Monday, March 15, 2010

GSC: Grocery Store Confidential

I found this article about tricks to make you spend more at the grocery store interesting, and helpful! Now that I've confessed my displeasure with shopping and savings articles, I start finding ones that are actually... helpful!

1. Entrance, or "chill zone" - Stores place impulse buys, like DVDs and seasonal, promotional items here specifically to entice you. I think I knew this, subconsciously. The description reminds me of walking into the Food Lion we frequented in NC, and we rarely bought anything from that section because they weren't displaying brands or products we normally bought. The article recommends lingering a bit to see what is there and remind yourself that you don't need it. I see how that could work; you don't feel like you are denying yourself, instead, you are simply allowing yourself a choice. However, you can easily make the less frugal choice.

2. Produce at the front - This one was a bit of a surprise to me. Thinking about it though, I am hard pressed to remember a traditional grocery store [not a big box store] where produce wasn't right next to the entrance, on the right hand side, waiting for me to start my circuit. Selecting your produce first does go against the idea of gathering your perishable foods last, so they have less time at non-ideal temperatures and in less-than-ideal conditions. I may have been going about this all wrong! (But... what about the idea of shopping the exterior of the store only/first...?)

3. Specials - Just because it is on sale, doesn't mean it is a bargain, or going to save you money. If the product or brand isn't something you would have purchased anyway, then a sale price or coupon doesn't necessarily make it a bargain. In fact, if the only reason you would only consider a product is because of a coupon or sale, you are better off skipping it all together.

I'm going to divert a bit here, and also mention something that I've noticed Kroger here doing for a while; I'm sure other stores do it to - I just shop at Kroger more often. Kroger's sale price tag is yellow. Bright, you can see it from miles away yellow. This is very helpful when you are scanning the bread aisle or beans, or what-have-you for the cheapest price. However, what they started doing is mimicking their sale tags (color and size) for the regular price of their brand of a product. So, instead of a white tag, saying the X product is 2.99, there is an over-sized yellow tag, with 2.99 in big lettering, and something akin to "everyday low price" in much smaller lettering. I guess they figure they've trained us to associate the yellow tag with sales and savings, making us more inclined to just grab the product with the yellow tag. Who knew grocery selling/shopping could be so covert?

4. Buried Products - By moving the most popular products to the center of aisles, they are forcing us to walk past and look at more options. More expensive options, different product options, and so on. The more we see, the more likely we are to buy. Here is where a list, and sticking to it, can help. Or, as they suggest, skipping the impulse buy, and seeing if you really want or need it later. They are right, usually we forget about it, or decide we don't really need it. I'd say that shopping with a spouse or a partner can be helpful here, because there is another person present to help keep impulses in check. (This can backfire, too, but, really, what can't?) And again with the sneaky grocery selling!

5. Private labels - These used to be pretty bad. But now, they are actually quite good, and a number of people find themselves preferring some store brand items over name brand ones. Private label = store brand, therefore they are cheaper, right? Unfortunately, no. Usually, this is the case. However, name brands have gotten wise to the fact that people are buying store brands with wild abandon, and sometimes will offer sales (and even coupons) that make their product cheaper. So, as the article says, comparing prices and prices per unit each time is the only way to ensure you get the best price. Time consuming, yes. Worth it? Depends on your preference.

6. Samples - This is similar to my mom always telling me not to go to the store hungry. Sampling will trigger your body to expect a big meal, which, as they say, makes you a less discriminating shopper. Which is also what shopping when hungry does. The article recommends saving sampling until you are about the leave. If you are disciplined about your shopping, you could probably make it through the sampling gambit unscathed. Or, you could not shop when samples are offered. I've really only ever noticed lots of sampling stations on Saturday mornings. So many other people are shopping at that time, too, making it a crowded headache, which also makes it harder to really take your time and price-shop. So, avoid samples, and you avoid the rush!

I'm still in a bit of awe at just how sneaky those marketers are. They sure do know their stuff. But I know some of their stuff, too. So do you! What do you think about these tricks? Do they work, and do you  have your own tips for avoiding their carefully crafted traps?


SteveA said...

Our trick is pretty simple, we pretty much avoid the grocery store. Our family saves over 40% on groceries we buy through an online grocery store that delivers for free nationwide. Not only do we avoid all the tricks you mention, we save time and gas too! We posted our savings and cost comparisons on so you can check prices for yourself.

swiggett said...

That certainly would eliminate those tricks! Thanks for stopping by!