Going grocery shopping is so ingrained into our culture that we usually don’t even give it second thought. We grab a cart, walk around the store, pick out the food we want, pay, and leave. But in reality, every supermarket is a well-oiled machine, hell-bent on getting you to spend as much money as possible without even realizing it, and they’re got a few tricks up their sleeve to make sure that happens.
The typical supermarket sells more than 50,000 items, and getting products onto the shelves, keeping them fresh, and selling them before they expire can be a Herculean task. There’s meat and the deli counter on one side, fresh fruit and vegetables on the other, fresh bread in the corner, eggs and dairy in the back, and packaged goods taking up the shelf space in the middle. And while it might all look like chaos, the layouts are actually scientific, and everything is where it is for a reason.
For example, ever wonder why the dairy cases are all the way in the back of the store? It’s usually because the loading docks are directly on the other side of those refrigerators, so items can go straight into the case from the refrigerated truck without having to be moved through the whole store, minimizing the risk of the items getting warm. And why are the fruit and vegetables located right near the entrance? Simple: So the first impression you get is one of health and freshness.
Giving the customer the impression that everything is as fresh as possible is a major priority of supermarkets, as is making as much money as possible, which can lead to some questionable practices markets engage in to extend shelf life (pro tip: if it looks like there are two overlapping labels on a package of meat, don’t buy it). So remember: stick to your list, don’t shop hungry, and if it doesn’t look right, don’t buy it, no matter what it might say on the label. Read on to learn some secrets that supermarkets would prefer you didn’t know.