The easiest way to save money online shopping is by using reverse psychology

The eternal struggle.
The eternal struggle.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
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We’re a couple weeks removed from Cyber Money, one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, and you might have noticed something strange: a lot more emails. If didn’t buy everything you put into your shopping cart, did that online retailer send you a reminder? Maybe even a coupon?

I run a meal plan subscription service ($5 Meal Plan), and so I’ve done a lot of research into how to get customers to buy your product. Along the way, I’ve also learned a few tactics to increase sales and one of them is something you can take advantage of to get a discount.

It’s called “cart abandonment.” It’s when you add something to your cart but never check out. There are a million scenarios where this plays out and it’s estimated 60%-80% of all carts are abandoned.

It happens all the time: You’re about to check out when you see the coupon box and go looking for a coupon, but then forget to come back. Or maybe you left your credit card in another room… I think you get the picture.

Well, if 60-80% of carts are abandoned, and the store doesn’t earn a penny on a sale it doesn’t make, what can they do to make more sales? Email you a coupon or, at the very least, a reminder that you left something in your cart. That coupon is what we’re after.

This strategy won’t work as well on sale days like Cyber Monday. On those days, online stores drastically cut prices to get your business, and gamesmanship doesn’t pay when stores are slashing prices and busting so many doors.

But you can benefit from these coupons on other days of the year. So, how do you take advantage?

The strategy is simple: Register an account, add an item to your cart, then close your window and wait 24 hours.

Do all companies try to rescue abandoned carts? No. Some just aren’t savvy enough to realize that you can recover ~20% of abandoned carts. Or their systems are so archaic that adding this feature would cost too much or take too long.

Do the companies that send coupons do it all the time? Again, no. They don’t want you to get used to the idea that you can always save money if you abandon a cart. Then again, some merchants don’t care if you get used to it. This is especially true if they’re selling a non-physical product with near zero marginal cost. A sale is a sale, and a few people “gaming” the system doesn’t impact the bottom line.

Typically, you might be able to save 10-20%. I wouldn’t expect much more than that, so keep that in mind; 20% on a $500 piece of furniture is nice, while 20% on a $5 widget is less nice and may not be worth the effort.

How to maximize cart abandonment offers

Only try this hack when you’re asked to enter an email, or register, before checking out. If the merchant doesn’t ask you for an email, they can’t email you. So if you don’t enter your email until the very last page, don’t bother trying this.

Once they ask you for the email, go through the entire process but stop whenever they ask for a credit card. Close the window and wait 24-48 hours.

If you don’t get an email within 48 hours, you won’t get one. You can always return to the site and check out as normal.

I like to wait 24-48 hours before I make a purchase just as a speed bump. It’s too easy to spend money online—especially when you save your credit card information—so I impose a 24-48 hour waiting period. If I still want my selections after 24-48 hours, then I consider the pros and cons, comparison shop, etc.

Example 1 : Green Man Gaming

On GreenManGaming.com, I added a game, Star Wars Battlefront, to my cart. I registered an account and made it all the way to the part where I enter in a code and then closed the window.

About an hour later, I got email with a 20% off code. That’s right, it showed up within an hour of stepping away from checkout.

Example 2: Pottery Barn

One of my friends mentioned that Pottery Bark sends out abandonment recovery emails, so I went onto the Pottery Barn website and found this awesome Chloe Coffee Table for just $299. At checkout, I registered an account, entered my address, and went all the way to “Review & Payment” before I decided to bail.

Over the next two days I got two reminder emails that I’d forgotten about Chloe, but no coupon; I did get a 15% off promotion code, but that was for giving them my email, not for abandoning a cart. But yes, technically, I did get a discount. (Pottery Barn sends out a lot of email, by the way.)

Example 3: Dollar Shave Club

If we’ve met in person, you know that I shave about once a week. A razor can last me six months easily.

When my friend Eric told me that Dollar Shave Club offered a free month when he abandoned his cart, I thought I’d try it. But no luck—I just got a reminder email that said I’d never checked out.

Meh. Reminders are as good as the paper they’re printed on.

Which merchants do this?

I asked my friends on Facebook and they told me they’ve gotten emails from Amazon, Pottery Barn, Hulu, Dollar Shave Club, ThredUP, LL Bean, Gap, Old Navy, 1800PetMeds, 1800Flowers, Sandals Resorts, Everyday Minerals, and more.

The takeaway from this is that some merchants do it, and some don’t; it’ll take a bit of experimentation. Give it a try and you might score a deal without having to search for a coupon or expired promo code.

Another added bonus to this strategy is that by waiting 24 hours, you may decide you don’t want that item anymore… and then you save 100%!

This post originally appeared on Wallet Hacks.