Why Malls Don’t Have Clocks and Other Tricks They Use to Get You to Spend More Money

If you like to shop, going to the mall can be fun. It’s so fun, in fact, you can easily spend hours there and not even realize it. Reality only sinks in once you get home and sift through the pile of store receipts. How do malls hook you every time? How can you spend so much time and money in one place and be completely oblivious? What you might not know is malls have a few tricks up their sleeves that can lure you into staying longer and spending more money.

Here’s why malls don’t have clocks and other tricks they use to get you to spend more money.

1. Food

Overhead view of a group of friends having a meal at a restaurant. They are eating burgers and fish with chips.

Food is everywhere at the mall. | iStock.com/DGLimages

There’s plenty of food at the mall. Vending machines and elaborate food courts are there to make sure you won’t go hungry. There’s a reason restaurants and snack shops abound at the mall. And it’s not because mall planners are concerned about your well-being. Food is used to keep you in the mall longer. Eating at the mall means you won’t have to leave to get your meal. You can eat there and then resume your shopping trip. Restaurants are also an added source of income for malls.

2. Free samples

Single chocolate cup cake over paper box

Mall samples might tempt you to indulge.| iStock.com/Solandzh

Another thing you’ll notice at malls is an abundance of samples. It’s not uncommon to see store representatives walking around with a plate of goodies for shoppers to try. Eating a sweet snack could trigger your impulse to indulge, and cause you to make a purchase. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found consuming a small treat could lead shoppers to reward themselves in other ways. For example, after eating a piece of chocolate, you might reason, “that chocolate was good; I should treat myself more.” Before you know it, you’re walking out of Louis Vuitton with a new shoulder bag.

3. No clocks

clock

It’s hard to find a clock at the mall. | iStock.com

Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to spend hours at the mall? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a clock in most malls. This is because the absence of a clock makes it harder to keep track of time. As a result, you’ll spend more time in the mall and buy more items. You also rarely get a glimpse of the outdoors when you’re shopping at the mall. This is another tactic used to disguise the time. 

4. Dim lighting

sears entrance in mall

A mall’s dim lighting will make you feel relaxed. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Dim lighting is great if you want to relax or take a soothing nap. Dim lighting could also make you want to stick around the mall a bit longer because you’re so relaxed. It’s almost like walking around in your home. And if you’re really tired, you can sit down in one of those comfy couches malls usually have at the entrances or near food courts. By that time, you’ll never want to leave. Individual stores also use their own lighting techniques.

5. Smells

Woman smelling green leaf

Smells can affect how you feel. | Source: iStock

Certain smells can evoke fond memories and just make you feel good. When you pass by certain stores at the mall, you might notice the strong scent of coffee from a Starbucks, or the light scents of body wash from a store like Bath & Body Works. These smells are meant to draw you into the store and make you stay at the mall just a little longer. The Journal of Business Research found mall odors impact shoppers’ emotions, cognition, and spending habits.

6. Disorientation

doubt and worry concept

Mall planners hope you’ll get disoriented and stay longer. | iStock.com/STUDIOGRANDOUEST

Mall planners make sure the mall is designed in such a way that you become disoriented. This is a trick known as “scripted disorientation,” reports Upworthy. This makes you more likely to engage in impulse buying. Alan Penn, a professor at University College London, said in a research paper that Ikea is a master at disorienting customers with its confusing store design.

7. Wide store spacing

women with paper bags walking in the mall

You’ll do a lot of walking at the mall. | shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

If you ever go to a mall with more than one major department store inside, you’ll probably notice the department stores will be far apart from each other. The reason for this is so that you’ll have to walk from one end of the mall to the other to reach each store. During your walk, you will pass other stores and be tempted to stop inside to buy something. So, if your local mall has a Macy’s and a Target, you’ll likely see them at opposite ends of the mall. Individual stores also have their own complicated layouts.

8. Games and activities for kids

kids enjoying a ride on a fun carnival carousel

Your kids will never want to leave the mall. | iStock.com/Yobro10

You might be ready to go home, but your kids might want to hang around the mall a little longer, so they can take pictures with animated characters and participate in the activities and games. Mall designers know if they can’t get to the parents, they can certainly hook the kids. At the mall, you’ll find child-friendly activities, video games, and toy stores on just about every floor.

Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!