I like games. I always have. Give me a rousing game of Pinocle, Monopoly, Mahjong, FreeCell, Connect The Dots and I can play for hours. Although honestly there haven’t been many hours in recent years that could be devoted to such frivolous activities.
But don’t pity me. I play high stake games every day – and you do, too.
What would you say the great American pastime is? Nope, I’m not talking about Baseball – it’s more inclusive than that. And, no, I’m not talking about fact-checking either, although it should probably come in a close second.
I’m talking about the activity you and I – and every red-blooded American – play on a daily basis.
If you guessed Shopping, you get an A+ and go to the head of the class.
When we want to celebrate, we shop. When we want to recognize someone we love, we shop. When we feel a bit depressed, we shop. When times are tough, we shop. When crisis strikes, our leaders encourage us to shop.
Marketers know this and spend countless hours looking for ways to stimulate this activity. They have developed highly refined ways to influence our shopping behavior. They know what words to use, what emotions to tap and how to get us from “wouldn’t that be nice” to “Wow, I own it” effortlessly.
Shopping is a high stakes game, and we shoppers need to start being a whole lot more vigilant about how we play our part. With financially strapped buyers we’re seeing a whole lot more tendency to caution in buying decisions: substitution of cheaper products, participation in buying clubs, coupon shopping, bulk purchases on sales, shopping loss leaders, cash purchases and doing without. All are important skills that every smart shopper needs to explore.
But do you know where you’re probably leaving a lot of money on the table? It’s right there on your sales receipt! Check those items – do it before you leave the parking lot. Make sure that you actually got the sales you planned to get.
One example, I went to the grocery store today for the express purpose of buying two items: cream cheese and cool whip. The store advertised each at $ .69 with a two-item limit. Wow! great! Easter is coming and, while I don’t normally buy these items, I’ll have use for them when preparing the holiday meal.
When I left the store, I glanced briefly at the register receipt! Lo and behold, I got the sale price on the cream cheese just as advertised. But the cool whip was priced at full price, with the notice that my two item limit had been exceeded. This was weird. The items were completely different brands, completely different items and the ads were completely separated on the flyer. The pricing on the displays in different locations in the store, each said simply “2 item limit”.
This may have been a case of false advertising. It may have been inadvertent – simply a glitch in how the computer was set up. It doesn’t much matter.
How many times have you walked away from a purchase without questioning the total? I know I rarely check. And most times it isn’t a big deal. But the point is, over the course of a year, how many pennies, nickles and dimes do you spend without knowing it?
Watch your receipts. Make sure what’s there is what you expect. Mistakes happen but if you leave the premises without checking, you haven’t given yourself a chance to win the shopping game.