Price Tag Tricks Consumers Need to Be Aware Of

August 9, 2012

‘Multiplication and Division’ Price Tags

I need a proof the old price stood before this discounted offer came out.

When shop owners stage their “massive discount” offer, they must think that buyers are compelled to buy because a) this is a once-in-a-lifetime offer of 95% off, a HK$10,000 to HK$500 deal, b) the offer is so irresistible that even if it’s not immediately useful, it may prove its worth later. But who knows this price is just artificially inflated and reduced to the price very close to its original?

I need a proof the old price stood before this discounted offer came out.

Commonly seen: At various types of shops that announce they have a huge, eye-popping sale.

‘Misplaced Products’ Price Tags
These are large price tags that are irresistible from a distance and therefore becomes a magnet for buyers. I noticed this at an H&M shop in Tseung Kwan O, while window shopping with my wife. From afar, the price of a blouse looks attractive. But when we approached it, a fine print below the huge label indicates that the price isn’t for the blouse, but for the shorts found nowhere near the label.

There is a reason why text above price tag is so tiny.

There is a reason why text above price tag is so tiny.[/caption]

Commonly seen: Clothing shops? But I could be wrong.

‘On Sale, Oh Just Kidding’ Price Tags

Look, ma. 0% discount!
Photo credit: Jozelle Gabriel.[/caption]Look, ma. 0% discount!
Photo credit: Jozelle Gabriel.

Just in case our eyes are oriented that the sight of a yellow-labeled product signifies a sale item, let’s try to re-calibratethem. That’s because sometimes we just focus on what a product costs more than how much was cut. In such cases, we could fall prey on a strange tactic: they are no different at all. See the proof below, from a neighborhood 7-Eleven outlet.

Commonly seen: At convenience shops where people go because they need to buy, and don’t care to compare price elsewhere.

Look, ma. 0% discount!
Photo credit: Jozelle Gabriel.

‘Outright Deceptive’ Price Tags

This is probably the most difficult type of price tag deception to deal with. This type of price labeling happens on products that need to pass through the weighing scale such as meat and vegetables. While I see no problem with meat products labeled with price per pound and equivalent price label after being weighed, one experience buying a Taiwan cauliflower at Park N Shop reveals that the price that appears on the package isn’t the actual cost of the commodity. And it didn’t indicate (at least in English terms) the price is per pound. Passing through the cashier, we realized the real value. Hong Kong has its product labeling law, but it’s more about guidelines on printing nutritional values than guidelines on price tagging.

Commonly seen: Supermarkets

Certainly there are various ways shops employ to make their goods look desirable and influence impulse buying: lighting systems, skinny mirrors, product placement and attractive mannequins. But I think pricing products influences greater than all the others. Becoming a smart buyer is easier said than done, but with the examples shared above, we become more discriminating customers.

We know a bit of arithmetic, but still…

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