No matter how much we fancy ourselves to be seasoned savvy shoppers, we’re all prone to retailers’ pricing tricks. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and I say it often to myself): Sales and specials aren’t actually doing us any favors; they’re, without exception, in favor of the retailer. So how can we spot these psychological pricing strategies and see what’s behind them? And how do we disregard sales, specials, and “good prices,” or—even better—actually flip the game and use them to our advantage?
Prices ending in 9
Ending a price with a 9 increases sales by 24 percent, according to Pricelessauthor William Poundstone. We may be used to seeing this strategy most often with prices that end in .99. In this instance, the strategy works because we read left to right and therefore give more weight to the first number we see. For instance, we think of a $1.99 item as closer to 1 dollar than to 2 dollars.
Interestingly, however, pricing something at one cent below the next whole dollar amount isn’t the only thing that fools us. Researchers from MIT and the University of Chicago demonstrated that women’s clothing with a dollar amount ending in 9 ($39) sold significantly better than shirts priced below this amount at $34.
Retailers know that consumers subconsciously associate the number 9 with a bargain. So when you see a 9 on the tag, think twice about the actual price of the item. Counteract the implied association of 9 with a bargain find by telling yourself that the price is an illusion of a bargain. That in itself strips the technique of much of its power. Then, always remember to round up when you see a 9 to give yourself a feel for the actual closest price.