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How Grocery Stores Get You to Spend More Money

The cashier tells you the total costs of your groceries. You didn’t plan to spend that much money. You know inflation played a role in the increased bill, but you couldn’t solely blame inflation. You had thrown in the cart a few items that were not on your shopping list.

Okay, it was more than a few.

You exit the grocery store with your head shaking. You mutter to yourself, “How could I spend that much money?”

You are not alone. Many who enter grocery stores spend more than they anticipate. Personal discipline is certainly a factor, but a lack of awareness of various grocery store sales tactics is also at play here.

The goal of a grocery store is not to ensure you purchase the minimum. Grocery stores are geared to make money, something I don’t necessarily have a problem with. Grocery stores stay open when they make money, and the stores shut down when they lose money. Personally, I like having open grocery stores.

However, you have a budget that should be followed, and understanding a grocery store’s sales tactics can reduce the temptation to overspend.

1. Growing carts.

Does your grocery store cart look less full than it used to? There’s a reason. Grocery stores have been increasing the size of their carts. When people fill their carts, they tend to stop shopping. So, to keep customers shopping longer and spending more, grocery stores have increased the size of the carts.

2. Placing expensive items at eye level.

You don’t have to search hard for higher priced brands and items. Grocery stores ensure these items are easily seen. You must search high and low (literally) for the lesser priced brands and items. The hope? You will grab what’s right in front of you, causing you to spend a little more cash.

3. Placing kid-enticing products at a lower level.

“Mom, can we buy this?” Parents, you have all heard this in the grocery store. How do our children spot all these items? Grocery stores know a child’s persistent request can influence a parent’s purchase behavior. Sometimes, the parent agrees to purchase the item just to bring about some peace while shopping. So, to increase the likelihood of a child influencing their parent’s purchases, grocery stores place kid-enticing items on the lower level, right where the child can see them.

4. Putting staples far from the entrance.

I probably have never been in your go-to grocery store. But I can still tell you where the milk is located—the back, opposite corner from the entrance. All grocery stores place staple goods, like milk, far away from the entrance. Why? To ensure you see as many items in the store as possible—tempting you to throw one you didn’t intend to purchase in the large cart.

5. 7 for $7 (or similar) deals.

When you see signs that read, “7 Yogurts for $7,” you may assume that the deal only works if you purchase seven yogurts. This is often not the case. If you read the small print, you will notice each yogurt (or whatever the sale item may be) cost $1. So, why does it read “7 for $7?” To get you to purchase more.

6. Occasional layout changes.

Grocery stores don’t want you shopping on autopilot. When customers are overly familiar with a store’s layout, they tend to shop more quickly and spend less. So, stores will occasionally change the layout. The new layout slows down shoppers, causes them to move through the store less efficiently, and exposes them to more products.

7. Pleasant music.

Grocery stores are not the only one to utilize music as a part of their strategy. Stores regularly use music to influence your mood while you shop. Music genre, tempo, and volume are all considered by retailers. The right music can improve a customer’s mood, create a more pleasant shopping experience, increase a customer’s stay, and increase their purchases.

8. Spraying fruits and vegetables with water.

No, grocery stores do not spray water on their fruits and vegetables just to keep them fresh. Certainly, the right amount of water can help fruits and vegetable stay hydrated (too much water can degrade plant tissue). But a light mist can also make produce visually appealing. Our minds associate water with freshness. So, stores will spray water, not only to keep produce hydrated, but tempt us to put some broccoli in our large shopping carts.

9. Placing baked goods, flowers, and fruit at the front.

While staple products are placed in the back of the store, baked goods, flowers, and fruit are placed near the front. You’ve been told to never go grocery shopping while hungry. The grocery store attempts to trigger hunger by placing these high sensory items in the front. This is why you are immediately hit with the smell of baked goods, the scent of flowers, and the sight of bright fruit when entering a grocery store.

10. Impulse purchases at checkout.

The checkout lane is the stores last shot at increasing your grocery bill. For this reason, they place impulse purchases around the cashier. It is a gauntlet of easy-to-grab candy, magazines, and soda. If you can make it through this test without increasing the bill, you’ve done something special.

While grocery stores provide a wonderful service, and there is nothing wrong with paying for a valuable service, don’t assume the grocery store is there to protect your budget. They are not. That is your job. Being aware of the commonly utilized tactics mentioned above can help you avoid falling for them and overspending.


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