Creepy Ways That Grocery Stores Are Designed To Rob Us Blind

Don't bother setting a budget before your next grocery store trip—your store is pulling some sneaky tricks to make you spend big.

Making a list before you head to the grocery store is one of the smartest things you can do to stick to a budget, but it doesn’t always work as well as we’d all hope. Whether it’s because you’re shopping while hangry or because you can’t pass on snatching up something new to try out, it can be hard to stick to the necessities and pass on the extras.

Don’t feel bad, though—did you know that grocery stores are actually designed to get you to blow that extra money? If you’re trying to save more at the store, make sure you’re aware of these tricks used to make you spend.

Ten for $10 Deals

Buying 10 of one item for only $10 is definitely a good deal, especially if it’s something you use a lot of anyway. However, did you know you can often get the item for $1 each even if you don’t buy in quantities of 10? It’s true for most stores, but the advertisement is designed to trick you into thinking that you need to buy more because it’s such a great deal.

10 for $10 deals aren't always a great bargain.

In fact, The New York Times recently reported that customers usually buy more product during 10 for $10 deals as opposed to one for $1 or five for $5 deals because it seems like a greater value, even though it ends up being the same price per item.

Pre-cut Produce

We definitely get the appeal of pre-cut produce—the nice packaging, a pre-cleaned product, and no prep work. However, these are perks that you’re paying a pretty hefty penny for, and you’re almost certainly getting less product for your money.

The cost of pre-cut produce isn't worth the extra cost.

A prepared product also has to be packaged different than one that’s whole, so these conveniences end up generating more waste in addition to costing more. Want to save even more money?

Bigger Carts

If you thought the carts at your favorite grocery store seemed bigger than the last time you were there, you’re not going crazy. Research shows that consumers are likely to buy up to 40 percent more when the size of their shopping cart is doubled.

Coming soon to a grocery store near you.

Larger carts definitely aren’t the only reason people end up taking home more items than they planned but, if you want to steer clear of temptation, try sticking with a handheld basket instead.

Checkout Extras

Have you ever wondered why the checkout lanes of every store you go to look the same, packed with gum, candy, and magazines? It’s because putting these items there is one of the most effective ways to get you to buy them.

Candy in the checkout aisle is a surefire way to get you to spend a bit more.

You may never plan to make a trip to the store’s magazine aisle, but find yourself tempted by an interesting headline as you’re checking out.

Location Changes

Do you ever walk into your favorite grocery store and head to the location of the item you need only to find that it’s not in its usual spot? Stores often switch up their shelves from time to time because it helps keep customers there longer as they’re searching for items.

Confused in the grocery store? You're not alone.

Sometimes stores also separate different types of the same item to sway you to buy one over the other. For example, stores know it’ll be easy to find pre-cut, packaged pineapple in their refrigerated produce section, so they might put whole pineapple in a more obscure place, making you more likely to buy the more expensive item that’s easier to find.

Fragrance First

Many grocery stores place their floral department and bakery near the front of the store, and there’s a reason for it. The scent of fresh flowers will help put you in a good mood when you enter the store, and the smell of baked goods will activate your salivary glands and make you hungry.

A good floral department is a great way to lure you in.

We all know what it’s like to grocery shop when hungry—you’re going to be way more likely to buy something you didn’t plan on bringing home.

Eye-Level Placement

Name-brand items are typically the more expensive products in grocery stores, and that’s why they want you to buy them. To help persuade you, stores place these items at eye level so you’re less likely to keep searching the shelves once you see them.

Brand-name products at eye level is an age-old trick that really works.

Check the shelves above and below these items to find similar products that, for many of them, are probably exactly the same thing for less.

Circular Sneakiness

Most people think that stores put things in their weekly ads when they’re on sale, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes items are put in the ad as a way to get them on a customer’s radar or to push product they don’t sell a lot of.

Check your weekly ads very carefully.

Stores may also advertise an item as being on sale—like giving customers a two for $5 deal—even though the sale price might not be too different from what it costs normally.

Basics in Back

Just stopping in for milk, eggs, and bread? Most of the time, you’ll find that these items tend to be in the back corner of the grocery store. Retailers do this so that you have to walk through the entire store to get to these items, making you more likely to pick up a few extra things along the way.

Notice how milk is always in the back? There's a reason for that.

In addition, stores also place popular items toward the middle of the aisles so that you have to walk past other items to get to them.

Wholesale Shopping

There’s definitely value in shopping in members-only stores like Costco, but it’s important to remember that they won’t always have the best deals. It can be tempting to pick up everything you need in one place, but traditional grocery stores can still have better prices, especially if you don’t really want to buy multiples of one item.

Costco: hoarders' paradise or clean freaks' nightmare?

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, pick up a single item from the grocery store to find out if you like it or not before committing to buying it in bulk—it’s not a deal to buy a lot of something if you won’t actually use any of it.

Cheerful Colors

Walking into a store and seeing lots of fresh, colorful produce right off the bat helps to put you in a good mood at the start of your visit and feel good about the store you’re in. Not only that, but studies show that consumers are drawn towards color, and are more likely to buy foods that are the “right” color.

Colorful produce tastes good and looks good.

As the produce section is the one that you typically walk into first, stores will often try to bombard you with the most colorful, fresh-looking produce so you’ll load up your cart.

Rounding Down

At some point in time, we’ve all wondered why stores don’t just sell an item for $2 instead of $1.99, but there’s a good reason they don’t. When customers see an item marked as $1.99, they tend to associate it as $1, even though it’s closer to $2.

Price tricks in grocery stores are an old psychological trick. But hey, you keep falling for it.

Stores may also choose to make price labels without dollar signs, as the symbol tends to make us think more about the money we’re spending.

Buying in Bulk

Stores often offer bulk options so you’ll commit to buying and consuming more product. Buying in bulk can be a good option for a lot of things, but it’s not a value if you can’t finish what you bought before it goes bad.

Buying food in bulk is a good choice--if you really need it.

Sure, a 10-pound bag of apples for $6 seems like a great deal but, if apples are cheaper per pound at another store, you can save money by buying a lesser quantity you’ll actually be able to finish.

Store Samples

Raise your hand (ours are definitely up high) if you’ve ever bought a product only because you got to try a sample when you were shopping. For people who shop at wholesale clubs, it’s one of the most exciting parts of a shopping trip, and it’s also one of the easiest ways for a store to get you to buy something you didn’t plan on buying.

Grocery store samples can be a meal in themselves, but be prepared to actually walk away.

In addition, depending on the environment, trying a sample can also make a shopper feel more obligated to purchase the product.

Relaxing Music

Grocery stores often play music that has been strategically chosen to make you feel more relaxed while you shop. When the music is too fast, you’re more likely to move through the store at a quicker pace, which makes it less likely that you’ll pick up extra items.

That Muzak is carefully chosen!

The idea is to keep the music slow so that you’ll spend more time browsing and grab a few extra items as you walk through the store.


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