Why do prices end in $0.99? (2)
JED: And...is that what happened?
HUCKSTER VOICE: By jiminy, where is everybody? My stores are empty!
BRIDGET: Customers kinda stopped buying from them. Turns out, we want to see that sale price, next to the higher original price we *don't have to pay. That's how we KNOW we're getting a good deal for our money. The whole plan flopped and....the store had to bring sales back.
JED: Wow, I guess we kinda like to be tricked then. But maybe this all makes sense. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to be smart with our money. It makes sense that our brains are always looking for ways to do that.It's a tough world out there for a guy who just wants to spend his money wisely and is OK owning 13 jump ropes he bought on sale.
JED: I feel so much smarter about how stores set their prices and how my brain responds. I'm going to be such a great shopper now! Think of all the money I'll save!
BRIDGET: You want to try out your new powers? Let's go to a store and watch you resist buying as much as you can!
JED: Well, I guess I've got a free hour. Oh, here's a grocery store. Let's try this place.
QUIRKY LADY: NOT SO FAST!
BRIDGET & JED: Ahh, who are you? Where did this lady come from? ?
QUIRKY LADY: I've been watching you both! And I'm here to warn you….don't go inside that grocery store! !
JED: Why not?
QUIRKY LADY: You think you've mastered the mind games that stores play on you to get you to buy more? YOU HAVE NO IDEA! 99 cent pricing and sales are just the start!
JED: What are you talking about? We're smart shoppers, we're not scared!
QUIRKY LADY: If you go in there, there's gonna be...there's gonna be...okay, look, I'll just say it. MUSIC. [FADE UP TBD MUSIC]
JED: Well, yeah, I mean, who doesn't like a little background music when they're shopping, am I right? ?
QUIRKY LADY: No. This music is going to be chosen based on what will get you to shop more. They do studies!
BRIDGET: What do you mean, who's they? ?
QUIRKY LADY: The stores! The retailers! The people who run them! And they know exactly how the music playing in a store or restaurant can change your spending behavior! Flower shops play romantic music to get you to buy the pricier flowers! Restaurants play fast music so you hurry up and eat! Grocery stores play slower music so you linger...and think about throwing a few more things in your cart!
JED: No way, I'm not going to be tricked by adult contemporary! Well, not again!
QUIRKY LADY: And then, you think you're in there to buy ONE LITTLE THING but you have to walk all the way through the store! They did that on purpose!
JED: Oh, come on!
BRIDGET: Maybe they just want us to get our steps in?
QUIRKY LADY: Oh yes, it's “steps” they want. More like, they want you to walk through as many aisles as possible so you'll see something you wouldn't have bought and just think “well, while I'm here…” DON'T FALL FOR IT!
BRIDGET: I never go off list. Unless it's something I REALLY need.
QUIRKY LADY: But while you're looking ahead, pushing your humongous cart...they're coming at you from all sides! I'm talking about the shelves!
JED: [Start out hyped/scared] (Gasp) Not THE -- [tone shift] wait a second, what does that even mean, the shelves?
QUIRKY LADY: The stores are crafty about exactly how they stack their shelves. Look at the second and third ones from the top...that's right about at eye-line for most grown ups. First thing they see. And those items get bought more often. So stores will put the more expensive version of something RIGHT THERE. Some brands even pay money to the stores so their products get that super special shelf space.
JED & BRIDGET: [Respond...with surprise? Indignation?]
QUIRKY LADY: And then a little lower down...right at eye line for kids...those are where they put the stuff that kids want! So then kids see it and say “Mom, Dad, Nana, GET THIS FOR ME!” -- it was a trap the whole time!
JED: WHAT? I KNEW IT! No, I didn't. But I DO NOW!! !
QUIRKY LADY: They call it “Eye level is BUY level!” And then comes the worst part. THE CHECK OUT LINE. They make you stand in a little narrow space, WAITING forever and ever...and you're just surrounded by little things to buy, things that feel handy, but small, you probably wouldn't have thought to get it, but then you see it there, what's the harm, toss it into the basket--
JED: OHhh, suddenly all those mini-sunblocks that Bridget always gets when she leaves the store make sense.
BRIDGET: Jed, you know I burn easily and those little bottles just clip so well to my bag, see?
JED: Hmm...maybe we shouldn't go into that store today…
BRIDGET: Yeah, let's go to your house and try to get all those pennies out of that piggy bank you invented instead. Thanks, um, lady!
QUIRKY LADY: Oh! Yes. You've heeded my warning!
---INTERSTITIAL: Kids Have a Say---
JED: I know some people really have it in for in-store music, but I gotta say, muzak is BUMPIN'! Let's listen to some as we get ready to head out for the season.
JED: Oh, that's my jam.
BRIDGET: Dancing? Really? All right, listeners. Today we've learned about consumer behavior. It's something that a lot of people study -- including a lot of stores. They've learned a lot of really effective tricks to make us more willing to give them our money.
JED: Yeah, and while some of their tricks might not work on you, others probably will. For example, I am a total sucker for sales. Checkout line impulse buys? Not so much.
BRIDGET: As you go into stores and do some shopping, pay attention to the things that catch your eye and that you can't help wanting to get. Is there a consumer behavior trick that's working its charms on you?
JED: The better you know yourself as a shopper, the better prepared you'll be to spend your money the way you want. This muzak is awesome, but now I really want to buy something. I wonder if there are any sales...
Credits & Close
BRIDGET: Thanks for listening to Million Bazillion -- where we help dollars make more sense! This was our season finale episode! Thank you for listening and sending us your questions!
JED: We're still figuring out our next season but if you sign up for our newsletter, you'll be the first to know when there's more Million Bazillion ready for you. Get your name on the list at Marketplace dot org slash BONUS.
BRIDGET: And in the meantime, keep sending us the money questions you want answered, the money skills you want to learn, and the money problems or mysteries you want solved. Send THOSE to us at our website, marketplace dot org slash million.
JED: This episode, we want to thank Kimberly Adams, Chris Julin, Kristina Lopez, Melody Perkins, Danny Robles, Alison Ver Meulen, Bekah Wineman, and Catherine Winter, for lending us their voices.
JED: And this season, we want to thank our family and friends who helped us along the way… I want to thank Eloise and Eliot for lending us their voices; my parents for letting me record in their basement; and Megan and Bruce for being the absolute best.
BRIDGET: And I want to thank Chris, Zuzu, Mimi, and Patricia. They know what they did and how they helped! Thank you!
JED: Million Bazillion is brought to you by Marketplace in collaboration with Brains On! And American Public Media.
I'm your host, Jed Kim…
The senior producer is my co-host, Bridget Bodnar
Marissa Cabrera is our producer.
Sanden Totten is our editor.
Chris Julin is our sound designer.
BRIDGET: Our theme music was created by Wonderly.
This episode was mixed by Bekah Wineman.
Our digital team includes Erica Phillips and Tony Wagner.
Sitara Nieves is the Executive Director of On Demand at Marketplace.
JED: And special thanks to the people who provided the startup funding for Million Bazillion, and who continue to help keep us going: The Ranzetta Family Charitable Fund and Next Gen Personal Finance, supporting Marketplace's work to make younger audiences smarter about the economy.
BRIDGET: To all the grown-ups listening right now – we hope that you and the kids in your life are having some good conversations about money thanks to Million Bazillion. We created this podcast to help kids get an early start on learning about the economy – and to keep it going, we're counting on your support. Donate today at marketplace-dot-org-slash-givemillion, and thanks for chipping in to make our work possible.