The 6 tricks they will use to bleed your wallet dry this season.

Tomorrow is the start of Black Week. It marks the start of a relentless, months long pressure to make you spend as much money as possible. Here’s how you can resist that pressure, and keep your wallet and sanity intact.

After 15 years as speaker at conferences, and Head of eCommerce for a number of businesses, there are few tricks I don’t know about; tricks that are used to grab as much money from you as possible.

Recognizing these techniques is super important for landlubbers and sailors alike; For cruisers and live aboards, the less money you spend, the more you can sail. For land lubbers it’s the same; the less money you spend, the less you have to work.

Corporate greed doesn’t want that for you; they want to maximize their sales. They are actively working to make you overspend. They are actively working to minimize what’s left in your wallet.

I want to help you build awareness and resilience against it this season.

For well over a decade, businesses has developed what’s called persuasive technologies using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and user profiling to maximize their bottom line, and it’s deployed everywhere, from Amazon, eBay, and, to much smaller eCommerce sites. Likewise, sales personnel are sent to sales camp and drilled in these techniques.

Everybody, myself included, are susceptible to these techniques, but not everybody are as susceptible to all of them to the same degree; some are hugely influenced by one technique, while others barely react to the same.

I hope that by showing you how sales people and online stores use these tricks, you’ll be able to identify them, which influence you the most, and help you build resilience against them.

Call it my Christmas gift to you 🙂

I’m gonna start off by giving you the bonus tip first:

How many times have you ended up buying something you did not initially even think about buying JUST so you could get free shipping?

Businesses are split testing and optimizing the cut off sum to see how high they can set it to make you spend as much money with them as possible. That’s their goal – not to give you free shipping.

Trick #1: Authority

It is far easier for someone who is seen as an authority to convince others of something. I am sure all of you have seen a version of this sleezeball:

Trust me, I’m a guy in a lab coat!

Yep. Uniforms, lab coats, even the mere presence of a stethoscope may increase a person’s influence. The same happens when a persons credentials and experience is mentioned first, before continuing an attempt at persuading others.

Now feel free to scroll up and re-read my opening paragraphs .
(how’s that for shooting myself in the foot?)

Trick #2: Commitment/consistency

People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. Consistency is activated by looking for, and asking for, small initial commitments that can be made.

  • I am sure all of you know the ” On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to…”.
  • Have you ever been called a “VIP customer”? Well, they hope you will act like one too with money to burn…
  • Super relevant for Christmas is the online “whish list”. It may seem innocent and convenient, but the stores know you will take ownership to these items, and be far more likely to purchase whatever you do not get as a gift.

Trick #3: Reciprocity

We tend to pay back what we receive from others, and it’s in the saying “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”. Or “I owe you one”.

For example, a restaurant that offer a few “confections on the house”…incidentally shortly before you get the bill. Studies has shown this will increase your tip quite a bit.

There’s also the classic “Free sample” and “Free trial”, the “Free gift card”, and better yet “Free gift card for you AND your friend”. Which brings me to the next trick.

Trick #4: Liking

We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals. We like people who make us laugh and make us feel good about ourselves.

If a friend is offering you a gift – how can you say no to that?

We are obliged to give, we are obliged to receive, and we are obliged to reciprocate.

I am not saying you should be suspicious when someone pays you a compliment, or gives you a gift…but in a sales setting? I have experienced pop-ups saying something along the lines of “Hi beautiful!”.

Like seriously??

Trick #5: Consensus/Social proof

If everybody is doing it, it must be the right thing to do, and it was a great survival technique in prehistoric times. We also often look for customer reviews, or what our friends says about something. Often very useful input.

But of course it is being exploited by businesses who wants your money:

“Loved by guests” As if a “Superb 9.0” wasn’t enough, they plaster a badge of social proof on top.

Trick #6: Scarcity

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

That’s the online counter for how little time you have left before the sale ends (and the next one takes over!!), last date for shipping before Christmas, last this, little left that.

  • The 6 tricks persuasion professionals doesn’t want you to know about!
    (you’ve seen a variant of that headline before, haven’t you?)
  • Something as subtle as “Stock” vs “Left in stock”.
  • Only 3 left!
  • Max 8 per customer.

Especially do not fall for the last one; it is used to anchor a reference number of items the store wants you to overshop, not because they are low on stock.

Screenshot from Amazon displaying their implementation of Scarcity tactics
Scarcity tactics “secret price” on in combo with Free shit tactics

They will use exclamation marks to give you a sense of urgency, so you will (mindlessly) ACT NOW! and they will use red fonts since red is associated with DANGER! (and also the eye has the highest spectral sensitivity to that colour.)

In particular, watch out for scarcity this season. I have already seen a few despicable examples recently, and I suspect we will see several more variants preying on the loneliness and scarcity of socializing we’re experiencing these days with Covid and all.

They will poke that hurt with such exquisite precision you won’t even notice, and try to convince you that by purchasing their product, your loved ones away will feel loved when they get that present.

Instead, I urge you to consider now what you can do for your loved ones away, to make them feel loved, and really know that you think about them. No amount of gifts can do that:

Make it personal, not commercial!

How? Lea has a few thoughts on that here.

I think we all need a little bit mindfulness this season, and I would love it if you would share this post with as many as possible; they need to know too 🙂

Thank you!


  1. Thank you. I sure wish we could go back to the values held a 100 years ago. But unfortunately, you it’s hard to stop “progress”. I’ve been promoting No Gifting for years. Especially for adults!
    I will be sharing this with a FB group page called Non-consumer Advocates.

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