The other day I got a call from a salesperson at Bloomingdale’s.

He wanted to tell me about an upcoming sales event. Not just for me, but for family and friends. 20% off. Five days only.

I bought a 40% off suit for a special occasion at Bloomingdale’s last year.

Me in my fancy suit

Me in my fancy suit

I assume my previous purchase prompted this phone call, but I have no need to buy anything at the moment.

Doesn’t he know Mortgage Free Mike rejects materialism?

As the salesperson made his pitch, I was thinking about the sales traps retailers use. Here are my thoughts on 8 common tactics:

1. Friends and Family Discount

The retailer wants you to drag a family member or friend to the mall with you. They’re hoping that person will buy something or at least pressure you into making a purchase. I’m not falling for it.

2. Buy One, Get One Free

Sometimes BOGO can save you money, but only if you can actually use more than one of the item you’re purchasing. I’ve always suspected the price on BOGO merchandise is inflated, but I have no proof. If I only need one item, I use a pricing app to check for a lower price at a competitor.

3. Spend Now, Save Later

I think we all know the drugstore with the receipts long enough to wrap around your waist. They lure you in with sales that offer a discount on a future purchase using a coupon printed on the receipt. There are people who have mastered this system. If your wallet is full of expired coupons, you’re not one of them.

4. Last Chance!

Unless the store is going out of business, we are smart enough to know it’s not the last chance. There will be another sale. Just wait.

5. 2 for $10

What’s better than one? Two, of course. This tactic reminds me of BOGO. If you need two, get two. But if the regular price is $6, a 2 for $10 deal isn’t so hot.

6. Hurry! Sale Ends Soon!

When retailers tell me to hurry, I slow down. That’s a red flag. Some online stores have even started using countdown clocks for sales that end at midnight. The best way to save is to compare prices. I don’t let a time limit set by a retailer stand in the way of that.

7. Bundle Offers

I’m always amused by bundle offers at the perfume counter. All you really want is a fragrance, but the salesperson tries to sell you something extra along with it. Then there are the free tote bags. I mean, how many of those do you need? When I see bundle offers, I look for an unbundled item elsewhere.

8. This Saturday Only!

Maybe you’ve noticed, Saturday sales sometimes start as early as Thursday. Yes, these Saturday-only sales can be three days long and there will be another sale the following week. Nothing special about that.


Once you know the games the retailers play, it’s easy to take advantage of good sales when they do happen. Before I buy anything, I like to do a quick Google search to compare prices. There are plenty of apps, too. For online purchases, I use the shopping portal TopCashBack to save a few extra dollars. Finally, I pay with a rewards credit card for an additional 2% off.

What retail traps do you try to avoid? Share it below or tweet @MichaelSaves.

You might also want to read: