Going grocery shopping is one of those things we usually don’t give much thought to. We grab our shopping list, choose our 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. They’re got a few tricks up their sleeves to make sure that happens.
The typical supermarket sells more than 50,000 items, and getting them onto the shelves, keeping them in stock, 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, 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 very 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? In most cases, it’s 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 amount of time the items might have to get warm. At the same time, when walking through the entire store to find the dairy, you’ll be exposed to hundreds of potential other items to buy. And as for why the fruit and vegetables are located right near the entrance? Simple: so the first impression you get is one of health and freshness, and after stocking up on them you’ll be more inclined to purchase some guilty pleasures.
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. Supermarket companies have had decades to perfect their methods of convincing you to buy the slightly more expensive item, to make that impulse purchase in the checkout aisle, to buy more fruit and vegetables than you probably need — and they’re very, very good at getting you to part with your money. Read on to learn about 20 tried-and-true tactics they use, and remember the two rules of thumb for not overspending while grocery shopping: Don’t shop hungry, and stick to your list.
Dan Myers contributed to this story.