5 Things Grocery Stores Do to Get You to Buy More Stuff


Ah, grocery stores. Aisle after aisle of colorful packages and bottles, handy carts to help you haul your loan (unless of course you get that evil cart with the wonky wheel), and of course, the easy listening music to help you forget your troubles. Seriously, how can you stew about your idiotic next-door-neighbor (mowing the lawn at 7:00am? Who does that?), or worry about your business not taking advantage of Unified Communication as a Service, when Lionel Richie or Hall and Oates are crooning? Good times.


You see, grocery stores aren’t just in the business of selling you products that you want. They’re also very interested in manipulating you into buying stuff that you probably don’t want — or perhaps don’t want in such huge quantities (even the Brady Bunch didn’t need 72 rolls of toilet paper).

So, how are grocery stores influencing your behavior and decisions? Here are seven notorious tactics:

#1. They put basics in the back.

Have you ever stopped to think why grocery stores put basic items — like milk, butter, and eggs — way in the back? It has nothing to with refrigeration, and everything to do with forcing you to stroll past other items that aren’t on your list, but that you’ll hopefully toss into your cart (like double fudge Oreos).

#2. The put produce up front.

Now that you know why grocery stores put basics in the back, let’s flip the orientation and ask: do you know why they stack produce at the front? It has nothing to do with storage, or whether it’s easier for loading and unloading. It’s because shiny, colorful, and fresh (or at least, fresh-looking) fruits and vegetables put folks in a good mood. And the happier you are, the more stuff you’re likely to buy — and therefore, the more money you’re likely to spend.

#3. They stick unhealthy, sugar-loaded items on lower shelves.

Here’s another eye-opener: grocery stores know that adults like you might (might…) have the willpower to avoid adding unhealthy, sugary snacks and drinks to your cart. So, they intentionally put these on lower shelves to — yes, you guessed it — target your kids. Indeed, the grocery store would like nothing better than for your little one to throw an epic tantrum until you relent and add a case of root beer (by the way, you can at least mitigate the damage to your budget by getting the store brand).

#4. They’ve increased the size of shopping carts.

If you take a shopping cart from the 1980s or even 1990s, and compare it to a shopping cart today, you’ll notice something remarkable: today’s version is much, much bigger. Of course, this is not accidental. The bigger the cart, the more likely you’ll add more and more stuff. Remember: a “cart” is not a standard measuring metric. It’s just a label for a box on wheels. This means it’s perfectly fine — and probably wise — to head to the checkout counter with half your cart full (or maybe even less). It doesn’t mean that you didn’t buy enough stuff. It likely means everyone else around you bought too much stuff.

#5. Multi-buys that aren’t multi-buys.

We’ve saved the most egregious tactic for last — and there’s a very good chance (we’re talking 99% here) that you’ve fallen for this at least once; if not several times. It’s the old multi-buy trick, in which a cheery, colorful sticker tells you that you can get two or three of the same product for a certain amount. What’s wrong with this? Well, in most cases, there is absolutely NO savings involved. In other words, you don’t save a cent by buying two or three. You could simply buy one and pay one-third of the price. Pretty devious, huh?

The Bottom Line

The next time you go to the grocery store, keep the above in mind. You’ll buy less stuff you don’t need and spend less money (and yes, you can still get those double fudge Oreos — life is short).


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