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Monday, February 6, 2023

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Outwit the Grocery Store!

Recently, my regular supermarket decided to rearrange the aisles and locations of items yet again, changing up literally everything in a massive overhaul. No one was happy. Customers were thrown off and disoriented. Employees seemed exhausted from the extra work and constant question answering as people searched. And most of all, the new design and layout didn’t appear to make any sense nor seem to be an improvement whatsoever. When this happens at the grocery store, it begs the question—what’s the point?

Contrary to what consumers may think about layout changes being a necessary protocol, it is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get you to spend. The philosophy? By changing things up, you may notice items you never saw before and, while out of your normal routine, you’ll ultimately put these new finds in your cart. Supermarket companies spend millions each year employing marketing experts to “entice” consumers into spending more money by carefully targeting the psychological and social behaviors of consumers. In order to stick to your budget and not spend unnecessarily, it’s important to be aware of these strategies, and do your best to ignore them. Here are some marketing “tricks” supermarkets are playing on you, but by making yourself aware, the joke can be on them in the end!

  • Adjacencies. Do you ever notice that brown paper bags might be next to the white bread rather than with paper goods? Or tartar sauce at the seafood stand instead of with condiments? Supermarkets are essentially relying on your laziness by pairing items together for convenience. Trouble is, that tartar sauce next to the shrimp is going to be the more expensive brand than the cheaper one you’ll find in Aisle 3.
  • Music. Supermarkets only play music at a slow tempo in order to relax customers into spending more. Seriously—there are studies that prove it! Bring a pair of headphones with you and don’t get lulled into spending.
  • Sense of Smell. It’s not a coincidence that the bakery is right at the front. Smelling all that delicious fresh food will lure you into buying more if you let it. Don’t shop hungry!
  • Fake Sales. My grocery store puts big yellow price stickers on certain items, but when I look closely, it’s simply the regular price they are “advertising.” If I didn’t read the fine print, I’d think the item was on sale and I needed to buy it that day.
  • Essentials in the Back. You know how you have to walk all the way in the way back to grab the milk and eggs you stopped in for? Stores are hoping you’ll find lots of unanticipated treasures on the way to grab that one item.

Consider shopping like being in a video game—there are lots of obstacles the store is putting in front of you to trick you into spending more, but with knowledge and a list, you’ll ultimately come out the winner!

Debra Caffrey
Debra Caffrey
Debra Caffrey is the writer/editor of the Education and Infant & Pregnancy e-newsletters for Fredericksburg Parent and Family. She also writes the monthly Practical Pantry column, sharing her recipes and tips on being a home cook, grocery shopping, and smart meal planning. Debra is the proud mother of an almost-teenage son. When she's not writing, cooking, or parenting, Debra enjoys working out, yoga, running, hiking, traveling, and reading.

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