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Marketing Tricks Grocery Stores Use On You

Updated on September 16, 2012

What the grocery stores do to get you to spend more

How many times have you gone into the grocery store just to pick up bread and milk and ended up with $45 worth of groceries in your cart? 

For the bargain shopper, the grocery store can be like a battle zone. The grocery stores have done everything they can do to get you to stay longer, get tired and hungry, and buy a bunch of stuff you didn't even know you needed.  

Totally legal, but let's let them make a living out of someone else's wallet instead of yours and mine.

Here are some of the known (and not-quite-so-known) things grocery stores do to get you to spend more, and how you can avoid them!


Evil Endcaps

Often we'll see products on the endcaps (the ends of aisles) with a sign on it with the price. We tend to assume that's a sale price. It could be a good deal, but in most cases it's probably not. Grocery stores (and most retail places for that matter) try to boost their sales per square foot.

Some areas of the store are hot properties, those are the areas that they will put the biggest profit earners on. Ever notice that el cheapo Ramen noodles are NEVER ever on an endcap? That's because endcaps are hot real estate in the grocery store.

Product manufacturers pay extra for the privilege of having their product featured on an end-cap.


They know that when the weather's colder, people tend to eat more. When we are warm, we tend to be less hungry. They need us to be hungry when we're at the grocery store. Studies show that when we're hungry at the grocery store, we'll buy more food. So they crank that air conditioner.

Possible Solution: wear a sweater in July?!?

Most Expensive Items are at Eye Level

Check this out for yourself. The most expensive items are at eye level, because they know that's were we look the most. It's a no brainer, I would do this too, if I had a store :)

Note that kid's items are at your CHILD's eye level.

So, even if you have your hand on the item at eye level, try to get in the habit of looking both above and below that item, and you'll probably find a comparable item for a much lower price.


Certain beats of music can slow you down and make you dawdle about the aisles, also causing you to spend more time. When you spend more time, you spend more money. Maybe it would pay off to wear your own headphones and listen to some peppy music!

Yummy Bakery Smells

The smell of the fresh baked foods (all those yummy carbs!) heightens our feelings of wanting to eat. What do we need to do, buy noseplugs?!?

Free Samples

Free food samples in the store tend to be bought regardless of the price if you like it. It's a new product and they say it's on 'sale.' Since it's a new product, you have no idea what the price is usually, and you have no basis of comparison for the price. But most of us will tend to purchase the food we sampled.

Thinking that "Sale" means a bargain

and thinking a coupon means you are getting a deal

Just because it's on 'sale' doesn't necessarily mean it's a good bargain. If you don't know what the usual price is, or what the lowest price per unit is, then buying 'sale' can actually cost you more. Work to be aware of the lowest per unit price, and when it's very low and you have a coupon, stock up!

Also, don't assume that just because you have a coupon, you are getting a deal. You only get the very best price when you use your coupon in the right store, at the right time. Match your coupons to sale prices, don't just use them as soon as you clip them. I go into great detail on this pageabout how you can save 60% on groceries.

Back of the Store...

Basic needs, like bread and milk, are located at the back of the store (and often quite far apart) so you will see more stuff and be tempted to get more of the things you did not go in the store originally to buy. The stores usually place "dumps" (the cardboard displays of products) in this area as extra temptation.

Non Food Items

Keep instant gratification needs in check

Items that are not food, like batteries, air conditioner filters, pots, pans, cutlery, glassware, etc can look so good in the grocery store. But if you didn't need the air conditioner filter enough to get it in your local home repair store, and you didn't need that frying pan enough to buy it in your local housewares store or discount store, then you probably don't need it right now.

Maybe you DO need it, but probably not right now. Hold off and remember to look for it in the discount store. You could save as much as $5-$10 on just the one item. The non-food items are grossly overpriced in the grocery store.

Candy and Magazines

I call the candy displays near the cash registers "The Venus KID Trap." You just haven't lived until you're trapped in the small space of the checkout while you try to load the groceries onto the conveyor belt while your kids whine and cry for the candy. I guess the grocery stores know that we will gladly pay that ridiculous 90 cents or whatever for a candy bar in our harried and desperate state.

Magazines are also an impulse item, but they don't have as large of a profit margin for the grocery stores as other items. The reason the grocery store carries magazines is that it can bring people into the store for their favorite magazine, and when we do return, we will not only buy the magazine, but we'll pick up a small bag of chips and maybe a candy or refrigerated soft drink on our way out too.

Control your Shopping Space

If you have just gone in for a few things, use the handbasket and not a cart. The cart makes it too easy to be tempted by items you did not enter the store to buy. Stay small and stay focused.

What can I do?

Studies have shown that 40% of what we stick in our grocery carts is comprised of impulse items. Amazing, isn't it?

Here's an idea to avoid the impulse buys:

Whenever possible, leave the children at home. I have four kids, so I love grocery shopping. It gives me a break.

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      10 years ago

      It sure does make me happier when I can save money. Great lens! 5*'s


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