Beware of Sales Tactic #1 – Don’t Miss Out!

September 12, 2007


Have you ever bought something in haste simply because you were afraid it would be too late if you didn’t pull the trigger immediately? If so, then you’ve been bitten by the first tactic in the Sales Tactic Revealed series, “Don’t Miss Out”.  Sellers use this strategy to spring you into action by creating the illusion you’re in danger of missing out on a great deal.

Picture what you do when someone makes you an offer.  You take your time weighing the pros & cons and thinking it through before coming to a decision.  Now what if someone makes you an offer that is only available to 10 people; first come, first serve.  Or they need an answer in an hour?  You don’t want someone else to rush in and take the last spot.  You have to decide quickly or miss the chance! 

This tactic changes your whole decision making process.  Your adrenaline kicks in and fear of missing out overrides your normally practical thoughts.  Without time pressure we can think about a purchase.  We check out competitors, research our options, perhaps even decide not to buy it at all. We’ll come back later if we decide we’re interested. 

Of course, there is typically no shortage of time but if the seller can manufacture a shortage with a limited time sale or limited quantities, they usually win.  They know if they put the pressure on that we’ll make a hasty decision.

Warning Signs
• While Supplies Last              • Get it Before it’s Gone
• One Day Sale                     • 15 Hour Sale
• For a Limited Time Only         • Hurry In, Deals Won’t Last
• Don’t Miss It!                     • Low Price, Limited Quantities
• Time is Running Out!            • Now or Never Sale
• Biggest 1 Day Sale EVER       • Don’t Miss this Opportunity!
• Act Now, Limited Quantities  • Once in a Lifetime Deal

Tactic In Action
Each sales tactic we review will include an example of that strategy in action.  Here is one that left me shaking my head. One Saturday afternoon a local discount store announced over the intercom, “Surprise sale in Sporting Goods for a limited time!  Ask an associate for details”. 

As customers descended on the sports aisles in a shopping frenzy, I heard a salesperson explain selected items were 25% off for the next 15 minutes.  Wild-eyed people raced up and down the aisles grabbing items and piling them in their carts. 

I cringed as a frantic women said to her friend, “I’m not sure what this is but for 25% off it must be a good deal!”  I shook my head as nearby salespeople discussed how the “select” items were discounted to clear out unwanted products from the shelves.  

The “Don’t Miss Out” tactic proved that it really does work.  Damaged and dusty items that had sat on the shelf for months were swept away in a matter of minutes.  Put under time pressure and given a little incentive, people had filled their carts full of stuff they hadn’t planned on buying just because they didn’t want to miss a deal.

Protect Your Paycheck
Now that we’ve covered the details of the “Don’t Miss Out” tactic, let’s look at some mental countermeasures we can use to protect our paycheck against this marketing approach.

Last Minute Decision = REGRET
How many times have you driven home, trying to decide if your recent purchase made sense?  Trying to justify why the purchase was a good deal?

What is the outcome of many hasty decisions? REGRET!  Before you buy, think what would cause you to regret your action an hour, day, or week from now?  Think of all the last minute decisions you’ve made in your life.  How many of them have turned out for the better? 

What are the sellers trying to keep you from doing with this tactic?  Making a well-informed decision that is best for you.  If they succeed in selling to you who wins?  They get their money right away.  What do you get? Something you were rushed into buying and not 100% sure you want. 

Painful Returns
Even if they have a return policy, you just made your life more complicated.  You now have the additional stress of trying to decide if you keep it or take it back.  The seller forced this upon you with their urgency to sell.  They have your money and the responsibility is on you to get it back.  YOU have to keep your receipts, YOU have to return within their timeframe, YOU have to wait in the customer service line and fill out the paperwork to make the return.

Downside of Spending
We often think of the downside of missing the opportunity.  Instead, think of the downside of being tricked into buying something.  For example, a $100 item at 25% off.  If you pass it up, you may decide later on to buy it and pay an extra $25.  If you go ahead and buy it on sale and end up not using it, you’re out $75.  Which is worse?

Buddy System
Talk to a friend or family member about being a spending buddy.  Someone you can call when the seller puts the pressure on.  They can be your voice of reason when your fear of missing out on a deal kicks in!

What’s Your Take?
Do you have any comments on or experiences with this marketing technique that you’d like to share?  If so, leave them below in the comments section below or send them to salestactics [at]


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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7 Responses to Beware of Sales Tactic #1 – Don’t Miss Out!

  • Mrs. Micah

    Good post. I hate the kind of pressure people try to put you under and so far I haven’t regretted saying no.

    One good way to combat this would be to carry around (or have somewhere and be familiar with) a list of the big-ticket items that you plan to purchase in the next few months. As well as some familiarity with how those items are selling in stores. Then if you see that particular item for what you know is a good price, you can take advantage of the “one day only” whatnot sales. And feel really good about it, instead of worrying (even at the time) about buyer’s remorse.

  • Ben

    JWB, I think you maybe onto something. It seems like manufacturers or producers set the price higher than it should be so the retailers can offer “discounts”.

    Way to stick to your guns paidtwice, good luck with those windows : )

  • paidtwice

    This so reminds me of the window people who came to my house to do an estimate.


    So much “This price is only good tonight” “You can’t find this quality at this price anywhere else” stuff. I don’t roll that way. The company claimed to pride itself on no high pressure sales tactics but high pressure is ALL they did.

    We did NOT buy the windows. Of course… we still need to buy windows and winter is now coming…. lol

  • JWB

    Here’s one that I recently noticed at our local Kroger store:

    My husband and I prefer to buy organic milk. Recently I was shopping at our local Kroger store and the organic milk was labeled as being on sale about $1 off the regular price. Since organic milk is ultra-pasturized it typically has a much longer shelf life than regular milk (I just bought some on 9/10 that has a sell-by date of 10/26), I decided to stock up while it was on sale and bought several more than I needed for the upcoming week.

    About 3 weeks have passed since that shopping trip and each week as I walked by the dairy section I have noticed that the same sale sign is still up by the organic milk.

    My conclusion: The milk wasn’t really on sale at all, the regular price was overstated and then put “on sale” to encourage people to buy more.


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