As the U.S. economy limps out of recession, retailers need to fight for every dollar. But the tactics they use to get customers to spend extra are clearly wearing thin.

We asked our readers to tell us what tricks of the retail trade they find most annoying -- and we received nearly 350 submissions. One thing is clear: American shoppers are getting wise to the sneaky ways stores get you to buy more, especially when it comes to promotions, sales and discounts.

Here are the 15 sales-boosting techniques our readers hate most:

Bulk Buying Required

The biggest complaint in our informal survey concerns the increasingly common practice of requiring shoppers to buy several of the same item to get a discount. That might take shape as an offer to, "Buy 10 for $10" in the supermarket. But what if you don't want 10 packages of pasta cluttering your pantry? Writes one respondent, "If you only need one, that's no sale at all." Clothing stores often offer, "Buy two, get the third free" deals these days. Many of our readers would rather buy one for a 30% discount. "I don't want to 'save money' by buying three of them," writes one. "GGGRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!"

Bulk Buying Suggested -- But Not Required
Almost as annoying as the bulk-buying requirement is when store signage suggests you need to buy multiple items to get the sale -- but you don't actually have to. In fact, in the above example, you might very well be able to buy one box of pasta for $1 even though the sign says $10 for $10. Writes one reader: "I think it's a cheap and shoddy trick on the part of the stores."

Up-Selling at the Register
This tactic came up over and over again in different forms. When buying electronics, no, customers don't want the warranty (in fact, the pitch makes them think twice about buying the item. Is it likely to be defective?). When getting a soda at a drive-through window in a fast-food chain, no, they don't want an apple pie. At a clothing store, no, they don't want the high-interest rate store credit card. And, in bookstores, no, they don't want to contribute to charity.

Our readers were sympathetic to store employees who they know are required to up-sell. One respondent who works in retail explains: "We are not allowed to deviate from this script, and if we do, we're reprimanded." Still, they lament, "In a convenience store, I want the cashier to ring things up I need in a hurry," one writer reports. "Stop pushing things people don't want."

Bait and Switch
This is a time-honored retail sales tactic, and customers find it as annoying as ever. We received numerous reports from shoppers who identify a deal from a circular or newspaper ad, rush to the store -- and the item is already sold out. The "helpful" salespeople are always quick to suggest a more expensive alternative than the original deal. Explains one reader: "For that item there is little if any in stock, but next to it are the more expensive items the store really wants you to buy."

Too Much Fine Print
Our readers are getting quite tired of the complexities of discount offers and promotions. Several respondents gave examples of times they brought coupons to a store, picked out items and were told at check-out that the item is excluded from the sale. One reader vents:"You have to be a bloomin' lawyer to get that fourth 12-pack of Pepsi for 'free.'"

Rebates
Need we say more? Not only are they a bureaucratic nightmare, but stores count on many consumers forgetting to mail in the documents. This frustration was common: "I always seem to miss the mail-in rebate somehow. So 'free' is never free for me. Not at all."

Mispriced Items
Readers say they frequently find that the price listed on the shelf -- or even on the item itself -- is lower than the price rung up at the register. Many think stores do this on purpose, hoping customers won't notice or bother to complain. "I want it at the cost that was marked," says one reader. "Get the manager."

Item in Front of the "Sale" Tag on the Shelf Is Not on Sale
This is a corollary to the mispricing complaint that's no doubt familiar to supermarket shoppers everywhere. You pick out a certain brand or flavor of an item because a shelf tag proclaims it's on sale. But then you get charged full price at the register because it was actually a related item that was on sale. Our readers think stores must hope customers will just buy the full-price item. Laments one reader, when the sale is for cranberry juice cocktail, "Why is the sign always in front of the 100% juice? I know why. Creeps."

Telling You How Much You "Saved"
Many readers find it annoying that, as they're paying their bill, the cashier will often tell them how much they supposedly saved by shopping there. "That I call insulting your intelligence," says one commenter. Even worse, another reader notes that when you turn down the much-despised store credit card offer, the salesperson will sometimes say, "'You could have saved X dollars if you had our card.' It's like you're a child, and they're scolding you."

Putting a Coupon on the Receipt
These deals often require another trip to the same store in a week's time to take advantage of this new deal. One reader complains: "So to save $10 dollars using the certificate, you must return to the store, spending time, gas and mileage added to your car, and then spend another $50 dollars or more. This circle is vicious!"

Constantly Rearranging the Shelves
Shoppers want to find the item they came for quickly. Yet stores often rearrange displays as a way to get customers to scan more shelves. One reader writes of a retailer that was constantly moving items so she couldn't find the one brand of shampoo she was looking for. "I realized they were trying to get me to look at everything every time I went in there so I would be tempted to buy more. I stopped going there." Another reader came up with a name for the supermarket version: "I call this the 'Hide the Groceries Game.'"

Cheap Items Are Hardest to Reach
Readers lament that stores put expensive brands at eye level and cheaper items near the floor, or in other inconvenient spots on the shelves. "I dislike having to always look on the lowest shelves in a super market for the best prices," writes one respondent. "It would be nice to have them at eye level for a change."

Staples Are in the Back

A familiar complaint is the time-honored supermarket tactic of putting the most sought-after staples at the back of the store. "I hate it when they stick the milk, eggs, butter all the way in the furthest back corner of the store," writes one reader. "Then they put all that candy, gum, soda, and magazines at the register."

Putting Items Coveted by Children Near the Checkout

It's not only parents who hate this tactic. All shoppers have to hear small children cry and beg for items near the checkout that parents don't want to waste money on. Frequently they give in, to stop the embarrassing wails. Complains one parent: "Even if you manage to avoid the toy section while shopping with your children, they still manage to see something that they will want and throw a fit over not getting before you manage to get them out of the store."

Promoting Christmas Items Before Thanksgiving

Truth be told, this complaint didn't come up all that often in our reader survey. But it's a good one. Most shoppers don't want to deal with Santa in November. We bet if we'd waited a few more weeks, this pet peeve might have topped the list. When it comes to Christmas promotions, urges one shopper, "Let's get back to a reasonable time frame."

Readers provided us with lots of annoying tactics to choose from for this feature. So, thanks to our many contributors. And, given the state of the economy, we bet retailers are busy coming up with more annoying sales tactics. Look out for our next similar feature.

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jake191218

Complain, complain, complain. It's very simple, if you don't want something don't buy it. If you don't like a store's policy don't shop there. You aren't being forced to go into a store. Christmas displays have been going up early for years. Some people actually like to shop early for the holidays. You might not be able to control what the stores do, but you can learn to control your reaction. Stop blaming the employees. They are just doing their job.

November 16 2010 at 11:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Sara

Bait and switch is illegal in most places, and retailers should not be doing it. However certain hot products can sell out very quickly and the clerk really has no choice but to suggest another product. There is a difference. The one thing I don't like is when a store advertises something in the Sunday ad but it doesn't come in or the employees forgot to stock it. So I might be there early, but the item was never put out or it just didn't come in. There aren't too many stores that do this these days, but I can definitely think of at least one. Retailers will stock what is profitable, if its not profitable, they won't be stocking large quantities of an item. Retailers have loss leaders, which are products designed just to get you into a store and often sold at a loss. If you want the item and its a good price you have to be there early to get it. The retailers tactics work on 99% of the general public. I shop a lot and most customers will buy the extended warranty, buy the extra products and spend exactly the way the retailer wants them to spend. There are actually very few people who do otherwise. If the extended warranty wasn't profitable for the company then they would not be offering it. What people don't know is that manufacturers often offer a warranty with each product, sometimes a year or even 2 years or even more. Its simply unnecessary to purchase an extra warranty on top of the manufacturers warranty if its a good one. Most manufactures have very good service if you call and complain about a product or ask for a warranty replacement provided you can prove you are the original owner of the product. Most people don't bother to look and see what kind of warranty the product comes with, free from the manufacturer... Often times a retailer has to suggest extra products, or the item you are buying won't work quite the way you want to. Would you want to buy a digital camera without buying a memory card for it (provided you didn't have one at home), an iPod without a wall charger (a very necessary item) or a PS2 without a memory card (dated example I know, but still relevant). If it wasn't suggested a customer might come back and complain that they had to make an extra trip to the store for the charger or the memory card, and Christmas was ruined because the recipient couldn't save on the games they were playing because they had no memory card, or the iPod died in the middle of using it because there was no charger available. The other complaints are just lame, the candy at the checkout has been around for forever, and if you can't deal with it by now, you can probably afford the 75 cent candy bar your kid is begging for. Milk and dairy has always been in the back of the stores for as long as I can remember, good stores have a small case of milk up front so you can just grab one as well as a larger case in the back. They have to put the milk and dairy somewhere. I don't see anything wrong with that. The produce, which should be a staple, is always in the front of the store. There is no way to win, if stores didn't put out Xmas stuff right after halloween the customers would complain they didn't have enough time to purchase the supplies and then do all their wrapping and shopping. Some people do it before the holidays. Then some complain its too early to put it out. Playing christmas music before thanksgiving, yes I agree with that one, its not necessary. Mispricing and rebates are legit complaints, the rebate companies are scammy. But I don't see too many rebates around, so those are easily avoided.

November 01 2010 at 10:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
truthinretail

The Truth: The Majority of Consumers DEMAND to purchase products at Big Box Retailers at or below cost (to the retailer) of the core product they are coming in for. This pricing structure comes from the competitive advertising environment that Big Boxes are forced to compete in. The only way they can make the money REQUIRED to run their business and pay their employees, etc. is to have such LEGAL, but complex (to the consumer and retailer)strategies to recoup this vicious atmosphere that is unavoidable by the nature of Big Box competition. Some points in the daily finance article that need to be addressed additionally: Bait-and-Switch call-outs. Sure. An attempt to lie about retailers not following a law. Sales have minimum quantities posted in the AD. If you would like to buy an item, most likely at below the cost of the product to the retailer, obviously show up right when the sale starts, and be one of the first people to purchase it before it runs out of stock. Rainchecks are also often available. There are many components to this idea, that make sales NOT Bait-and-Switch, 100% legal and legit, and any arguments against the 99-100% of the retailers that follow the law and do not break the bait-and-switch law are angry attempts by people too stupid to show up when the sale starts, if they seriously expect to get the ludicrous deal. Up-Selling (Esp. concerning "warranties") actually, a lot of people want to buy a "warranty" on their product, from a variety of place, including the original retailer. If not, decline it. Walmart did a study that found that even if people do not want a warranty, they still want to know that the retailer offers a warranty on their product, so that they care about quality product being in the store. If you don't want/need one decline it and shut up. As far as not seeing the returns of recent programs implemented at grocery stores, on your net total, hello...did you NOT know that the cost of food is going way up, yet stores are trying to keep them much more level? If you are unhappy with a retailer who is following the law to the tee, which 99-100% of Big Boxes DO, then don't shop there. And honestly...they are "sneaky"? Are you too stupid to figure out what is good for you concerning all the mentioned strategies? But guess what. you are probably too cheap and lazy to buy from a small business. It's farther away, and electronics/goods will cost way more. YOU make the decision with YOUR choice of retailer. YOU are trying to save BIG money. YOU are smart enough to make the mentioned choices on your own, without getting "tricked." And all these business are doing LEGAL things to let you choose offerings that correspond to YOUR bad choice of retailer and NEED to purchase items that companies make no profit on, or lose money selling. OR you could shut up, admit all of this, choose if you want to frequent Big Boxes and save time and money, make smart choices that fit YOUR needs, and never let us see redundant articles like this again.

November 01 2010 at 3:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rkinne01

Here are my favorites: Raising prices on items then placing them "on sale" giving you the original price,but when the sale is over they lower the prices back to pre-sale price. Grocery stores do this all the time. I'm tired of all the loyalty programs! I don't want another card just gimme the sale price already! Tip: Use a phony name and address to avoid store snooping, the data is useless if they can't reliably track it. Look for RFID chips to be used in these cards in the future. Stores have cut staff so much that you're lucky to find an employee if you need help. The stores have installed the self check out lines to save money yet my grocery bill doesn't reflect those savings. Personally I like interacting with people so I avoid self check out like the plague. Stores like Wal-Mart will tell you online that an article is in stock at a store but when you get to the store they don't carry that item. I'm tired of the stores forcing employees into scripted conversations these days, it's like talking to robot. They need to let their employees have a little frickin personality, people may come to a store to see employees they enjoy.

October 31 2010 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jtstocker@teacher.com

What a list. Would the shoppers like some cheese with that whine ? OH NO, the cheese is in the back instead of at the friggin checkout.

October 31 2010 at 2:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
guyontherock

I found that consumers, cry, whine, complain and threaten, never to come back because things are so "unfair" when they shop. Why did you move this?, when 2 weeks prior they were asking, Why dont you carry this? This is a world where things change so if you have to move 1 aisle over because they brought in more stuff stop complaining and go get it! People are always in a hurry, but will argue fo 20 min about moving the chips to the front of the aisle, instead of the back. Here is the thing, you dont like the way something is, complain to customer service or the corporate offices, the people in the store are following direction from the people who sit in offices and look at numbers, not what happenes on the front line. you may feel better having complained to the cashier, BUT ITS NOT GOING TO HELP ANYTHING CHANGE! and 1 thing you need to remember, The stores are there to make money, if you dont like it shop somewhere else, but just know They all pretty much do the same thing. I also have to add, that the people who say Im never shopping here again thinking that the store is going to hand them whatever they want, You have proved time and again thet you are full of it because the following week you are right back in and nothing has changed

October 30 2010 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
metalsmithgirl71

i can honestly say, while the article did little to educate me, the comments from the readers did. thank you for sharing tips and advise. it was worth all of the reading. the economy being what it is, it's nice to learn new ways to shop and save. i, too, get very aggravated by the so called sales and coupons that end up really just being a scam. my time is worth something to me and i just don't have hours to plan my shopping around when i can use the coupons, with the exclusions, black out times and dates, ect. about the store cards though. i HATE them. i feel like they are a total invasion of my privacy, having to give out so much personal information to be able to get a sale item. so i simply give them fake info and carry the keychain sized card that comes with the big one in the change part of my wallet. i've been doing that since they began offering them and have had no problems with unwanted mail and phone calls.

October 30 2010 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nixius

I work in retail for many years and I am familiar with all of theses sales boosting techniques that we all hate, in including myself. Now one thing I do hate is when grown adults throw a big hissy fit towards me because they don't like the sale that I have zero control over. Even after I tell them that i have no control over it and that their best choice to make a difference would be to speak or mail someone who does. Which out of my 5 years of retail experience I had 2 people who actually did something. ~~~~~~~~ Key Point Of The Story~~~~~~~~~ If you don't like it do something about it instead of crying!!! And I don't mean go to the store and cry about it because if you do that, all you are really doing is burning your self out and wasting time as well making people feel uncomfortable and irritated, not just the employees but customers too. ~~~~~~~Ways to Change Things~~~~~~~ You can start a group with the same idea, so that it's not just one voice but the voice of many. And with the internet that should be easy! Remember that irritating the employees does nothing for you at all, so dont waste your time. Get a hold of corporate NOT CUSTOMER SERVICE(remember the people at customer service are getting payed by corporate so there for they can not change policies such as telling how much you could have saved if you had a membership or trying to keep getting you to sing up for their credit card even after you said no!!!! However you can call Customer Service and file a complain .... NOT FREAK OUT!

October 30 2010 at 6:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rambobcgls

i hate going to store and see something i what but cant fined a price for it have told many managers it not marked so it must be free right they have no scents of humor lol

October 30 2010 at 6:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rambobcgls's comment
Nixius

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA i hear that all the time!!! =P "it not marked so it must be free" that's a good one =D ........heh "it not marked so it must be free" ......sigh yeah it's funny "it not marked so it must be free" ...... yeah ........."it not marked so it must be free"..... kinda like "why did the chicken cross the road? to get to the other side!" This is something i hear all the time at work it to be honest it's not that funny......really especially when it's an old joke. when i hear that "joke" "it not marked so it must be free" the first few things that run through my head is .... >< alright who forgot to tag this?.. or did someone pulled it off and placed it on another item?...... how many items dont have the price now? .... is everything else price and in check?...... but dont worry if you come to my store i'll laugh at your joke and reply with "That's what i though too but each time i scan it, it rings up at $1000 HAHAHAHAHA .... so im sure that when they hear that they are slightly annoyed due to that fact that their employee isnt doing what they are require to or someone is taking them off or whatever ... who knows =/

October 30 2010 at 7:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
hairlm

I myself hate the buy-1 get-1 free (on some items)...especially on bread...We can't use the first loaf fast enough and wind up throwing 3-4 slices out when it gets stale.... and don't like to freeze it. The same goes for chicken roasters buy-1 get-1...I use one right away but would have to freeze the 2nd..I hate chicken that has been frozen...all the black blood stuff clings to the bones and meat near the bones....there too. why cant the chicken processors let them bleed a little longer. Oh, and our Giant's produce...every bag of potaoes has a leat 1 potato in it thats rotten or sometines alot of them have black spots under the peels. The only reason I shop there is because its the only grocery sotre thats with in 5 miles of my house...i could go on and on.....

October 30 2010 at 6:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply