If you’ve ever been to a grocery store and ended up buying way more than you went in there for, then join the crowd. We’ve all done it. Thanks to subtle marketing tactics, the grocery store is a minefield that’s designed for one thing: making us spend money.
For instance, did you know that the type of music that’s playing while you’re shopping can influence your buying decisions? Did you know that the in-store bakery wafts those delicious fresh-baked bread smells around the store for a reason? Did you know that, statistically, you’re going to buy 40% more food than you planned on?
Yeah, grocery stores are crafty. So, let’s take a look at some common grocery store tricks, and how to avoid them.
Grocery Store Trick #1: Sales on the End Aisle
Most people assume that if products are located on an aisle end-cap, then it’s a bargain. But according to Smart Money Magazine, this is far from the truth.
A product may “look” like it’s on sale, but many times this is all smoke and mirrors. The original price that’s shown is actually an inflated one, making the “sale price” look really good.
Why do grocery stores do this? Well, companies pay big bucks to have their product placed on the end-cap. That’s prime real estate, and grocery stores actually earn more profits off product placement than they do selling food to us minions. So, the products on the end-cap paid a pretty penny to be there. It doesn’t make sense for a company to pay such a high price and then sell their product at rock-bottom prices. So, the price is manipulated to make you think you’re getting a bargain.
Money Saving Solution: You’ve got to put on your investigating hat here. Walk down the aisle and check the price of similar brands. Oftentimes, that “bargain” isn’t much of a bargain at all, and you can even find lower priced alternatives further into the store.
Also, know what you normally pay for the items you buy regularly. It helps to keep a small notebook on hand so you can write down prices. This can help you compare what’s real and what’s inflated when things go on sale.
Grocery Store Trick #2: Slow Music
How many times have you walked into the grocery store and found yourself meandering along the aisles, singing along to John Mayer or Norah Jones?
According to Bankrate.com, music in a major chord with a slower beat is statistically proven to sell more groceries. Why? Because we slow down. We spend more time in the store because we’re walking slower and enjoying ourselves. All this means that we end up putting more stuff in the cart.
Money Saving Solution: If you can, do your grocery shopping with your iPod. That’s what I do. I put on the high-energy song list I use for when I go running, and practically dance my way through the store. I get what I need and get out.
If you can’t shop with your own iPod, then do your best to ignore the music being piped in. Remember, it’s there for a reason. The longer you’re in that store, the more money you’re going to spend. Try singing AC/DC to yourself and get the heck out.
Grocery Store Trick #3: The Bakery
Could the smells of fresh bread, cakes, and strudel that are being pulled out of the oven almost hourly have anything to do with the stack of carbs currently sitting in your grocery cart?
Um, how many ways can we say “YES”?
Grocery stores know that people love the smell of fresh baked bread. Which is why so many stores have in-house bakeries. People are far more likely to buy more when they smell baking bread. After all, it’s one of the most comforting scents out there.
I know that I have a serious, serious weakness for baked bread. I fall for this one hook, line and sinker.
They also hook you into to buying more with those “free sample stations” that are strategically located around the store. Get a taste of that spinach dip and you’re far more likely to throw it into your cart.
Money-Saving Solution: Simple. Don’t go the grocery store hungry.
If you’re full from lunch or dinner then you’re far less likely to fall for the impulse buys that the smell of cooking food usually leads to. So the best time to go grocery shopping is after a meal.
This will also eliminate your urge to sample food. Usually the stores put out calorie-ladened, ultra-tasty processed foods anyway. Who needs it?
Grocery Store Trick #4: Coupons, Coupons, Coupons…
If you think that $1 off Folger’s coffee coupon is a good deal, it might be. And, it might not.
According to Bankrate.com, when people have a coupon they automatically assume that whatever they’re buying a good deal. But that’s not always the case.
Bankrate.com interviewed Arun Jain, a marketing research professor at the University of Buffalo. From the article:
“My studies have shown that if people have coupons, they won’t check if it is a bargain,” says Jain. “A lot of people don’t check the unit price.” He explains that coupons and sales are often inspired by a store’s overstock. If the supermarket has a lot of cans of tuna to move or if the product is about to be withdrawn, they’ll “promote” it with a sale or coupon. Basically, we may buy something we wouldn’t normally buy because it’s discounted and, as a consequence, they get their backroom cleaned out.
This also ties in closely with Trick #1. Remember, just because you have a coupon it doesn’t always mean that you’re getting the best deal.
Money-Saving Solution: You’ve probably heard this one before, but don’t use a coupon for something you normally wouldn’t buy.
And again, try using a price notebook. When you know how much your regular purchases usually cost, you can make smarter buying decisions. Knowledge is power.
Grocery Store Trick #5: Crowded Aisles
Ever wonder why the horizontal aisles at the front of the store are so dang crowded? When you’re lining up to check out, it takes all your effort not to trip over tables loaded with rotisserie chickens, fresh baked breads, cut flowers, and containers full of brownies and cupcakes.
That stuff is there for a good reason.
Because by the time we’ve lined up we’re tired and ready to get out of there. And everyone knows when you’re tired and cranky, you’re more likely to buy yourself just a little “something” for a treat to perk up.
That bouquet of fresh flowers? You might have had the strength to resist it when you walked in, but the more you eye it while you stand in line the more you’ll picture it on your dining room table. So, into the cart it goes.
Same goes for those fresh-baked cookies. You might have passed them up initially, but listening to the woman yell at her screaming child ahead of you lowers your ability to resist temptation. Those cookies start to look pretty dang good the longer you stand there. So, you grab a package to eat one now.
Money Saving Strategy: Try to do your grocery shopping late at night, or in the middle of the day. This is when standing in line isn’t an issue, and you’ll be able to breeze by all those temptations.
If shopping during the day or late at night isn’t an option, then just be aware that all these things are there for one reason: to get you to part with an additional $2 or $3. Be strong. Resist.
I’ve fallen for several of these tricks myself, especially the bread trick. I’m a sucker for artesan loaves! But, I’ve also grown more aware of how I’m being roped into spending more money at the grocery store. I keep my iPod in my purse, and am actually spending less now that I’m using it, mostly because I go through the store faster.
Do you have any crafty tips or tricks for saving money at the grocery store? Know of another grocery store marketing ploy that you’d like to share? Send them in!