We all have to go shopping and for the most part, we don’t think too deeply about the overall experience. However, the companies selling us groceries spend a ton of money thinking about it, researching it, market testing it, and figuring out the perfect ways to get us to spend more money. They’re not beyond using psychological trickery to get what they want, and will happily use forms of legal deception to increase their bottom line.
10. Grocery Stores Start With Floral And Produce To Prime Your Senses
You may have noticed when going to grocery stores over the years that whoever is designing these things, no matter what company, is going to great lengths to force you to walk past the floral section first, followed by the produce being placed not too far away. Now, we could put forth crazy theories about all stores being built by big construction, that want to keep using the same template, maybe out of laziness or ease of just rapidly churning out cookie-cutter layouts. Still, the truth is that it just comes down to grocery stores knowing some basic human psychology and deciding on their own accord to use it against you.
Stores realized that when buying things like food, people tend to buy more and put more trust in the store if they believe it’s all extremely fresh. By making people walk past the floral and produce first, you prime their senses to think that the rest of the store is fresh, even if it isn’t. Stores will go so far to pull this one over on you that nearly every grocery store will make you walk past a floral section first, just to emphasize freshness, even if they do very little floral business outside of Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.
9. Department Stores Prime Your Senses With Cologne
Department stores are starting to die off, but they still act as the “anchor” stores for a lot of major malls, and are a part of history, if nothing else. And of course, if you want to buy cologne or perfume apart from online, you still usually stop by a department store, such as Macy’s or JCPenney. Now, one thing you may have noticed is that the fragrance department is often very obvious and impossible to not walk by, much like produce, with a typically pleasant scent hitting you immediately.
This priming of your senses makes you think all the clothing must be really clean and nice, as you smell nothing but nice things when you first walk through. This strategy makes sense, as you want people to associate high-end brands with high-end things, and the fact you usually walk past the jewelry as well doesn’t hurt either. However, this can also end up confusing consumers. Many consumers get home from the store and find that they feel their cologne and perfume smell differently than they did while testing it out live. This is a real phenomenon and it’s due to the store’s attempts to prime your senses, but it isn’t necessarily a deception. Because the store has so many people testing colognes and perfumes and sometimes pumps in nice smells, it can confuse your senses without meaning to.
8. Sugary Breakfast Cereals Are Placed To Make Eye Contact With Your Kids
Sugary breakfast cereals attempt to justify their existence by promising to be fortified with all kinds of vitamins and minerals that your kids need. They spend gobs of marketing money every year and constantly switch up their cereals so that they can continue to stay exciting in the eyes of your children. And when we say they’re marketing directly to your children, we’re not talking about conspiracy; we mean they have been doing it for years, and they are very open about it.
And we don’t just mean having cute mascots, or advertising while your kids are watching cartoons, although they do that too. They have contracts with the grocery stores to ensure the product placement is suited to manipulate the growing minds of your young ones. In the USA cereal companies have a lockdown on an entire aisle, and they ensure that the cereals they want to sell most are placed at eye level with your kids. They also make sure the mascots for these products have wide, friendly eyes, toothy grins, and trustworthy faces practically begging you to eat the cereal.
7. Baking Premade Loaves Of Dough Gives Bakeries An Illusion Of Freshness
You may have noticed that some grocery store bakeries will go out of their way to regularly advertise their fresh baguettes, bagels, and the like. And might even advertise that they have a fresh bread slicer for some of their lovers of various specialty loaves. This makes you feel like you’re walking past a real, fresh bakery, and it makes you want to buy some of those cakes, cookies, or other delicious baked goods on display.
However, if you’re looking for fresh baked goods, you may want to go elsewhere, or just make your own. There’s little of anything fresh at a grocery store bakery. The loaves of bread are frozen and baked by the employees. The employees also put together pre-baked cakes sometimes. Apart from this, grocery store bakeries are mainly there for decorating purposes, as they take premade template cakes and put personalized messages on them for people. The illusion makes you feel even more like the store is fresh, but most baking is done at a commissary kitchen off-site.
6. There Is A Good Chance All Of The Fish In Your Seafood Section Has Been Frozen
When you buy something that’s advertised as fresh, you tend to believe that it actually is, and would probably be pretty annoyed if you found out you were being tricked. When it comes to meat and fish, we tend to think that “fresh” means that this particular meat or fish was only ever refrigerated, and hasn’t even seen a freezer at all. The fast food chain Wendy’s is famous for trying to convince customers to choose them by emphasizing that their meat is never frozen.
However, when it comes to fish, it exists in a weird place where most people just consider fresh fish to be anything you buy on ice from the seafood section, even though none of that makes any sense. Even if you live by a market near an ocean where you could have fresh fish delivered daily, the fact it is laid on ice to keep it sellable hardly makes it “fresh.” But this is sort of the problem with the entire idea of selling fresh fish in the first place. Some experts argue the whole idea is an illusion since, to keep it fresh long enough to get back from the shore, most fishermen immediately put their catch on ice — which automatically voids the entire concept.
5. Stores Often Print Sales Knowing They Have An Unreasonably Low Supply To Meet Demand
Stores will do whatever it takes to get you in the door, like promotions or constant sales, and they aren’t above a few dirty tricks. While most won’t outright lie to you, if nothing else because it is illegal, they are not beyond printing out nice sales knowing full well they’re not going to have enough product to meet the demand. Now, you may wonder how they can get away with this, but there’s a certain amount of legal skullduggery that can be applied.
One of the original favorites is to use the limited supply trick with doorbuster sales on days like Black Friday to get people in the door, even though most stores only have a couple of the advertised items in stock, and others have none. Even with this disclaimer, the pressure has mounted and the stores seem to have ended this practice for the most part. However, it’s still fairly common for grocery stores to play around with you. Another favorite trick is to have a sale for a limited time, without the limited supply disclaimer, and just count on the fact you don’t realize you can ask for a rain check.
4. Ikea Makes You Walk Through A Labyrinth So You See Everything
Ikea is famous for selling furniture with strange and confusing instructions, which people usually, after far too many hours and maybe a few punched walls and thrown Allen wrenches, end up more or less assembling properly almost despite them. The furniture has managed to make its way into homes and dorm rooms around the world, and the assembly model has become common among many furniture manufacturers since, who have seen the value of selling a compact product that a consumer can put together themselves. They also tend to be rather out of the way, which causes people to make little pilgrimages to them, so it’s certainly a memorable experience every time.
The truth is that the fact Ikea is out of the way is just a part of its devious strategy to trap you in their web and get you to spend a lot of money. Ikea is not only out of the way, but it is also literally designed like a maze so that, unlike the normal up-and-down aisles, you will be more likely to visit every single part of the store and see everything before you leave. They also have their own restaurant perfectly positioned at the end of the store, just when you have worked up an appetite after your long walk, and when you are far from any other places to eat.
3. Many Sale Prices Are A Calculated Lie, But People Want The Illusion Regardless
We all love sales, and the stores know this, so they make sure to advertise them all the time. And, of course during holidays the amount of sales increases exponentially until it’s pretty much all we see. We feel good thinking that we beat the system or won something somehow, and the retailers win by making money. However, the truth is that most of these sales aren’t sales at all, and the retailers know full well what they’re doing. Capitalism!
You might imagine that there’s some regular price that retailers have for a certain item and that the sale is to get you to buy more to make up for a slow period or make the most out of a busy one. However, the truth is most stores are doing sales nearly all the time, and most sale prices aren’t them grabbing a little less margin, it’s the price they wanted you to pay for it in the first place. Now, before you go and grab your pitchforks for the big retailers, know that a big retailer tried to end this nonsense once and the consumer backlash was legendary. Basically, the CEO of JCPenney tried to make everyday low prices and end the constant fake sales, and the customers revolted.
2. Most “Best By” Or Other Similar Labeling Is Not Worth The Paper It Is Printed On
You may have noticed that there are several different types of expiration labels on your products and wondered what they all mean. And the answer is a bit complicated. An actual expiration date printed on a manufacturer-sealed package may not always need to be followed, but it’s a pretty safe bet they’re trying to protect you. However, labels that say things like “best by” or “best if used by” mean a lot more to the seller than they do to the consumer.
You see, “best by” labeling doesn’t mean that the product has expired or is unsafe, it just means that the product has started to decrease in taste and texture quality, and the company doesn’t want that level of quality control to get past them. They are essentially making you their quality control agent after the fact, and saving money (while getting more of yours) by getting you to throw it out and buy more, more often. Expiration labels can get even more complicated because there are the ones put on products that are well sealed, and then there are ones like those on meat that are sold by the store itself. You may be surprised to know that it is legal for the store to change expiration labels on products as long as they create the initial label themselves.
1. Stores Shift Products Around Regularly In An Attempt To Make You Buy More Stuff
This is one many people complain about, and it drives pretty much everyone crazy. There’s probably not a person reading this who hasn’t at least once been confounded by their grocery store deciding that it’s time to reorganize the entire store, moving things around so thoroughly that you have to relearn the entire setup. You traipse around annoyed, ask employees, many of whom don’t seem to know either, and finally scout it all out again. The entire time, you curse whatever corporation decided this was a good idea, and start to wander into conspiracy territory, wondering if it’s all just a plan by the corporations to trick you into spending more money.
And we hate to say it, but for once the conspiracy theorists are quite correct. The grocery stores regularly reorganize because they want you to forget where everything is. They are doing this, as you might have imagined, so that you’ll see products you forgot about or maybe haven’t noticed before, and hopefully change up your shopping habits in a way that gets more money out of your wallet. This practice is almost universally hated by customers, but considering the grocers keep doing it, it probably works.