Smart consumers analyze the budget, compare prices within a service field, and weigh the choices of spending money on particular items. They know how to save money or to spend it more reasonably on something else. In this article, you will learn the best ideas on how to be a smart consumer, what are the most common shopping scams and tips on how to avoid them.
We do shopping every day using different methods: from tablets, phones, laptops, social channels, and physical store locations. According to statistics, 48% of millennials have shopped on marketplaces, 76% at large retailer sites, 46% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 29% at category-specific online stores. Every retailer tries to stand out greater than ever to get you as a customer.
You should be smart enough to buy what you want considering quality for the minimum price. Who is a smart consumer? He/she is a buyer who does not purchase anything "what is the cheapest, but searches for some valuable items which have a good price and, at the same time, he/she questions the ethics of products and brands".
Being a smart shopper became a new trend which includes new consumer behavior, considerate shopping attitude and constantly learning tips for smart shopping.
The best tips and ideas for being a "smart consumer"
Being a "smart consumer" is critical nowadays. It’s a fashionable trend that everyone wants to follow. You should also be well-informed and become a "prosumer" – a person who bases purchasing decisions on knowledge of a product’s lifecycle and true value. It’s not an easy task. Thus, the following smart consumer tips and ideas should help you:
Limit impulse shopping
Try to ignore "for sales" signs. If you didn’t plan to visit this shop, just pass it by. Companies spend lots of money studying customers. Thus, understanding main marketing tricks and the awareness of tips for becoming a wise shopper can help avoid impulse shopping. The examples of common marketing tricks are:
- Products which retailers want to sell first are always at an eye level.
- The price tag with the phrase "maximum 8 cans per customer" doesn’t mean a true discount, it gives the illusion of it. As a result, you buy more.
- Free candy or chocolate leads to the desire to buy expensive and nonfood luxury goods.
- Shoppers’ disorientation leads to impulsive buying. Thus, when you enter a mall or a shopping center, you become confused by the layout and forget why you are there.
- Imitating your gestures and sales people’s touch to your shoulders leads to more selling.
- The smell and specific music lead to the sales increase.
- Rude salespeople in luxury stores. They provoke the desire to belong to a special crowd that doesn’t want you as a member, and then you buy expensive products. The video below shows how this tactic works.
Check, compare prices of products and seek the cheapest ones
Make up a shopping list according to this data. Check for the goods that were banned, recalled or pulled from the shelves. In order to do it, visit websites (ConsumerReports.org) that announce such goods. Don’t forget to check such warnings in the email, online, or media.
Avoid pirated goods. Examine the product carefully
An unusual low price is always suspicious. Pay attention to packaging. It is the indicator of a fake. Read the information on it: a manufacturer’s name, official address, an importer, holograms, control numbers. Be wary of misspelling: logos and trademark should be displayed correctly.
Learn about the biggest sale days
There are some discount days you should know. They are as follows:
- New Year’s Day (January 1st). Retailers sell leftover pre-holiday stock such as winter clothing, New Year’s resolution items, like exercise equipment, etc.
- President’s Day (3rd Monday of February). This day is perfect if you want to buy winter clothing.
- Memorial Day (Last Monday in May). This day is good for buying spring clothing and mattresses.
- Independence Day (July 4th). This day is good for buying office supplies, laptops, and air conditioners.
- Labor Day (1st Monday in September). It is the best time for buying back-to-school items and summer items (grills, outdoor equipment).
- Columbus Day (1st Monday in October). It is a good time for buying jeans, patio furniture.
- Black Friday (The day after the 4th Thursday in November). It is the best period for every shopper. You can find great discounts practically on anything.
- Cyber Monday (The Monday following Black Friday). It is the day for online shopping.
Take advantage of wise shopping online and follow the next tips
- Look carefully at the website itself. The one that doesn’t use "https" or "SSL" is mostly of questionable origin.
- Check the contact information that should be legitimate with more than one way of contact: an email address or P.O. Box, one or several telephone numbers.
- Be careful when you see pop-up advertisements on the sides of your screen. Most phony sites use them.
- Learn all details about the supply chain (it should be a legal source). Another smart online shopping tip is to read the website policies (delivery terms, return and refund options, shipping policies, exchange facility, and warranty deals).
- Don’t share sensitive information over the Internet like Social Security Number, bank account details etc.
- Don’t pay in advance. It is safer to choose for cash on delivery option (COD). Don’t give any details concerning your debit or credit card information over the net.
- Compare products, prices and warranty deals for the same product with other competitor shops. Another wise shopping tip is to find out about discounts for the first purchase, loyalty points, etc.
- Make a shopping plan for the biggest online sales. Among the best shopping days are Easter, Father's Day, Back-t0-school period, Labor Day, Super Saturday, and others.
- Add to your calendar Free Shipping Day (December 11) which is a good opportunity to avoid expensive shipping fees.
Besides knowing and using smart consumer tips, it’s highly important to know the most common shopping scams. Below you’ll find the examples of such fraud.
Common shopping scams
When you do shopping, you can face some risks starting from fakes and duplicates to stealing your financial and confidential information. If you think of how to become a smart shopper, you should be aware of the most common scams that are as follows.
Scammers offer bogus products and services that don’t exist. You receive unsolicited phone calls asking for a large amount of money you should pay in advance. More often, older adults become victims of such a scam. When you receive a telemarketing call, pay attention to the several red flags.
The first is when telemarketers ask for a fee upfront, payment information like a credit card or bank account number. It is illegal and is the sign of a scam.
Another one is asking you to pay a fee to win a prize or claiming that payment will increase your chances of winning that prize. The pressure to act immediately, the usage of scare tactics, demands for payment by courier or claims that you are guaranteed to "get rich quick" are all scams.
This National Magazine Exchange reviewer shares his/her experience of "bait and switch" tactic scam. This person wrote:
"...They contacted by mail stating that I was eligible to win a "grand prize" and to follow the instructions contained in the letter of "official Notification." Accordingly, after making contact by calling the 800 number provided, a sales representative wanted to verify that I had a credit card, debit card or Visa type of card to complete the transaction..."
The person understood that it was a "bogus" offer and wanted to warn others.
Free trial scam
You sign up for a free trial offer and agree to pay only for shipping and handling. However, the terms and conditions information says that you should pay a monthly fee until you cancel the agreement after the trial period.
In this Urthbox review, a person shares his/her bad experience of signing up for free trial. He/she wrote:
"I'm (another) one of those people who got sucked into a "Free" trial only to be charged $90 for a 6 month subscription that I did not realize was in the fine print. I'm in the process of demanding my subscription be canceled and a pro-rated refund be returned to my credit card..."
The person feels hopeless about getting the money back.
You sign up on the phone or online on a free of charge basis or for a small fee for a product and/or service trial for a month. However, this trial turns into ongoing substantial payments.
This ShoeMint reviewer won a pair of shoes in a contest held by one of the blogs. He/she wrote:
"...When I went to the site, I was told by Shoemint that it credited my account to cover the pair of free shoes I had won. I picked out my shoes, made my way to the checkout, and clicked to use my credit. The website asked for my credit card information at the checkout which wasn't unusual to me when placing an order online. I wasn't charged for the shoes and they arrived quite quickly..."
However, it turned out that free shoes came with an expensive subscription. The person didn’t click the skip button and was charged the $79.98 subscription fee. As a result, he/she canceled the subscription but didn’t get a refund.
Smart consumer tips on how to avoid scams
The best way to avoid any scam is to be well-informed. The following smart consumer tips will help you.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. Scammers can make themselves look like anybody they want. There are many tools to trick potential victims like SpoofCard which helps change a phone number on a person’s caller ID. If you are asked for money or personal information, hang up.
- Think twice before signing up for free trial, low cost or high return offers. If you still decided to agree for one of them, read information about the company, find reviews, learn the cancellation policy and check your monthly credit card or bank account statements.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.
- Be especially suspicious if someone pressures you into making a quick decision or keeping a transaction a secret.
- Avoid financial exploitation if you are a senior or a caregiver. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have developed Money Smart for Older Adults, a curriculum with information and resources.
Smart shopping represents a careful and time-saving person who likes to look good, knows about fashion, follows international trends, and makes smart decisions. Smart shopping is a fun but at the same time good investment. Thus, when you understand your needs, know how to become a smart shopper and use the foregoing tricks and ideas, you will get positive and safe shopping experience.
- common shopping scams
- free trial scams
- online shopping scams
- Shoemint complaints
- smart consumer tips
- telemarketing scams
- Urthbox reviews
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.