6 retailer traps: From dressing-room deceptions to purchase minimums

When it comes to shopping it should always be buyer beware! Everyone at some time or another has been duped when making a purchase. Fortunately, we have the sage advice of nationally recognized consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. She has appeared on "NBC's Today Show," Dr. Oz, "Good Morning America," CNN, "ABC News with Diane Sawyer," and MSNBC. If there were ever such a thing as a savings superhero, it would be this very passionate retail expert.

Woroch believes that many of the consumer traps are focused around the bargain-hunting shopper on a never-ending search for new ways to save. She believes that when the market crashed in 2008, people lost their jobs and their spending confidence waned. Woroch said retailers began adopting new sales and bargain strategies for this large revolutionary wave of deal hunters, thus leading to more consumer deception and entrapment.

Here are six retailer traps and tricks to keep in mind:

Trap 1 — Use of Urgency

"We see retailers creating a sense of urgency in their promotions using messages that say 'One Day Only,' 'Limited Time,' 'Hurry Before Their Gone.' A lot of retailers do their own daily deals, and they know that shoppers are going to feel like they are going to miss out on that deal if they don't buy it immediately. It's important to know that many of these stores send out these (emails) on a weekly basis, so it's important to reprogram yourself to not fall for that sense of urgency. Know that the sales are always around and if you miss one now, wait until another one becomes available. What you could do is look for the deals when you need them."

"Perhaps it is better to unsubscribe from the retailer newsletters that might bombard and influence you to make purchases when you didn't need anything in the first place. As some of the brick-and-mortar stores have been suffering in sales due to online competition, we (consumers) will sometimes all get emails that say 'One Day Only: In-Store Only.' They are trying to use the urgency to (get the customers to) go into the store and shop. So these trap tactics can be both in-store and online."

Trap 2 — Purchase Minimums

"This is mostly associated with shipping. Obviously free shipping is one of the biggest promotions for online (businesses), because retailers know that most shoppers won't buy something online if there's a shipping charge. Online retailers figured out a way to get you to shop and spend more money by increasing those purchase thresholds used to reach the free shipping discount. Amazon originally offered free shipping on $25, then last year they raised it to $35 and now it's $49. Not only are they trying to get you to spend more, they're trying to get you to sign up for their prime membership to get free two-day shipping."

"First of all make sure that you are only spending the money that you planned to spend, and sometimes spending the $10 on shipping is better than spending the extra $15 for an item that you don't need. Otherwise always look for free shipping codes at (websites like) freeshipping.org, because sometimes there might be special deals like 'free shipping on our orders' for that (particular) retailer that you might be able to get a code. If you are a big online shopper then maybe it is worth signing up for a free shipping club, where you pay a monthly or yearly fee and get free shipping across multiple retailers. However, there are stores that allow you to order online and pickup free in-store. So that still kind of gives you the convenience of shopping online and getting those online exclusives ."

Trap 3 — Dressing Room Deception

"There is a new mirror called 'the skinny mirror.' The people who made the skinny mirror made it for consumers but retailers caught on and started purchasing them for their dressing rooms. It's designed to make you look 5 to 10 pounds lighter. Retailers do this because they know that if shoppers feel skinny and good in it (clothing), they are more likely to buy it. They will also dim the dressing room lights, so you might not totally see yourself clearly — and you might appear like you have more of a glowing complexion ... and of course feel better in what you look like."

Trap 4 — Charm Pricing

"Price tags that end with $.09, $.95, or $.99 are statistically more attractive to shoppers compared to full-dollar pricing, and that's because people tend to only focus on the number to the left of the decimal point, commonly refer to as the 'left-digit effect.' People round down (instead of rounding something up from say $4.99 up to $5.00). People just need to remember to round up!"

Trap 5 — Store Credit Cards

"The way retailers trick you into opening the new card is by offering you a new card member discount. The sales associate at checkout might say, 'Hey do you have this store card? You should open it and you'll get another 25% off your purchase right now?' So that appeals to shoppers who may be making a big purchase. They want to save as much money as possible. Retailers know that not only will you likely go back to buy something else to maximize that (new card member) discount, but every time you shop and swipe your plastic card — you're probably going to spend more money (more than you should)."

"Unfortunately every time you request a new line of credit, your credit score gets dinged. That's important to be aware of, especially if you are thinking about buying a house, getting a mortgage loan, or about to buy a car. You want the best credit available to get the best loan term, best interest rate, and actually be able to obtain that loan. More importantly, having a store card at a store you don't shop (that much) or opening a bunch of store cards ... will make your finances complicated and easy to forget payment dates. Those credit cards have high interest fees. You are looking at anywhere from 25 percent to 29 percent APR. That's incredibly high. If you are not paying off your card balance in full, you are just throwing away money ... and that's making that initial savings totally obsolete. I think it is better to stick to one credit card that offers rewards like a cash-back card."

Trap 6 — Tiered Savings

"So you oftentimes see the slogan, 'Buy More-Save More!' It's used by lots of retailers, from clothing to furniture stores. They create the perception of extra value. Consumers love a value and will take the deal that has the best thing for their buck. So when they see these tiered deals like $10 off $50, $15 off $75 or $20 off $100 (purchases) ... chances are they are going to spend the $100 to get $20 off and feel like they are getting the biggest savings. However, the percentage of savings is oftentimes the same. People don't do the math, they just look at the dollar value. It's important for you to stick to your shopping list and not spend more than you were planning to just because there's this tiered savings selling you on more value, when it is really not that better of a deal."