Deals That You Are Not Supposed To Know About

Everyone likes a great deal – it makes shopping much more satisfying. Sometimes we learn about secret deals from our best friends who work at a particular corporation or through mailings via the Internet.  While stores and businesses make it a priority not to expose these deals to the public, the average shopper can save hundreds with this savvy knowledge. ‘

Ditch Extended Warranties

Extended warranties can be purchased on everything from appliances and computers to exercise equipment and automobiles. Once the manufacturer’s standard warranty expires, anything that needs to be repaired is up to you, unless you buy an extended warranty. These extensions cover the repair costs, and sometimes items the manufacturer didn’t cover, for a period of typically 2-5 years from the date of purchase.

Customers have 30 days after they purchase to make a decision to buy the extended warranty. The secret is that if you paid for the item with your credit card, you may be able to get the manufacturer’s warranty extended automatically!  Visa calls this program the “Warranty Manager Service,” while Mastercard calls theirs an “extended warranty.”  Just read the fine print and the terms of the warranty, and you may never need to purchase an extended warranty again.

Gym Memberships

If you are more likely to go work out at the gym near your home than your office, obtain a membership good for one location only. Health club reps won’t reveal this money saving tip because they want you to sign up for the full monthly fee, as if you will visit all of the locations.
Another tip is to collect free visits from your friends or family members who have gym memberships. Gym memberships can be expensive and some don’t offer many amenities, so why pay the premium?  If you want a membership, try a little old-fashioned price comparison and see what kind of deal you can get. Research what other gyms are charging and try to get a reasonable deal.

Retail Deals

Getting a deal in retail stores is tricky, but there are ways to haggle for a great deal without anyone knowing. First, you should always speak to a manager, owner or supervisor because they are the decision makers. If you can handle an imperfect item like a blouse, then seek them out for a discount. If a sweater is missing a button or a shirt is missing a belt, ask for a sales price. Stores usually have a standard discount policy in place if the product is damaged.

Also ask the salesclerk for store coupons or inquire about visitor discount cards for out-of-town shoppers.  However, keep in mind that you may need to show proof that you are a visitor, but stop by any Macy’s, as they offer these coupons to tourists.
If you know about a particular sale at a certain department store or online and happen to be at another one, ask if they can beat the online or competitor’s price. Most consumers always assume that if there’s a sale, then that’s the final price you pay – but with price-matching competition, you may save even more.

Grocery Deals

The supermarket is a deal paradise if you push your shopping cart right. Who knew that the sheer size of your purchase could give you a deal?  If you have a large family and need an oversized amount of produce for example, try asking the manager if you can receive a discount if you bought all of the apples and bananas that were displayed.  Likely they want to get rid of it before the produce goes bad. The idea is that the more you buy of the same item, the more you should save – inquire about a discount. And don’t fall into the grocer’s advertised price. Research your own good deals in the store.

Another good deal to look out for is the store’s newsletter. They won’t necessarily announce that they have a newsletter, but it’s well worth the time to sign up. They often have special store coupons that you can only get if you have a store discount card. Don’t be fooled by the buy one get one free sale. Just buy one product and you’ll enjoy that half off – plus an additional discount if you have a coupon. In fact, the item could end up being free.

Some people don’t get deals or discounts because they don’t ask. If a profit is being made for the business, they should be able to accommodate you with a reasonable offer.

How Stores Make You Spend More

In recent years, the popular catchphrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” has turned into “Keeping up with the Beckhams,” as wealthy celebrities like David and Victoria Beckham have normal consumers scrambling for luxury. Neighbors compare each other’s cars, landscaping and style of dress.

It’s no wonder that stores base their promotions and advertising on the fact that people continually care about their image. With the high unemployment rate in this country and strapped household incomes, some consumers cannot let go of the comfort trappings they were accustomed to when the economy was booming. In turn, credit card use is on the rise, with spending out of control. Retailers, grocers, department stores and malls are cognizant of this and capitalize on consumer weaknesses.  However, with savvy, you can avoid all the pitfalls that stores employ to make you spend more.

Checkout Please

Have you visited a Best Buy lately? When it’s time for checkout, since when did they start selling food?  Electronics stores are tricking consumers into spending more by placing appealing candy bars, soda and potato chips next the cash register. Predictably, children see these items and begin to beg their parents for them. Even last minute items like batteries and DVDs are there in an attempt to make you spend more.

The checkout counter is becoming a source of tremendous profit for retailers trying to get consumers to spend more. The lure of gossip magazines, gum and soda make it tempting for consumers not to buy something upon checkout. Thank goodness for self-checkout!

Another trick retailers use is placing the most popular items at the back of the store. This way, when you’re making your way to checkout – the other evil spending place – you have to pass all of the displays with signs shouting “Sale,” “1 Day Only,” or “New.”
Compulsive shopping fuels our economy and empties our wallets. Retail researchers have studied consumers and cater their marketing and advertising efforts toward the findings. Retailers lure shoppers even before they step foot in the store. They capitalize on holidays (“Shop for Easter-1 Day Only!”) and make consumers feel like they are missing out on something by NOT shopping at their store during within that precious time limit.

Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach

Research into grocery shopping shows us that impulsive shopping occurs most when we shop on an empty stomach.  Why? Because instead of going to the grocery store for a gallon of milk, you begin to think what would go well with that gallon of milk. Is it a coincidence that the bakery is often near the store entrance?

Watch Your Senses

Retailers tap into all of our senses. For example, Dollar Tree Stores now have their own station on satellite radio that plays throughout the store. Researchers know that it’s a lot of fun to sing your favorite song while shopping at your favorite store…which leads to more sales.

Over the last decade or so, shopping carts have grown larger, taste tests are the norm on Saturday, and grocery stores are usually always spotless. Consumers feel more comfortable shopping in a store that is clean and fresh smelling. And the stores are carefully mapped out to direct you to the next department subconsciously pushing you to spend more. Even multi-level department stores like Target have installed elevators and escalators to encourage you to spend more. Who doesn’t want to see what’s upstairs?

Merchandising is the most popular tactic to encourage people to spend more. Children’s cereal is often at their eye level, while the expensive name brands are at the average adult’s eye level. Every inch of space is an opportunity for a consumer to spend. The end caps of aisles grab your attention with sale items, and displays appear to be bigger than ever. Grocers have begun adopting a one-stop shop promotion. There’s the check-cashing counter, nail shop, pet store and optical shop – all waiting for you to spend after you purchase milk and eggs.

The majority of our nation is drawn to advertising and status symbolism. When consumers walk into a store, it’s like they have entered a shopping zone. The colors are brighter and the music happens to be your favorite song. Retailers are under pressure to find new ways for consumers to spend more. Why are consumers doing this to themselves?  Do consumers have to resort to giving themselves a pep talk before entering a store just so they won’t spend more?  With this knowledge in mind, consumers need not succumb to tactics of retail establishments!

5 Reasons You Overspend Online

With the holiday season quickly approaching, more and more consumers will turn to the Internet for their holiday shopping needs. Online shopping has been popular for several years and appeals to a broad type of consumer base. This billion dollar business has come a long way from its start in the 1990’s. Today, a consumer can buy anything from Ralph Lauren slippers to a motorcycle headlight online. Physical retail establishments have invested a great deal of money in constructing an inviting e-commerce website.

With the economy making for a leaner wallet this year, consumers will still likely continue to overspend while surfing the Internet. Here’s why:

  1. ConvenienceThe ease of use makes Internet shoppers loyal. There’s no standing in line or any salespeople hovering around to annoy you. The Internet is available 24/7, which means you are not at the mercy of the store’s business hours to shop.  Some websites have product reviews from other users or commentaries on a particular product. Therefore, if Laura from Miami swooned over the green halter dress she received, you may impulse buy the item as well.  Most websites also give you the option to save your credit card information and allow you to track your order until it reaches your door – which means when you re-shop at the store, it is more convenient than ever. 
  2. Better Prices We’ve all received sales literature in our e-mail Inbox. Whether it’s that special one-day 20% off coupon or an advertisement for clearance items at our favorite online website, the Internet is full of sales and deals that simply cannot be found in standard brick-and-mortar retail outlets. Online retailers have more control over price and save a bit more money than a physical store, and therefore, they can pass on the savings to you: the impulse-spending consumer.
  3. Better Selection Technological advances in recent years have led to great improvements to e-commerce websites. Online, that red Liz Claiborne sweater that you can’t ever seem to find in the mall is suddenly available in your size and in another color. Online shopping allows for a better selection because more of the products can be displayed over the span of a few dozen web pages. Retail stores only have so much physical space for displays, floor items and stock room clothing and accessories. With the advance of product descriptions, photos, multimedia files and even real-time chats, consumers have a clear understanding of what they are purchasing.  In other words, you have much more to buy online than in a physical store.
  4. Incentives In recent years, online retailers have begun to think of new ways to lure shoppers back to their website. As an incentive for being such a loyal shopper, websites offer rebates, early shopper discounts, refer-a-friend promotions, and even credit card financing specials with discounts attached. The most popular trick seems to be free shipping. Free shipping is often associated with the amount of money spent. This incentive piggybacks on reason #2 – better prices. If your favorite store is having a clearance sale and free shipping is available with a $100 purchase, you would be surprised at how many unneeded items you buy just to take advantage of that incentive.
  5. Add-on Sales The classic marketing add-on sales approach can be found at your local fast food restaurant. The echo from the drive-through speaker saying “would you like fries with that?” is a popular marketing technique. The goal is to have you spend more money by buying a product related to the first one your bought. The same approach is used for online shopping websites. If you spend enough time on a website looking around, you will notice that a brief list of recommended items pops up. It may say “you may also like” or “our editors suggest.”  These ideas and suggestions – collected from customer data – cause consumers to overspend where they would normally spend half of the amount.

Online shopping allows consumers to have more freedom and control over their shopping experience. With the touch of a few keys, a consumer can price comparison shop without getting out of their bathrobe. The fast-pace and wow factors contribute to significant overspending on the Internet.  However, with these strategies in mind, you can break the cycle and not overspend this year!

Internet Scams to Watch For In 2010

We have all received these unscrupulous messages in our junk mail folders: pesky e-mail subject lines reading “Prize Notifications” or “Check This Out!”  Indeed, there is a medley of scams combing the Internet.  Unfortunately, some Internet users cannot decipher what is real and what is a scam.

The word scam has several definitions – plot to obtain money with the intention to mislead a person, fraudulent business used to raise money using fake photos, forged documents, non-existent addresses and fake personalities.

Sadly, there are professional scammers of both sexes whose aim is to victimize an unsuspecting person or persons. The confidence game (con for short) often works with a person called a shill, who is an accomplice. The public needs to be aware of these vicious types of deception. Here are a few scams that have infiltrated the Internet this year:

The Nigerian Scam

Nigerian Penal Code has a section called 419 which makes con games illegal. The Nigerian money scam occurs when individuals are sent an e-mail, letter or fax from a fake wealthy foreigner who needs help transferring a large sum of money from overseas. The con artist requests your bank account information to pay for any upfront wire fees. In the end, the large sum never transfers, and your bank account information has been exposed. This scam dates back to the 1920s and was known as ‘The Spanish Prisoner’ scam.

Lottery Scams

The subject line reads “Prize Notification” or “You’ve Won!”. These scams are unsolicited e-mails or phone calls telling people that they have won a prize or a lottery that you entered. More advanced scammers sometimes mail you a counterfeit check. It’s illegal for American citizens to play international lotteries, and if you cash the check, you will be arrested for trying to pass a fake check. Just delete these e-mails.
Another form of lottery or sweepstake schemes is the 900 toll number scam. You receive a letter or prize package in the mail, and they instruct you to call this 900 number to listen to a recorded message. This scam has been around for a long time, but surprisingly people still fall into their trap. The calls are often foreign calls with significant charges and lengthy recorded messages.

Phishing Schemes

Some e-mail websites are getting hip to phishing schemes and even have the option to report any of these fraudulent e-mails.  However, these scams still remain the most widespread today. Phishing scams are e-mails that appear to be from a credible financial institution or merchant such as PayPal who wants you to update your account information. Some will suggest that your account has been hacked and they want to confirm you identity by asking very personal account information. The image in the e-mail is often blurred and clearly fake. The website they direct you to is also fake. You can report these e-mails to your actual bank or merchant.

Another threat to be aware of is downloading Internet spyware software. When people click on these links in their e-mail, your computer may be infected by the fake website created by phishing con artists. Use a firewall and update your virus software from a reputable source.

Get Rich Now!

If only these scams were true, we’d all be rich. They aren’t so much scams, but rather schemes. They come in the form of work-at-home employment, pyramids or property investment/real estate e-mails. The underlying message is “here’s this great business opportunity, just pay this amount to get started and we’ll send you everything you need to become a millionaire.” The e-mails sound really convincing too. They scream “Do It in Your Spare Time!” or offer free gifts to help you become the next Warren Buffett.

The real estate and property investment schemes involve a little bit more on the part of the consumer. Consumers get a private invitation in the mail with two tickets for a free presentation. There’s free coffee and bagels, and you dedicate hours of your day to hear a range of speakers talk about how much money you can make in the stock market and in property investments. Then they invite you to the back of the room to enroll in a costly course. They lure you in with promises of learning everything about investing and pay no money down.  All you are left with, however, is less money than you originally had.

By becoming a savvy individual, you can ensure that you do not fall victim to scams that are infiltrating 2008