Why Did I Buy That!

Have you ever made a purchase on the spur of the moment and later had a bad case of buyers remorse? You had no intention of getting that gizmo, yet there you are holding the bag in your hand. How the heck did that happen?

It is important for each of us to understand the weapons our advertisers have in their arsenals to convince us to part with our money.

Last summer, in my annual ‘Grandma Rie’s Money Camp’ (the week long camp I have with my Grandchildren to help them learn about finances); we had a segment on selling and how companies sell to us. It was eye opening for the 10 year old. He even wanted to repeat the segment.

Here are some of the many tools used to convince consumers to buy.


One of the resources I used with the kids last year in Money Camp to show them how advertisers sell, was a You Tube video called Buy Me That Too: A Kid’s Survival Guide to TV Advertising (Part 1/2)

In it, they took apart some kid toy commercials and showed exactly how the various cool effects were created. They showed how the size of the toy was made to see bigger and the sound effects better. They interviewed kids who used the toy to see if they thought it lived up to the expectations set by the commercials. The kids reported what they liked and what they didn’t.

Presentation isn’t just used on kids. All those yummy food commercials use all kinds of methods to make the food look salivatingly good – from glued on seeds on the hamburger buns to soda loaded with antacid to make it bubbly.


Last week I visited a garage sale. As I looked around, the owner came up to me with a package of floral foam saying I should just take it for free. Later, her spouse looked at me and actually said ‘Don’t feel obligated to buy just because we gave you the foam! I didn’t feel obligated, but did end up buying another package of it at that sale!

Retiree’s or near retirees are often inundated with offers of free dinners from investment professionals. Just sit through the sales presentation and then take advantage of the ‘free’ advice. All you have to do is tell them about your portfolio! They give you advice on how you should be invested then try to sign you up so they get to do it for you – usually for a fee paid whether or not you end up making any money. You’ve already invested their time (twice) and shared intimate details of your financial picture, so why not just go ahead and use them? One of my co-worker’s lost most all of her retirement money in such a scenario – the investment professional was selling variable annuities – which have fee upon fee upon fee.

Years ago we fell for an offer to get a free gas barbecue grill. We drove to an empty lake lot and toured with the developer. It took hours and we busted a tire in the process. The gas grill we did get for free was worth maybe $10 – not your big outdoor kitchen type grill, but a 2 x 4 with the smallest possible propane bottle around.

Another way sales personnel try to get you to buy is to invest time their time with you. During that time, they try to build the idea that you and he are just alike, or very similar. That means he knows what you need, like, want. You start feeling a rapport with the fella and don’t want to be rude by not buying.

Social proof.

Do you read the comments before you buy a good or service online? I know I do. If your friends are all buying something, that means it is great and you should get it too, right?

Comments., referrals, commercials showing others using the product or service, statistics showing how many use it, what kinds of people use it and etc all are forms of social proof.

Time is of the essence.

We’ve all seen the ads that proclaim Sale ends Saturday, hurry while supplies last! Knowing that a deal won’t be available later is often an incentive to buy. This is a biggie while you are on vacation (you won’t get back this way, buy it now) or at a sale event (such as a garage sale or estate sale or auction).

Illusion of demand.

Do you watch HGTV? Often they show that a house has multiple bids or that someone else is bidding on YOUR house. You have to bid fast and bid high to get it! You’ve looked long and hard to find it, there isn’t another in the world that will do. You HAVE to get it. Not.

Of course, sometimes, the situation is actually true. I often get multiple queries to rent out my lake condo for the same dates from different people. Letting each party know that someone else is interested will frequently get one of them to make a decision.

Limited supply/exclusivity.

I went to the Berkshire-Hathaway companies annual meeting in 2015 when they were celebrating their 50th anniversary. They offered a book to be sold only to shareholders at 2015 annual meeting. I fell for it and bought one, but guess what. I saw it offered again, the very next year.


Not having or using the  product (or following the campaign) will result in harm to us or loved ones. One example is the anti-smoking ad that shows a picture of a middle aged man shaving, with a caption of Be Careful Not to Cut Your Stoma (the hole in his neck that he has to breath through because of throat cancer). It does tend to get the message across.

Then there is the more subtle fear, the fear of not fitting in – such as the toy commercials in that Kid’s Survival Guide to TV Advertising.


Don’t we know, if you hear something often enough, you start to believe it. Advertisers use this all the time – playing the very same commercial back to back with a few minutes; bill boards with the exact same ad at multiple spots along the highway; repeatedly showing the product with people and things that make it seem attractive and desirable and etc.

How many times have you heard the Coke jingle “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing in perfect harmony, first produced in the early 1970s? Note the number of repetitions of the product line as well as the numerous intertwining with positive images:

I’d like to buy the world a home

And furnish it with love

Grow apple trees and honey bees

And snow white turtle doves

I’d like to teach the world to sing (Sing with me)

In perfect harmony (Perfect harmony)

I’d like to buy the world a Coke

And keep it company (That’s the real thing)

I’d like to teach the world to sing (What the world wants today)

In perfect harmony (Perfect harmony)

And I’d like to buy the world a Coke

And keep it company (It’s the real thing)

I’d like to buy the world a coke (Coke is what the world wants today)

And keep it company (Coca-Cola) (It’s the real thing)

I’d like to buy the world a coke (Coke is what the world wants today)

And keep it company (Coca-Cola)


If you have ever suffered a case of buyer’s remorse, the above may be some of the reasons you caught it!


Why Did I Buy That! — 2 Comments

  1. My friends and I play a game at Anthropologie where we walk around and guess the prices on things, and we’re always wrong on the low side. Crazy that people pay $8,000 for an old table that someone threw paint on!

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