumers] to purchase even though they may not be ready,” she says. “If people are buying for fear or anxiety that it won’t be available, then they’re less likely to make good purchasing decisions.”
H&M, which also relies on the rapid-turnover strategy, says it is just satisfying customers’ desire to stay on top of fast-changing fashion trends. Plus, adds company spokeswoman Lisa Sandberg, “prices are affordable, so it’s OK” to buy something if you like it.
- Aromatherapy: Companies including Sony and Westin Hotels & Resorts employ a range of smells to spur spending. Sony Style stores, which sell the company’s consumer electronics, puff a sweetish scent with citrus bases and vanilla overtones into the air. “They wanted to appeal to a female buyer more intimidated by electronic items,” says Van Epps of ScentAir, which helped Sony develop its secret formula.
- Muzak: Muzak, which develops companies’ soundtracks, explains that the restaurant chain Red Lobster’s use of breezy pop songs, such as “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved By You)” by Marvin Gaye, “embraces customers and makes them feel cared for and loved.”
None of these tactics are all that surprising, but I can’t believe that there’s a company literally called Muzak. Marvin Gaye, look how far we’ve fallen! They’re exploiting your catchy tunes to sell beer-battered fish fillets!! Oh the humanity! The humanity!