Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Of Retail Stores

Retail stores can be quite crafty. They’re a quick and easy way to buy the things you need, and there’s no shortage of them. Because of this, they have a constant flow of customers that they know aren’t going anywhere. So, they keep a lot of inside secrets and tricks from the public that if most people knew, they wouldn’t be so eager to keep coming back. Curious about what’s actually going on behind the scenes at most retail stores? Take a look at this lesser-known information and find out for yourself!

Floor Prices Aren’t Always Up To Date

Woman sorting through sales signs
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

When shopping at retail stores, it’s important to remember that the sale price on an item isn’t always true. Discounts come and go so often that employees sometimes have a hard time keeping everything up to date on the store floor. For all you know, they were going to change the price tag that day.

If you see an item that you really like that might be out of your price range, it never hurts to go to the register to see if it’s the actual price. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s on sale even if it didn’t say it was.

Shopping Carts Can Lead To More Spending

Woman loading car
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

Although shopping carts can be very convenient, especially if you know you need more than one item, they can also trick you into buying more than you need. Walking around with a shopping cart, you’re more likely to buy things you didn’t originally intend to because you have the vessel to carry it.

There’s a science behind the design of shopping carts too, as its trapezoid shape makes it look like you didn’t buy a lot until you reach checkout. Shopping carts are also slowly growing in size which has led to an increase in sales according to numerous studies.

Membership Or Bonus Cards Aren’t For What You Think

Person holding Sam's Club card
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Yes, most membership and bonus cards reward the consumer for shopping at their store or spending a certain amount of money. However, they’re not just used to encourage customers to return. They’re also a way of tracking your purchases.

When you file for a bonus or membership card, you give them your name, date of birth, contact information and more, so they can build a profile for you. Now, retailers can see which items you’re purchasing so they can send you ads and coupons for items they think you’re most likely to buy.

Clearance Racks Are Meant To Be Chaotic

Crowded clearance area
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If you’ve ever made the plunge into the clearance rack section, especially in a clothing store, you know that it’s small, unorganized, and relatively stressful. Usually crowded with other shoppers hunting for a deal, most people don’t last very long until they decide it isn’t even worth it.

Well, that’s exactly how the clearance section is supposed to be. If you buy something, great, but most of the time people flee from the area to the more organized, clean, and spacious areas of the store with regular priced items.

Store Layouts Are Strategically Planned

Interior of Walgreen's
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Everything about most retail stores is meticulously planned, especially the store’s layout. The people who design it rely on human psychology to guide the customer through stores and get them to buy as many things as possible. One of the most strategically placed items is known as an “endcap.”

These are the snacks or small objects that you find at the end of an aisle and especially checkout lines. A lot of stores are also designed to have the most expensive items on the right side which studies have shown the majority of people go first since the majority of the population is right-handed. Very sneaky!

There’s A Bad Time To Shop

Labor day sale
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Although it varies store to store, in most cases, it’s not the best idea to go shopping around 5 to 6 PM, especially if you know that you’re going to be needing help. According to a former retail store employee, “This is during shift changes, which may result in closed tills and more part-time associates helping customers.”

Part-time associates are less likely to care as much as full-time employees and therefore may not be as much help. Instead, it’s suggested to do your shopping around the opening time when employees are refreshed and ready to start their day.

Beware Of Supposedly Discounted Prices

Boxes of slippers on sale
Lucas Schifres/Getty Images
Lucas Schifres/Getty Images

Towards the entrance or popular areas of a lot of retail stores, you can usually find shelves or boxes stocked full of specific products that claim to be at a discounted price.

Because there’s so much of a product, it leads customers to assume that they have an overflow, so they’re trying to get rid of it by putting it on sale. However, that’s not always the case, as you can find the same product on the shelves for the same price, but most people will never notice.

Some Salespeople Are More Skilled Than Customers Think

Salesperson selling a product
DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images
DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Just because the person helping you pick out a purse or home entertainment system isn’t selling stocks on Wall Street, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their job. Many of them are much better at sales than most people assume, which is something that can work to their benefit.

According to a former store supervisor of Best Buy, “You have to be a step ahead in the conversation […] It’s about getting them to admit what they want and controlling the answers you want out of them. It’s a big mind game.” The majority of the time, customers don’t even realize they’re being manipulated.

Customers Who Are Nice Get The Best Deals

Women talking
Anna Webber/Getty Images for IMG
Anna Webber/Getty Images for IMG

When it comes to retail, people can’t bargain for prices like they used to. However, that doesn’t mean that everybody is paying the same price. Studies have shown that customers who are respectful and patient are “200 percent” more likely to walk out of the store with a good deal over someone who is rude and causes a scene.

A former Best Buy store supervisor claims that “It’s not that we can necessarily adjust prices, but in terms of getting a call when a sale is on, or someone going the extra mile, you get more bees with honey.”

Don’t Trust The Mirrors

Girl in dressing room
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images for RESERVED
Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images for RESERVED

Incredibly, some retail stores will go so far as to alter the mirrors in the changing room to make people appear thinner, therefore, more interested in buying an item. According to money-saving expert, Andrea Woroch, “Some stores will tilt the mirror to create a longer and leaner reflection, or use dim lighting to make you appear tanner, which also improves your appearance.”

So, she recommends to check the mirrors out on the sales floor for a more honest look, and to be aware of the store’s return or exchange policy.

They Want You To Handle The Items

Man going to touch a hat
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Even though it might make the employees’ jobs harder, retailers actually want you to touch and feel the items, even if it means leaving behind a mess. Actually feeling an item is one of the final steps in the decision-making process when buying something. Most people don’t just walk in and buy a t-shirt, towel, or realistically anything without feeling it for themselves first.

Stores would much rather prefer that you pick something up, feel it, and leave it in disarray than not touch it at all. This is why most clothing displays are on flat surfaces, so people can put down their stuff in order to handle the item.

Employee Discounts Can Be Used To Finalize A Sale

Clerk helping a woman
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As a way of selling more expensive products and increasing sales numbers, bigger retail stores have been encouraging their sales team to offer a discount if it means closing a sale. Some stores refer to them as an “employee discount,” allowing a salesperson to offer up to $50 off a large item to encourage the customer to buy.

In the end, $50 isn’t very much in the grand scheme to the retailer and it could mean the difference between the customer going somewhere else for a better price. When in doubt, you can simply ask if there’s any way to get a discount, which will usually turn out in your favor.

Buy-One-Get-One Isn’t Always A Deal

Yogurt on sale
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Also referred to as BOGO, the buy-one-get-one deal that is appealing to so many shoppers doesn’t always mean you’re actually getting something cheaper or for free. Unsurprisingly, people are almost always willing to take up the deal, especially if it’s something they don’t necessarily need two of at the moment like toiletries.

A way to not fall into this trap is to check the price and discounts of the one item before just blindly assume that you’re actually saving money on the second one. Sometimes, you might actually spend more money by taking this deal.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For A Price Match

Man checking price
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

One secret that retailers don’t want the public to know is that many of them offer price matching. Even if they don’t advertise it, if you’re willing to ask, they very well might apply it. According to Alex Reichmann, CEO of iTestCash, “Whenever you are shopping at a major store, search their name along with the term ‘price match.”

If you see that they have a price match, find another store that has the item for cheaper and show them the difference at the counter. They might be able to make up the difference, which can save you time and money.

They Strategically Place Their Commas

Guitars with price tags
YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images
YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re looking to buy an expensive item, whether it’s a flashy outfit, computer, or whatever you’ve been saving up your money for, the price that it’s advertised at may look a little strange. If it’s over $1,000, it will most likely be advertised as $1000 rather than $1,000.

This is because researchers have discovered that the more syllables in a price tag, the more expensive people are going think it is, even if the only difference is a comma.

Customers Are Often Judged By Employees

Couple at Costco
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Even though it certainly isn’t recommended to do so, employees at retail stores have a tendency to judge the customers based on their appearance. One retail employee notes that “You can rush to judgment,” because if someone isn’t looking their best or are maybe wearing ratty clothes, you might not take them as seriously or will choose to help someone else instead.

This can be a big mistake because you can never tell what someone needs by the clothes they wear. Once, a man that clearly hadn’t showered ended up spending $20,000 on electronics. He had just got back from working on the room he was buying a new television for.

Anti-Theft Gates Serve A Different Purpose

WalMart anti-theft gates
Reddit
Reddit

Although the anti-theft gates or sensors seen in retail stores come in handy on occasion, that’s not what they’re actually used for. Instead, they’re mostly utilized to count the number of customers that enter the store. It also notifies the store how many people made a purchase and how many walked away empty-handed.

This is how they analyze the strength of their marketing campaigns and make changes when they feel it’s necessary. At times, you can see employees stepping over the gate or avoiding them entirely so they don’t get counted as a customer.

Let the Salesperson Give Their Spiel

Man helping cell phone buyer
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

One thing that particularly annoys customers is when they are approached by a salesperson who is trying to convince them to buy a product or is preaching about store credit, demos, and so on.

However, they’re not saying all of this because they actually care, it’s because they were specifically told to. If they don’t inform you about it, somebody else will, because they don’t want you to leave the store without hearing it from somebody. So, it’s easier to let them get through it the first time around.

Salespeople Won’t Always Sell You The Most Expensive Item

Buying a TV
Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Salespeople won’t always try and sell you the most expensive item or brand in the store. This is because it all depends on the deal that the retailer has with the manufacturer. Sometimes, the most expensive item might not have as much profit margin as something that’s cheaper, which is why they want to sell the less expensive item more.

Furthermore, in terms of electronics, some of the top-ranking brands are so seriously about the displays and inventory management that the stores don’t even deal with their product. So, they’ll most likely try and sell you something else, even if it’s cheaper.

It Pays To Know The Store’s Schedule

Man on the phone and writing in calendar
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Although many of the frequent clearance and BOGO sales may not be all they’re made out to be, on occasion, stores do have legitimate sales that benefit shoppers. However, these sales a typically planned ahead of time and follow a strict schedule.

One way to learn about the store’s discount schedule is to simply ask someone who works there, as their schedule isn’t meant to be kept a secret from those who are curious. Stores run on different schedules, so it’s important to map out your favorites.