Buy, But Beware

Although shopping is now considered a patriotic act, don't get suckered.

Some retail tricks to watch out for:

1. Corralled into buying. "Most of us are right-handed, which means our left hand is for holding and our right hand is for grabbing," says Paco Underhill, author of Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping. Racks are strategically placed to guide you through the store counterclockwise, with the pricey stuff always on your right.

2. Dazed and confused. Some sale signs are deliberately unclear, forcing you to seek assistance, because "if you talk to a salesperson, you're more likely to buy than if you shop on your own," says April Lane Benson, Ph.D., author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop.

3. Paying through the nose. "Stores appeal to us physiologically, by getting our saliva and glands working," says Underhill. This is why they pump in a pleasing signature fragrance, or the scent of something cooking - to get you literally hungry to buy.

4. Hide-and-seek sale racks. The discount merch is usually in the back left corner, seen from the store's entrance, says Underhill, to get you as far in as possible and force you to pass non-sale items on the way out. Because once you've chosen your first purchase, your resistance to additional buying drops sharply.

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