9 Supermarket Mind Games

Supermarkets are big business, and the big chains have put a lot of research into how to subtly seduce their customers into spending more than they intend to when they walk in. We explore some of these techniques, so the next time you do your regular shop you are armed against the temptation to overspend.

This is a fresh shop

The fruit and veg section is usually the first department you'll see. This gives you a feeling that the supermarket will be filled with freshness, you'll eat healthier and be a better person than ever before. This feeling will be totally gone by the time you reach the cakes and biscuits but the fresh smells and bright colours will draw you in.

Why Do They Offer Free Samples?

They have a product you might not normally buy but their research shows you'll probably like. If you try some, you might buy some.

You will feel like the supermarket has given you something for free. Unconsciously, you feel like you owe them.

Just rushed in to pick up a few things? Take your time, hang out, try some food, look at all the things you can buy!

So Bright and Colourful

The shop floor is very well lit, with either goods for sale or eye-catching signage occupying your vision in every direction. Customers are dazzled, even hypnotised by the overwhelming input. It seems like your only choice is to slowly and methodically scan every inch of the store, for what you need. Instead, stick to the list that you wrote in advance. Don't let yourself be distracted by the special offers. If you see something you want, maybe make a note of it to put on your list for next time. That way you avoid impulse buying which can lead to over-spending and wasted food.

Walking Pace

The music in supermarkets is going to be slow and relaxing. They want you to go slowly through the aisles so you have more chance of spotting something that you want to buy instead of charging through getting just what you need, like someone who is budgeting might want to.

Shelf Placement

Expensive options are usually at adult eye-level on the shelves, with the cheaper options down below. They're hoping you'll be too lazy to bend down for everything you need and it works rather well.

Items that kids will want are at children's eye level. They're not doing their own shopping but if kids want something they'll pester their parents for it. If you don't give in to your child's requests you risk the humiliation of a bored child throwing a public temper tantrum.

End of the Aisles

Items on offer will appear at the end of the aisles. Usually bargains appear on the ends before you would find them as you wind through the shop. You'll see a small amount of the item in a feature location at a discount price and snatch one up before you get a chance to compare it to other brands or alternative choices.

Growing Portions

Week 1: You spot a miniature version of a chocolate you like. It's cute, it's on offer, and it's just a little thing. You buy it and eat it right away but feel a little unsatisfied. It's over too quickly.

Week 2: You see the chocolate you got last week. Better get the full size this time, that miniature isn't enough.

Week 3: 33% extra free? You were going to buy the regular size any way and this costs the same.

Week 4: The deal is gone. You get the regular size, but feel a little unsatisfied. The bigger one was more fulfilling. Better get giant size next time.

These bigger/smaller options and their special deals are designed to push you up a ladder to buying bigger quantities.

Will This Be Enough?

Product packaging sizes are sometimes deliberately awkward. It will be too much food for one person, but not enough for a family. The effect is you will have to buy more than you need, even if some of it might be wasted.

Impulse Buy Racks

This trick isn't even subtle, but it still works. Impulse purchases like chocolate, chewing gum and glossy magazines are placed next to the checkout so you will add them to your shopping while you wait in line. A long way from the earthy freshness of the fruit and veg, now we're just adding unnecessary junk to the trolley out of boredom. Don't give into temptation. Stop and think “Do I need this?” If you did it would have been on your list and already in the trolley. It might be a small purchase but it's a bad habit to get into and if you go shopping a lot it adds up.


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