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Three Clever Ways Restaurants Are Tricking You Into Spending More Money

Three Clever Ways Restaurants Are Tricking You Into Spending More Money

The almighty dollar sign.

Think you're a savvy diner?

Restaurants use all sorts of clever tricks to squeeze extra dough from your wallet, as the Daily Mail noted in a roundup of the top tactics.

What's on the menu — and what's left off it — can have a big impact on how much you spend.

Image via Shutterstock Photo credit: Shutterstock


Sometimes a special is just that: something special the chef made that day.

But as William Poundstone, author of "Priceless: The Myth Of Fair Value," noted, oftentimes a special can be deceiving

Since specials are not necessarily listed in the menu, servers can aggressively pitch them and customers will order — without knowing how much the dish costs.

When the check comes, they have to pay up.


You might think a menu with no dollar signs — where prices appear as "16" instead of "$15.99" — looks more sophisticated.

But the way the menu presents prices can also get you to shell out more.

A 2009 Cornell University study found that menus without dollar signs led customers to spend 8 percent more on their meals.

Researchers speculated that the dollar sign reminded customers of the "pain of paying," and with it gone, people spent more.

Poundstone posited that the lack of a dollar sign helps get diners to spend more because with the dollar sign gone, the price of each menu item takes up less space, making it easier for eaters to focus on others things, such as calorie information or descriptions of the food, instead of the cost.


The most expensive item on the menu sets the tone for everything else, price-wise.

Restaurants commonly use a large, expensive menu item as an "anchor," Poundstone explained, which makes the rest of the menu look like a good deal by comparison.

You might not have bought a $30 steak, but compared to the $50 surf and turf, it seemed like a good buy.

For more ways restaurants use your subconscious against you, check out these lists of restaurant hacks from Food Network and the Guardian.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

Featured image via Shutterstock

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