Two-for manipulation - MoneySense

Two-for manipulation

Don’t get duped by “2 for $5” discounts. Buying just one is unlikely to cost you more.


Grocery basket
Have you noticed “2 for $5” promotions at your grocery store lately? Did you automatically assume that there was a volume discount? There probably wasn’t. This is the latest retailer trick to grab your attention and push your “auto buy” button. It isn’t actually dishonest because it doesn’t promise something it doesn’t deliver. It is manipulative.

The two-for sign signals a volume discount that doesn’t exist. Grocers are taking advantage of the fact that most shoppers are driven by impulse and short on time.  When we see a sign that implies a good deal, our instinct is to take advantage of it.

You might even be convinced that buying just one might end up costing you more. Again you’d be wrong. Take that box of strawberries to the checkout and you’ll find that one box costs $2.50, exactly half the two-for price. You’ll be glad you didn’t buy two and end up with more strawberries than you could eat just for the sake of a perceived lower price.

For years retailers have used the .99¢ as a way to make us think “cheaper.” Most folks looking at a price tag that shows $9.99 think $9, not $10. They just made the product appear a dollar cheaper and it only cost them a penny.

You might think that with the demise of the penny in Canada this kind of pricing trickery will go the way of the Dodo bird. Don’t bet on it. It’s only the physical penny that’s going away, not the electronic cent. But it may mean that retailers see this as an opportunity to move more to the two-for manipulation as a way of pulling our chains without it costing them even a copper.

Some folks fight the retail manipulation game with a price-book. They track the costs of items they purchase regularly so that they know when there’s a good deal and not just some trick at work. But not everyone has the time or the interest in creating a grocery price book that meticulously tracks prices so they have a frame of reference for comparing prices. That does not mean you have to be a sucker.

Rule #1: Make sure you shop with a list. And stick to it. This helps to eliminate the struggle between the emotional and rational parts of your brain.

Rule #2: Never buy more than you need. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t make it a good deal.

Rule #3: If you only have a few things on your list, forgo the grocery cart. You’ll be less tempted to pick up impulsive deals if you have to carry them in your arms.