Everybody needs to go to the grocery store. Whether it’s for your weekly food run or a quick stop to get some milk, the grocery store is where all the magic happens – and apparently, a good amount of scams, as well. Just because a place looks like a haven doesn’t mean you’re safe from the good old business model. Here are 10 Sneaky Ways Grocery Stores Are SCAMMING You Without You Knowing (Part 3).
10. A Real Treasure Hunt
When you go to the grocery store, remember that the store cares about one thing and one thing only: to make you spend as much money as possible. They will go to great lengths to make sure you’ve walked up and down every aisle, even if it means resorting to extreme measures. Ever noticed how one day you suddenly couldn’t find your favorite crackers anymore? They used to be right there in aisle three, and now, poof, they’re gone. Now, you need to cross the entire store to get to them, and just as you’ve finally figured out the new location, bam – they’ve moved again. Well, as it turns out, this isn’t just some random re-stocking issue or exhausted inventory: it’s all part of the store’s strategy. The reason they switch everything around constantly is to throw you off of your shopping routine. By changing your “regular” shopping path, you’ll be exposed to new products you wouldn’t have seen before. The ultimate goal is for those products to end up in your cart, and for the whole cycle to start again. You’re forced to go on a treasure hunt every time you look for your go-to items, only without having access to the treasure map. In other words, don’t get too comfortable at the grocery store. Even if you think you know it by heart, everything can change in an instant.
9. 99 Cent Problems
Have you ever wondered why all the price tags seem to always end with 99? What’s the big whoop between $5.99 and $6.00 dollars? Why not just put the full number and be done with it? Well, apparently, it’s not a random thing at all, and it has everything to with psychology. Psychological pricing, also known as charm pricing, is the idea that a price can have a psychological impact on the brain. It’s used by retailers to influence and make customers see their products a certain way. The core of charm pricing? Odd numbers. It’s been proven in a research called the “left-digit effect in price cognition” that price tags ending with “5” or “9” tend to sell at much higher rates than when an even number is used. There are several theories as to why this technique seems to work so well. There’s the perceived loss, which means a customer will value a product based on loss rather than gain. They read a price from left to right; the first number to catch their attention is the most important. People don’t always fully process the numbers after the first one, so an item priced at $5.99 will seem cheaper than $6.00. That little penny – as irrelevant and tiny as it seems – could mean all the difference between making a sale or not.
8. Masters Of Manipulation
As you’ve probably figured out by now, grocery stores aren’t as innocent as they may seem. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes-action unbeknownst to most people, which allows them to control everything that goes on in the store. According to a National Geographic report, every single feature of the store is designed to lure you in and make you spend as much money as possible. We’ve all been there. You go in for only one item and then end up leaving with a cart full of stuff. Well, that’s not a coincidence and you shouldn’t feel guilty for not resisting the temptation; you’re being manipulated – big time. For instance, just look at where the door is located. In most grocery stores, when you go through the entrance door, you can’t get out until you’ve gone through the entire building to reach the exit door. That, my friends, is the perfect way to make you walk past something you will inevitably be tempted to buy. First, you’ll go by the produce section with all the colorful, fresh fruits. If that doesn’t work, the bakery is usually next, with a smell so delightful, it’s bound to make you hungry. Even the music that’s played inside the store has been carefully chosen to make you take your sweet, sweet time. Basically, nothing is ever left up to chance.
7. Hidden Rotten Food
It’s always frustrating when you get home from the store with your fresh produce, only to discover that half of the bag is already rotten. Sadly, it happens way more often than you would think – and no, this is no accident. Your potatoes didn’t just magically rot on the way home because your car was too hot; it’s a question of marketing. Obviously, donating, discounting, or simply throwing away the spoiled food would be a better practice on the grocery store’s part, but why would they do that if it means losing money? No, instead, they make sure to make the best out of this bad food and strategically arrange it. By placing the bad food at the bottom of the bags, all of the flaws, blemishes, or rotting bits are hidden and ready to be unknowingly bought by you. Of course, you can always bring back the faulty grapes at the store if you make a shocking discovery, but to be honest, it doesn’t happen very often. Grocery stores usually count on the fact that most people won’t bother going back for a refund. Driving back to the store and then go back home again? Sounds like a hassle. You’ll probably end up throwing the produce out, therefore throwing your money away as well. And this is exactly how grocery stores get away with selling you less-than-quality food and scamming you in the process.
6. It’s All About The Smell
Think about this: when you walk into a grocery store, what’s the first smell that catches your attention? Is it the fishy odor from the seafood section or the enticing smell from freshly-baked bread? Probably the latter, and yes, it’s on purpose. Walking into a grocery store can be quite the sensory overload, and it’s all designed, once again, to trick you into buying certain things. The in-your-face smells are intentionally put toward the front and center of the store, to give you the best impression possible. Oh, and also to make you hungry as heck! Everyone knows that going grocery shopping when you’re hungry is a bad, bad idea, so the hungrier you are from the mouth-watering scents, the more you will spend on these said products. Whether it’s fresh produce, croissants, or in-house brewed coffee, they’re all smells almost impossible to resist. Your wallet wants what your nose wants, and retailers know that all too well. They will even place fresh flowers at the entrance – sure they’re not edible, but it will still leave you with a nice first impression and make you more receptive for the parade of sensory stimulation waiting ahead. It also tricks your brain into thinking that, just like the flowers, everything in the store is fresh, which obviously isn’t true. In other words, don’t get fooled by everything that you smell. Just because that rotisserie chicken smells amazing doesn’t mean you need to add it to your cart.
5. Health-Nut On The Rise
As mentioned before, it’s all about the first impression. The fresher and prettier, the store looks after your first few glances, the more likely you are to buy stuff – even if you never planned on buying certain items in the first place. It’s no secret that buying fresh, healthy food always feels a little better than buying a whole lot of junk food. It’s just something within our conscience. With that in mind, it makes total sense for the produce section to be at the front of the store and the taboo, frozen section to be at the back. A lot of research has shown that people will feel better loading up their carts with healthy food first, only to splurge on other stuff when going through the aisles. A sort of reward, if you will. You just filled your cart with a bag of apples? Why not celebrate with a bag of frozen French fries? Grocery stores also tend to display their organic produce front and center, making you believe that it’s all the produce they have. Obviously, this is rarely the case. Organic produce tends to be more expensive, and well, since it’s organic, it might make you feel like you’re being even healthier. The regular and local produce will always be there, you just might have to scope it out.
4. False Advertising
There’s arguably nothing worse than buying something only to find out you’ve been lied to about what it really is – especially when it comes to food. Grocery stores will often brag about their organic this and organic that, their whole wheat, gluten-free, freshly baked bread, yet, these are not always the most up-front descriptions. You see those tasty-looking, supposedly baked in-house croissants? Not as fresh as you think. Most of the items in grocery stores’ bakeries aren’t made from scratch at all – they’re either frozen or come from a mix. All those artisanal bagels, danishes, pies – it’s all a facade! They simply cook up the frozen dough and heat it up to get that irresistible smell all over the store. But that smell is a total lie. And that’s not the only disappointment. You also need to be wary of “organic” items. Why? Because, apparently, organic doesn’t always really mean organic. It can also mean regular and mislabeled. There is no real way to know if something is truly organic, so scamming you is really easy. There have been many cases of mislabeled organic products reported over the years. Essentially, you can’t always trust what you see and should always be prepared for that when you walk into a grocery store.
3. Limited Time Lies
FOMO: the fear of missing out. It applies to social trends, gatherings and events, but also to the food on the shelves at your local grocery store. As seasons change, so do the offers available, and stores have been taking full advantage of limited-time offerings. The FOMO phenomenon has been seen in many situations and can be explained rather simply. Frequently hearing sentences like “limited time only!” or “hurry before they’re gone” can affect the perception you have of a certain item and subconsciously make you want to get it. The fear of missing out on “the deal of a lifetime” triggers a sense of urgency in customers, pressuring them to buy the item as quickly as possible before it sells out. It’s been proven that when a time sensitive countdown is placed on a product, it will sell more quickly and more efficiently than its regular counterparts. If you had to choose between a product that you see every day or the exclusive, limited version of it, the choice is pretty clear. But the real truth? That “special” drink you’re about to buy is probably not really limited-time only. It’s a trick, a lie to manipulate your brain. Plus, if it’s really that good and popular, chances are, it’ll be back soon. So don’t stress – you’re not missing out on anything.
2. Free Samples
Every devoted Costco shopper knows that a trip to Costco isn’t complete without filling up on the free samples. The unlimited treats are spread out all over the store, waiting for you behind every corner. But, as fun and delicious as the free samples are, have you ever stopped and wondered why they’re even there in the first place? Why would Costco willingly give away free food? Well, let’s just say they don’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts. While they don’t flat out force you to buy the full-size offering, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t weigh into your decision. There’s a whole marketing strategy behind free samples, and it’s an easy one: guilt and commitment, or, if you prefer, reciprocity. This means that when someone does something nice for you – i.e., give you freebies – you will most likely feel compelled to do something “nice” in return. Walking away after stuffing your face might even make you feel cheap and ungrateful. In this case, purchasing the product you just tried as a “thank you” would relieve your guilty conscience. Thanks to the idea of reciprocity, free samples tend to dramatically boost sales of the actual product. Everyone loves free food, but no one likes to feel indebted to someone, so the easiest way to relieve that guilt is by buying the cookies and crackers they just gave to you.
1. Sneaky Deals
In the frenzy of grocery shopping, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and blindsided. You probably see that big, red price tag that says “on sale,” and you head on over without a second thought. Sure, most of the time, these deals look like the best bargain in the whole store, but if you take your time to read all of the fine print, you might be in for a surprise. Let’s say a grocery store advertises 10 cans of soup for $10. It sounds like the best bang for your buck, right? However, there’s always a catch with these “too-good-to-be-true” offers. By reading the details carefully, you will see how it says you need to buy all 10 to get them for $1 each; otherwise, they’re at the regular price. Originally, you only needed 3, but hey, with a sweet deal like this, you think you’re better off buying all 10. Well you’re now buying way more than you were supposed to. That’s exactly what the stores want you to do: buy more than you need so you feel like you’re saving money, when in fact, you’re just spending more than you intended to and leaving with too much food.