Persuasion in the Marketplace

Ever been standing in a checkout line, glancing at magazine covers, when you spot a pack of gum and toss it in with your groceries?

If you’re like most consumers, the answer is yes.

Nothing in the marketplace is there by accident. Retailers and manufacturers spend billions of dollars studying consumer behavior and finding ways to encourage us to buy. But if consumers are more aware of those tactics, they can be better prepared to avoid unwanted and expensive impulse buys that they may later regret.

According to AARP, consumers are trying to cut back on impulse spending, but an aggressive marketplace, armed with tactics to get you to buy, is hard to see coming.

When it comes to our buying decisions, the line between what we need and what we want is easily blurred, and according to industry experts, the manipulation begins the moment we enter a store.

Take for instance a grocery store. There’s a reason the bakery is up front. There’s a reason you’re confronted immediately by a fragrant display of flowers. Our sense of smell is connected to a part of the brain responsible for emotion called the “Limbic System,” and pleasant smells activate glands that can lead to impulse buying.

But persuasive merchandizing can also cause us to purchase more than we need – and for many - purchases that we later regret. Here’s a quick checklist before you hit the stores to help keep your impulse buying in check.

· Take a shopping list
· Pay with cash
· Limit time in store
· Limit the number of aisles you browse
· Pay attention to sales "traps" in store
· Don't shop hungry
· Don't shop tired
· Don't shop when you're distracted
· Don't shop with children
· Don't decide to buy when emotions are high
At a time when many of us are struggling to save more and better prepare for a financially secure future, it’s important that we’re as aware as possible of the different forces affecting our spending habits and decisions.

Learn more tips at a free MoneySmarts event on October 5 from 8:00am – Noon at the Centerplace Regional Event Center.

The event is free, but you must pre-register by visiting or call 1-877-926-8300.

AARP and BECU have teamed up to bring you MoneySmarts, providing seniors and not-so-seniors financial tips and solutions to help you maintain and manage your hard-earned money. Topics will range from how to maneuver through the grocery aisles without impulse purchases to tips on college savings and student loans.