There is a science to every sale. Among other findings of interest to retailers, researchers have shown that customers are drawn to items sitting on the middle of a shelf, as opposed to the ends , and that we perceive prices to be lower when they have fewer syllables and end with a 9 [2, 3]. Stores have figured out how to manipulate us by overpricing merchandise with the intention of later marking it down, knowing that (thanks to a cognitive bias psychologists refer to as “anchoring”) we will see the lowered price as a deal . And they have learned they should give us options, but not too many—it’s well known that choice can be overwhelming to customers and can discourage purchases .
What is less well known is that snootiness can deliver a sale. Say a customer walks into a luxury store and is greeted with an askance look from a salesperson and no offer of assistance. You might think the customer would turn around and take her money elsewhere. But one recent study found that, compared with friendly salespeople, rude clerks caused customers with low self-confidence to spend more and, in the short term, to feel more positively toward an “aspirational brand” (that is, a brand that you covet but cannot afford—think Jaguar or Louis Vuitton) . Speaking of insecurity, when a customer who feels badly about her appearance tries something on and spots an attractive fellow shopper wearing the same item, she is less likely to buy it . Which means stores are wise to avoid communal fitting rooms.