How to get fooled in to the retail upsell. NOT | Money Saving Tips

| May 7, 2024

Incongruity is very much FACTUAL and REAL when in comes to consumer-retail shopping behavior

Just Imagine.

A sleek sporty car. Awesome trims. Buffed and polished to a sparkle inside out. Leather seats. Top down roof.

Now you pop open the hood. Inside you see a……..WHAT? Moped engine!!!

Now that my dear readers, is an example of INCONGRUITY.

As bizarre and unreal as this imaginative vehicle may sound, the point I wish to make is that, Incongruity is very much FACTUAL and REAL when in comes to consumer-retail shopping behavior and money savings. Retailers know this. Most Consumers don’t. Thus retailers gleefully exploit this heuristic to their benefit. Which means that consumers, that is YOU, may not always end up making the right choice due to heuristic bias.

Authors Bazerman and Moore define Heuristics to be “the numerous simplifying strategies, or rule of thumb, upon which people rely on when making decisions. It is a form of short cut taken in order to reach a conclusive answer in a complex environment in a short time at the expense of optimal outcome“.

I admit to have fallen in to this retail trap many times just like everyone else. In fact, a recent shopping experience led me to the realization of my own heuristic bias. I want to share this experience with you, so that my dear readers, you can be cognizant of your own bias next time you are out shopping.

I was browsing the online store of a major Canadian electronics retailer recently. I was not particularly looking for any item; just browsing for gadgets and deals. Then I came across this item.

Nikon DLSR D3100

This is the Nikon D3100 14.2MP DSLR Camera With AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm VR Lens Kit (as listed on the site).

Now I wanted to buy a SLR from a long time but the $800+ price tag for starting model just seemed too irrational a buy for me. I mean how do you justify the hefty price for a clunky photo-taking equipment in the age of Smartphones and Instagram!

But this one…in this particular instance….for only a short time…..and with only limited quantities….was on SALE for $499.00! Plus it came with a camera bag. Woh! I was sold. Click, click, purchase made.

Wait. Lets back up a bit. It wasn’t as quick as that.

I reviewed the features and use the site comparison tool to compare it against other DLSRs from the Nikon brand. Ok, so now I was looking also at the D3200, a D5100 and D7000.

It was just slightly over my anchored purchase point

I don’t know much about SLR specifications and models. A higher number (7000) sounded superior to the lower number (3100) model. And the price reflected that. I was inclined to get the 5100 model. It seemed more advanced than the 3100 (and indeed is) and was just slightly over my anchored purchase point of the3100 but SO MUCH CHEAPER than the 7000. If I was going to invest in a top quality camera, why not spend that bit more, and get something that is more advanced and new.

But were the images taken by the 5100 model seriously 60% better than those taken by the 3100 model if the price was any reflection of quality??

To answer this simple question I called up three customer service reps from camera departments of three different electronics retailers.

The answer I got from all three was consistent. And revealing. This is what they had to say.

  1. The basic lens in all Nikon DLSR cameras (and presumably in all other brands) is EXACTLY THE SAME! The lens being referred to here is the one inside the body of the camera and not the detachable cylindrical lens.
  2. The higher pixel quality offered in the 5100 and 7000 was only going to matter if one is considering banner size blow up prints or for advanced professional use. For typical online and regular print use most cameras (even non DSLRs are well past the optimum megapixel size – I was told 8MPX is all you ever need).
  3. All DSLR models in the Nikon family can accommodate varying lens attachments for specific conditions and preferences. Its all about the external Lens baby! (no, they didn’t say it that way).
  4. All of them recommended he 5100 as it was lower priced but yet had most advanced features and almost comparable to the 7000 model. (essentially a 7000 lite version).

After digesting this information I reached my optimum decision choice to go with the D3100 at the $499.00 price. I admit the free bag won me over. Its always those darn freebies!

My conclusion was that if the basic body lens is exactly the same in all models and it was all about the external lens, then it truly did not matter to me which model to pick based on features. Price became the only variable. And with the $300 savings I just made, I can invest in an advanced telephoto attachable lens, baby!

Ok. I admit that features do vary. Like the 5100 has a flip-out LCD screen and higher processing power and in-built picture editing tools. But I am not getting technical in this post.

But I do not need it (cause all I want is a moped to run some basic errands).

All these advanced technical features of the D5100 were irrelevant to me since I am only an amateur photographer and don’t intend to turn it to a full blown hobby. Thus I am likely to not use 90% of the camera features. I mean you tell me, dear reader. How many settings have you used on your point and shoot since you bought it?

In summary, this bias to instinctively go for the D5100 model is akin to aforementioned imaginary car. The D5100 is a darn good camera yes, no doubt, and I am sure the price is right (like the appeal of the sleek exterior and interior finish of the car), but I do not need it (cause all I want is a moped to run some basic errands)!!!!

There were two simple but very smart tricks that the retailer was playing to influence the heuristic. First, by showing me the D7000 first on its landing page, the later revelation of the D5100 model appeared a bargain (Price Anchoring). Second, by placing so many technical names and features online beside each model led me to almost believe that the higher price is true reflection of higher quality (Confirmation Trap).

Nothing in the retailer’s selling tactics is wrong, illegal or immoral. Everything is presented clearly. It is left to the reader/consumer to make their own decision. And there in lies the hidden truth. They are relying on irrational consumer behavior to assist in decision making and hopefully leading to higher margin sales.

Next time you go shopping for non-essential items at a store, just think of this experience of mine and allow yourself to take a step back before making the purchase. Ask yourself if the item you are about to buy is TRULY going to be used to its full potential and do you truly deserve to have it at this moment of your life! Remember that your purchase intention and the item must be congruent with each other.

Now I must go open up the Nikon D3100 from the box. It has been sitting unopened for 5 weeks. There is yet no known cure for apathy.


Acknowledgements: My insights on consumer behavior is based on my studies of the University of Durham MBA program’s module – Improving Management Decision Making as well as from the personal readings of books by author and Professor Dan Ariely.


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Category: Household Savings, Money Saving Tips

About the Author ()

Larkycanuck is the pseudonym for the spirited, spontaneous and zestful Canadian. The Blog is focused on showcasing budget adventure travels for working families. Larkycanuck has traveled to over 15 countries, 38 cities in 10 years. He has never quit a job to do this. He travels with his wife and on some trips with the house rabbit (Pepper).

Comments (6)

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  1. Shona says:

    Very true!

  2. Crystal says:

    OK after reading this, I totally need to practice and study up before I go shopping! You sound so well prepared compared to me!

  3. Belinda says:

    Wow you avoided the bait and switch…is that another way to describe this retail trap?

  4. Herb says:

    Good tips here…I also like to always bring cash when its a big purchase like this…if forking over the dough makes me feel queezy, I tuck the money back in my wallet and leave the store

  5. Fabian says:

    Digital cameras remain SO CONFUSING to buy. Thanks for this info..

  6. Inge says:

    More people need this kind of common sense, only buy what you can afford, when you deserve it. and then, try not to get trapped at the store buying the wrong thing!!