Tricks or Treats? What Types of Deals are You Getting These Holidays?

By: Tyler Finigan

The holidays mean many different things, but two of them we can all agree on are the giving of gifts and the family friendly atmosphere. Whether it’s buying presents during Christmas time, buying costumes and candy for Halloween, or getting something for that special someone on Valentine’s Day, money is being spent and the majority of the time it is the deciding factor that determines what you end up buying. Everyone is looking for the best sales and the lowest prices on items so that they can get the best deal possible.  There is no time throughout the year when prices change more than during the holidays. Companies, brands, and stores are competing at the highest level during this time, and often greatly advertise how low they are dropping the prices or what new sales and discounts they are offering. However, are the consumers really getting the great deals they think they are getting, or is there something else going on?

The article, “Trick or Treat? How to Spot Retail Traps”, focuses on the pricing and marketing strategies used by retailers during the holidays to get consumers to spend more; in this case, for Halloween. The first strategy is setting the stage in the store to get customers in the mood to shop. Pretty displays of pumpkins and scents of cinnamon and pumpkin surround the customer and evoke feelings of the Halloween season. Research has shown that when customers are greeted with a shopping experience that reflects the season, they will usually stay longer in the store and spend more on products. Threshold offers are a second strategy and is used as an upselling trick. For online orders, once a certain value is spent on products, the customer will receive free shipping for their order. This order value is often up to 50% more than the average order value. The same idea applies for shopping in store; if you spend X amount of dollars than you receive a percentage discount. Another strategy is the decoy effect.  This is when a store prices one product higher than a second product. This higher priced product is more likely to drive the purchase of the second product, even though the lower priced product might not be priced that low. A fourth strategy this article mentions is bounce-back offers. These deals are a bonus or discount to be used at a later date for spending a minimum required amount. These types of offers get shoppers to return and make additional purchases, or the shoppers forget to redeem the bonus and end up spending more than they planned at their original visit.

All of this matters because it affects both the retailers and marketers that are trying to sell this product and the consumers that are buying these products. Marketers have to come up with these deals that will make their products more appealing than their competitors, as well as to aim to get consumers to spend as much as possible to maximize revenues. We consistently see different companies offering different discounts during the holiday seasons, and how marketers go about this competition will lead to thriving or failing of products and brands.

From the perspective of the consumer, we are trying to do nice things and buy nice gifts for the people we care about. How should we feel about these deceptive tactics retailers and marketers implement during the holidays to get us to spend more? They are offering so many deals that it seems like consumers are saving a bunch of money, when in reality they are not. Is it up to marketers and retailers to not deceive consumers and actually offer the savings they are supposedly offering, or is it up to us as the consumer to be smarter and see what they are actually putting out there? In my opinion, it is up to the consumer to outsmart the marketer and the retailers; because if the marketers and retailers get us to spend more on the products that they are marketing and pricing, then they are doing their job right and earning their paycheck.


26 thoughts on “Tricks or Treats? What Types of Deals are You Getting These Holidays?

  1. Ashley W. April 11, 2016 / 2:13 am

    I think that the consumer is not oblivious to the tactics and marketing schemes of retailers especially around the holidays. As you are going to the store for last minute Halloween Candy, you will often see the beginning of a Christmas setting in the store, knowing that tomorrow you can go into the store and get the candy you’re about to pay $10 for, for $2 instead. Many try to plan ahead and although we do our best to find the best deal and avoid overpaying as much as possible, these practices have already become the social norm for most of the commercialized holidays.


    • Aishwarya Gunti April 13, 2016 / 3:13 pm

      I completely agree with Ashley that these tricks have become the social norm and it is not easy to not get caught in it. I realized that no matter what the deal is, marketeers are always making profit. It is all about how much profit you are allowing them to make.


  2. kentma April 11, 2016 / 11:34 pm

    While I think some of these tactics are deceptive, I don’t think consumers should be shocked to hear that these types of tactics are used. Marketers and retailers have been using these types of tactics for quite some time so consumers should be aware of what is happening. I think consumers should know these things when they go shopping and be aware of the price they are paying regardless of what “savings” are being advertised. I wouldn’t say retailers are doing anything out of the ordinary, its just another reason for consumers to be on their toes looking out for their best interests when shopping.


  3. Derek Lawton April 13, 2016 / 1:46 am

    I think most consumers know of these marketers tactics by now and should be aware before buying. I do think that there are ways to save money and that not all deals are bad deals. Consumers need to do their research before buying and should be at fault if they don’t.


  4. Abagail Stacey April 13, 2016 / 9:06 pm

    We all know that it’s the retailers and marketers job to implement different strategies to get us to spend more money. I think people who love sales and being a bargain shopper might get a little out of hand around these times of the year and end up spending more, but for the most part everyone should be able to pick up on if they are actually spending more or less. I have gone into a store where they say if you spend X amount of money you will get X percent off your next purchase. It would be interesting to find out how many customers will actually spend that extra amount of money to be able to get the coupon for their next purchase. It’s through manipulating people into thinking they are making the right choice. Reducing the price of products and having sales all over the store looks appealing to customers and it can be very tempting to go overboard when people see the word sale.


  5. Ronald Zampanti April 14, 2016 / 3:01 pm

    Though retailers and marketers are getting us to spend more money, we as consumers are actually saving a lot of money. The deals and discounts they offer consumers on holiday seasons allow consumers to purchase a larger selection and larger quantity of products at a much lower price compared to non-holiday seasons. So the amount of money for the amount of products purchased is more than fair. The holiday season is the time when consumers purchase very large amount of products for families and friends anyways. I agree with how the holiday season display of the store get customers to shop more. I also find the decoy effect to be a great strategy on behalf of marketers/retailers. Many consumers fall for this strategy and stores make a tremendous amount of money on the lower priced product.


  6. cassidylebert April 14, 2016 / 5:00 pm

    I don’t think these marketing tactics should come as any surprise to consumers, nor do I find it unethically deceiving. Marketers are just doing their job and consumers should do their part by being an informed buyer. As a past retail worker I have seen all of these tricks go into effect. One of the biggest sale tactics I noticed was the company would display their holiday inventory a good two months in advance (such as Christmas decorations) but start it off as a sale and as soon as the date approached most sales were gone, thus encouraging consumers to shop early. This was a smart strategy because no matter what the shelves were always cleared by Christmas Eve regardless of sales or not. I’ve definitely found myself falling for the decoy effect while shopping.


    • Marisa Harrington May 1, 2016 / 9:58 pm

      I agree with you Cassidy. Many consumers should not be surprised by the tactics that marketers use to get business. Many people who are proactive will shop on Black Friday when all the real deals are out. Marketers are doing what they do in order to make profit for the company.


  7. Eddie Rouxinol April 16, 2016 / 3:37 pm

    I thought this was a very interesting article and it really shows the creativity of the retail industry to get customers to stay longer in stores and eventually spend more money. One thing that I thought would be a similar discussion to this article would the current trend towards getting customers committed to a recent store. With all of these loyalty programs and retail apps, consumers are continuously going back to their favorite store to rack up rewards, which gives them the feeling that they are getting the best deals, when in reality the company is earning more profit knowing that you are spending more than you normally would on a trip to the store when you have a specific item in mind.


  8. Julie Wusenich April 17, 2016 / 2:08 am

    The retail industry knows how to trick consumers into purchasing items they don’t necessarily need – product placement is key. An item or two catches your eye and need to have it, however, do you really need it?


    • Jane Walsh May 12, 2016 / 9:13 pm

      This is totally true. I’ve bought many an autumn scented candle because of their placement in the store. But, I need to go in looking for stuff that I don’t need.


  9. Chansamone Voralath April 17, 2016 / 9:34 pm

    I totally agree with everyone that marketers use tactics all of the time and should not be a surprise for everyone. We, as consumers, are aware of these tactics but we need to be smart about our decision when making purchases. Like Eddie said, those loyalty programs are really encouraging consumers to spend more to rack up on rewards and the company is making profit off them at the same. Consumers need to question themselves whether or not they are really getting the best deals or it is just marketing tactic that marketers use to lure you into their store to spend more.


  10. CJ Enos April 17, 2016 / 11:08 pm

    I’m not sure if I agree with the article that these tactics are deceptive. Retailers market their products to the season they are selling and I think it gets a shopper in the mood when the tone is set at the entrance of the store. Especially if you are someone who does not like to shop. These same concept are applied to other areas of selling. For example during an open house if the seller has the smell of something baking in the oven it gives the potential buyer a sense of home or the smell and sight of fresh cut flowers during the spring and summer can do the same. At buyers we know what retailers are doing, however it is more enjoyable to shop when you enter a store and feel the season. Also I think consumers are much more savvy now a days and realize that just because something is advertised as a sales does not mean that it truly is.


  11. Colleen Flynn April 18, 2016 / 2:29 pm

    I think the holiday season is very stressful shopping for everyone and trying to find that “perfect gift.” This article is very interesting to hear about all the deals that we are supposedly receiving from the stores. I believe that it is the job of the consumer to recognize that we are not actually getting all the amazing deals that we seem to be receiving. The marketers and retailers are doing their job to set themselves up in a way to sell more projects. We as consumers either give in to the offer or look for another gift/price elsewhere. We ultimately have the choice to purchase regardless of the deal that is on the table. It is amazing to see all the tactics that marketers use. During the holidays, especially, people are going to buy either way.


  12. Andie-Jane Phinney April 18, 2016 / 6:04 pm

    During the Holidays, shopping and spending money seems to increase drastically. The decorations, the smells, and the deals seem to bring more people into the stores than normal. I believe it is up to the consumer on whether they take the deals, and spend the money. The stores offer a variety or different deals and promotions to get the customers to spend the money. They lower certain prices to get you to buy more. The idea for the companies is great, but sometimes it results in us spending more money. Us as consumers are at fault I believe because we are the ones going into the stores and purchasing. The sales and promotions get to us, thinking we are saving money, when sometimes we end up spending more money on what we originally planned to do. As a shopper, I do love the deals, but sometimes walking away knowing I spent to much. From the companies perspective, it is a great way to get more customers into the store, and to spend money. Us as customers just have to be careful of what we are spending.


  13. Meg April 19, 2016 / 6:22 am

    Having worked in retail before, I have seen the many promotions and decoy effects occur, and I believe that many consumers get caught up believing the sale to be a good deal. A sale sign causes most people to look again, which then influences people to purchase additional products they weren’t planning on buying. Customers are well aware this is happening, but they often cannot stop themselves from spending more money. Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but they often result in high credit card debt instead. Consumers need to practice being responsible shoppers, and learning that they need to watch the traps so they do not spend too much money.


  14. Meghan Gulbrandsen April 19, 2016 / 7:14 pm

    I agree that during holidays there is this huge potential for company’s to take full advantage over their customers. I also believe that the consumers are aware of what is going on during the holidays. Customers have this drive and are more apt to need to go into stores during these times, and businesses should definitely take full advantage of this. Personally, I agree that the more decorative and seasonal the store is, the more time I spend in there. It makes me want to look around more even if I don’t have any intentions in buying anything. Then the longer I am in there the more likely I am to see something I like and make a purchase I wasn’t planning on making. This is huge for businesses.


  15. Megan Lac April 20, 2016 / 12:07 am

    I think customers are becoming more and more aware of marketers tactics as time goes on. However, people are also finding ways around this. With the use of smartphones and internet access in the palm of our hands its easier for consumers to research deals and compare prices. Consumers have the ability to stand in store and check a price while on their phone looking up the price to the same product at a different store.


  16. Justin Flory April 20, 2016 / 1:16 am

    While these marketing tactics sound like a good idea, I think people know what they want during holiday seasons. Obviously people are going to buy Halloween candy for trick-or-treat and candy on Valentine’s Day or Easter. For those holidays, a lot of people buy candy mostly because it seems like a must have to everyone. I don’t really believe that people always choose to specifically buy holiday items just because of the way the products are marketed. These products become traditions year after year and that plays a large part in what people are going to buy each year during the holidays.


  17. cimminoc April 21, 2016 / 5:02 pm

    I believe it is the consumers job to outsmart the marketer. I think with every deal you must understand that the marketer has a simple motive, to sell more of a certain product. So no matter how affordable a product may seem, it will always play in the marketers favor. Creating a pumpkin display in Halloween and winter wonderland around Christmas create a certain mindset for customers. They may feel more in the “mood” to purchase something when In a festive environment. These are effective strategies and a customer must realize the motives of marketers before purchasing.


  18. Sharon Masucci April 21, 2016 / 6:35 pm

    Even though we all know these tricks I think we still do tend to fall for them. I’m not sure about a nice display making me want to shop. But, I do think certain deals, like spend 50$ and you will get free shipping are easier to fall for. Even though you might end up spending more by making your purchase reach that price, any time anyone sees the word free the will do anything to get that.


  19. Aidan Kelly April 21, 2016 / 11:01 pm

    I agree with Ashley’s comments regarding how quickly the seasons come and go. It seems Christmas comes earlier each year due to all the marketing companies put into the holidays. As soon as Halloween is over, their is already advertisements with Santa and a countdown till how many days till Christmas. As Ashley already stated, it is sometimes best to shop the day after a holiday to get the best deals.


  20. reganka April 22, 2016 / 5:11 pm

    Although marketers deceive consumers, especially during holiday seasons, I do not think that they are in the wrong. Any promotional tactic or sale that they launch is in effort to get a consumer to commit to a purchase. I believe that it is in the consumers hands on if they so called “fall” for these tricks.


  21. Nichole Urbanski April 26, 2016 / 8:39 pm

    I think that at this point, consumers can’t really expect anything less than what marketers do around the Holidays. Every time I go into either Target, Dollar Store or Stop and Shop, I really don’t expect to not see whatever season it is to be displayed right in the front. This is actually geared towards convenience for consumers rather than tricking them. I feel like most of the time when consumers go into a store around a specific Holiday, they are going for a specific reason revolving around the Holiday. Instead of having to walk through the entire store looking around everywhere to find something related to the Holiday, consumers can easily find what they were looking for. However there has been instances when I have gone into a store around the Holiday season and have ended up spending way more than I anticipated to do because everything was readily available to me at that specific time and place. So, thinking about it that way, I guess marketers at times may seem as though they are trying to “trick” consumers but, I do not believe that is their overall intention.


  22. Hechuan Lou May 2, 2016 / 9:47 pm

    I agree that the marketers use tactics all of the time and should not be a surprise for everyone. Actually not only for business, even in books or articles, they play tactics a lot in order to attract more readers. Sometimes it’s a good thing if the products or services they provide are really worth people to buy it, but sometimes it’s not a good thing if they just play this for taking more market.


  23. gabriellepecher May 12, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    Tyler – I loved your presentation! I think the reason I loved it so much is because I am these marketers favorite consumer. I am likely to buy more when I feel there is an experience involved. For this reason alone, I will go to Target over Wal-Mart because I feel like they offer a nicer, cleaner experience even though I know I am paying slightly more for that experience because I can get the same items for cheaper at Wal-Mar. The minute you walk in the door they have the “dollar” section where items are cheap $1, $5, or $10 and are super cute! There is usually a theme associated with these items and you can’t help, but buy them because not are they only a “great deal” but they’re also something I feel like I won’t find anywhere else, especially given then price. This happens when I’ve gone to the dollar store. I will buy way too many items because I tell myself “it’s only a dollar”, but as a result I am buying far more than I need or should simply because something is a dollar, not because I need the item.


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