I spent $43 on candy at the Bulk Barn this weekend.
I didn't intend to spend nearly that much.
In fact, because my wife unintentionally did something similar a few weeks ago, I intentionally tried to limit how much I spent during my visit. And yet... it happened anyway.
It was the scoop.
Although I told each of my children they could select two scoops of candy for "movie night", my plan was to only fill each scoop halfway, which I thought would result in a reasonable amount of candy for one evening's consumption.
The problem is that the scoop is actually much deeper than it appears while holding it.
The deeper scoop tricks your eyes into thinking you're putting less candy into your bag, and you don't realize just how much you're actually buying until you get to the check-out... at which point, it's far less troublesome to just buy what you brought up to the counter despite the unexpectedly higher quantity (and cost).
This means, of course, that the scoop design is only a problem for the consumer.
It's not at all a problem for Bulk Barn, which is why I'm quite certain the scoop was very intentionally designed to look smaller than it is.
As a marketer, I already knew this trick and thus shouldn't have been fooled. Rather than trust my eyes, I should have taken the time to weigh each bag of candy before I brought it to the register, reducing each bag's contents until I arrived at more appropriate amounts.
But I'm not just a marketer, I'm a human... and humans tend not to like all those extra steps.
Smart businesses use all sorts of "tricks" to increase their profitability.
Grocery stores may put their most profitable items at a shopper's eye level, and their less profitable items where consumers have to reach or bend for them.
Restaurants may use smaller plates to provide less food while still giving the appearance of a full meal. (You still see a very full plate... but you get less because the plate is smaller.)
Subscription services may offer you a base-level of "sort of useful" features for free, but knowingly reserve a key feature or benefit a free subscriber is eventually going to want (or need) for a paid version, thus "encouraging" an upgrade.
Bulk food stores may use scoops that hold much, much more than they appear to hold.
Smart businesses will use what we know about how people think and act to their advantage.
Smart consumers can learn about these tricks to protect themselves from spending more than they need to spend...
... or they can accept they're going to end up buying a lot more than they intended to buy.