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5 Traps to Avoid When Shopping at Sam’s Club

Smiling warehouse store club shopper with phone and shopping cart

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If you’re a Sam’s Club member, you probably employ a few tricks to make your shopping more productive. Maybe you hit one specific part of the warehouse club before heading to others. Maybe you shop alone. Or, you may just be figuring out what works best for you. As you adopt new shopping strategies, here are five things you’ll want to avoid.

1. Shopping while hungry

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that hungry shoppers spend more than 60% more than those who shop on a full stomach. Based on five research studies conducted by professors from the University of Southern California, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the University of Minnesota, the researchers found something rather strange.

According to Norbert Schwarz of the University of Southern California, the trio found that the desire to get food generally plants the idea of “getting stuff” in a hungry person’s mind, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be attracted to products that don’t satisfy physical hunger. The internal message “I want food,” simply becomes “I want.”

2. Feeling obligated to buy

There’s a good reason Sam’s Club employs people to hand out samples. According to Inspira Marketing, 65% of consumers who try a sample purchase it during the same shopping trip. What’s more, 24% of those people say they replaced an item they planned to buy with the sampled product.

Don’t get caught up in the belief that you must purchase an item just because someone was kind enough to offer you a sample. Naturally, if it’s something you really like and believe your household will consume it, go for it. But if you’re doing it to be polite, there’s no need. It truly is a marketing strategy.

3. Being seduced by low prices

It’s fair to say that most of us would rather tuck a little extra money into savings each month than overpay for the items we regularly purchase. Sam’s Club can make it easier to accomplish this goal — but only for savvy shoppers. Here are two reasons why:

  • A product is only a “bargain” if you plan to use it in its entirety. At Sam’s, you can buy a 25-pound bag of enriched long grain rice for $13.28. At Target, you can buy the same amount of rice for $21.95. It seems like an easy choice. However, it’s not truly a bargain if you don’t end up using the entire 25-pound bag by the time it expires.
  • There’s something about finding an item at a discounted price that makes us think twice about leaving it on the shelf. We walk away wondering if we just squandered the opportunity to snag a great deal. If you didn’t walk into Sam’s Club needing that 48-pack of AA batteries, you won’t miss them when you get home.

4. Leaving the house without a list

Shopping from a list is one of the best ways to resist temptation. You know specifically what you need and don’t have to wander around the club trying to remind yourself. If you can get in the habit of sticking to your list, you’re sure to leave more in your checking account.

A survey by retail solutions company Field Agent found that 44% of shoppers believe they spend less when they head out prepared with a shopping list, evidence that shopping lists can work.

Fun fact: One of the few remaining papers from the Renaissance Man, Michelangelo, is a shopping list. Written either in the late 15th or early 16th century, it included staples like fish, soup, bread, and wine.

5. Shopping on Saturdays

Unless you’re one of those rare souls who adore crowds, you may want to avoid shopping at Sam’s Club on Saturdays. The more physically uncomfortable you are, the more likely you’ll be to make hurried decisions, like buying an item you’re not sure you need. It’s tough to think clearly when you’re surrounded by noise.

Instead, look for a day (or time) that tends to be less crowded. According to Sam’s Club members on Quora, you should encounter less hustle and bustle midweek. If you can’t make it midweek, the crowds are manageable early on Sundays before the church crowd floods in.

As we wait for inflation to cool, perhaps the best we can do is save where we can. That may mean using money-saving apps, conducting a price comparison before we leave the house, and sticking to a shopping list.

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