Grocery prices have moderated as inflation has cooled. Despite that, food costs were still up 2.4% in September, according to the Consumer Price Index. So if your supermarket credit card tab still seems higher than average, that could be a reason why.
But it’s probably not the only reason. The reality is that supermarkets have a sneaky way of convincing consumers to spend money they had no intention of parting with. Here are some of the tricks they tend to employ.
Have you ever been to a supermarket where you can walk right in, grab a carton of milk, and leave? I haven’t. Whether it’s my local Shoprite, Costco, or Trader Joe’s, I find that the dairy aisle — which I pretty much always tend to need — is located at the back of the store.
And it’s not just the dairy aisle. At my local Costco, you have to pass through the snack and bakery sections just to get to the produce. And when you’re specifically seeking out a giant bag of broccoli, it’s easy enough to get tempted to buy some cookies or muffins along the way to offset such a healthy purchase.
It’s common for grocery stores to put items on sale at different intervals. But one of the sneakiest techniques they tend to employ is to limit that discount to customers who buy the same item in multiples.
For example, let’s say pasta is normally $1.25 a box at your local supermarket. You might see it marked down to five for $5 — if you buy five. If you only buy three, you’re still paying $1.25 a pop.
What I’ll commonly do in that situation is buy the five. But if I didn’t need five, it meant the supermarket won by getting more of my money.
Have you ever noticed that you won’t find whole wheat rolls or canned beans near the cash register when you go to check out at the supermarket? Nope — instead, you’ll commonly find king-sized candy bars, soda, and other such fun items that magically fit in your purse so you can scoop them up at the last minute without worry.
Not only do these impulse items tend to drive people to spend more at the supermarket, but they’re generally among the least competitively priced. So all told, you’re losing out — even if you do enjoy that mega-sized Twix.
I visit my local Shoprite several times a week, so at this point, I’m more than familiar with its layout. That’s why I tend to get annoyed when I notice items being moved to different aisles.
I used to think stores did that as a means of maximizing space. Now I’m convinced that they do it to confuse customers and get them to wander around more in search of the things they need.
Think about it. Let’s say you buy cereal at the supermarket once a week, only the cereal aisle gets moved. Suddenly, you’re forced to pass through several new aisles to find your box of Cheerios. That could result in more items getting thrown into your cart.
Clearly, supermarkets are pretty adept at tricking shoppers into spending more than intended. So now that you know this, fight back.
Make a grocery list before heading to the store and stick to it. And eat something, even if it’s just a light snack, before you shop so your stomach isn’t grumbling the entire time and you’re not tempted to buy two giant Hershey bars on your way out the door. The simple act of not being hungry could result in a lower credit card tab the next time you hit the store.
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