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Tricks the Grocery Store Plays

Updated on March 31, 2007

Have you ever wondered why the produce is where it is? Or why the stuff you really need is at the back of the store? These are just some of the ways the grocery store has set things up to entice you to purchase more than you really need. Have you ever sung along to a great song while doing your grocery shopping? Believe it or not, that is all planned out as well. There are many, many more things they do to trick you into spending more money there.

When you run in for a quick gallon of milk, they make you walk through the whole store to get to the milk, hoping to convince you to buy something else while you are there. By placing the most needed items in the back of the store, the store will usually get some extra income from you. Did you smell that fresh cooked bread on your way through? Or notice that great looking display on the endcap of the aisle you went down to get to the milk? These are designed to part you from your money.

Grocery stores will typically put certain items at eye level. Usually the more expensive or popular items. And many people grab what they can see. Manufacturers pay lots of money to get their product in that location and it pays off for them big time. But wait, why are all those sugar coated Dora the Explorer cereals on the bottom shelf then? That would be at the eye level of the children you brought in with you. Kids are good at convincing us parents to purchase a certain item, or type of item. Which means more sales for that company.

What about sales? A sale is not always a sale. Just because something is on a display at the end of an aisle does not mean it is on sale this week. It just appears to be on sale. Or maybe it is on sale, but not a very good one. Recently I was purchasing canned tomatoes. I had gone through the ads and written on my list Glen Muir Organic canned tomatoes. I had coupons for this product as well. When I got to the organic section, there on a great display at the end of the aisle were 15 oz cans of these tomatoes I had on my list, on sale for $1.69 a can. Great, that was so easy for me, with my coupons they would be $.69 per can.

But wait I had five coupons and they only had four of the kind I wanted. Down the aisle I went to find more. I did find more, with a price sticker saying the regular price was $1.69 a can. These 15 oz cans were not on sale at all! But my list said that Glen Muir tomatoes were on sale this week. I bent way down to search for the ones on sale. On the very bottom shelf, in a corner, were 28 oz cans of Glen Muir Organic canned tomatoes ON SALE for $1.50 each. Now that was a sale! I got five cans for $.50 each - and these cans were 13 oz larger than the ones on the end display. The store had tried to trick me and many other people. I wonder how many people didn't bother to go down the aisle and investigate?

What about loss leaders? Each week the stores place something on such a great sale that they are actually losing money by selling that item. They are counting on you doing your regular weekly shopping trip and overspending on so many more items that it makes them money in the long run. Even things that are on sale, but not loss leaders are not always a good deal. A store will generally run a sale on a particular size of an item. The smaller and larger boxes or cans of the same product won't be on sale. But that doesn't mean the on sale size is the best deal. You need to check the per ounce or per pound cost to figure which is the best size for you.

Coupons aren't always the best deal either. Especially in stores that do not double them. The store is wanting you to purchase the item when it is full price when you use the coupon. Many times this doesn't work out to be the best deal when you consider the store brands or other brands of the same item. By waiting until a great sale and then using the coupon you will get the product for a great price.

Speaking of store brands - these are really name brand products with a different label. The plant that processes the food will stop production, replace the name brand cans with the store brand cans and keep on processing, without ever changing anything about the food that went into the cans. Sometimes you can ask around and find out which store brand is the same as Del Monte veggies for instance, but you could also test it yourself. Try the store brands and see if they taste the same. Generally the store brands will be cheaper than the name brands, unless there is a sale that you can match with coupons. Also most stores will offer a money back guarantee on their brands, so if you don't like it, take the box or can back and get a refund. It is definitely worth a shot at trying.

The order of the items in the store, the smell of bread baking, the music playing, the height of particular items, the end displays, the items at checkout, etc are all planned out to trick buyers into buying more. So shop smart and pay attention. Once you are aware of the tricks grocery stores play, you will start beating them at their own game.


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    • Didge profile image

      Didge 5 years ago from Southern England

      :)P Wonderful hub and a good addition to Hubpages! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      John Perrone 6 years ago

      The sheep look up! read it and be frightened.


    • jacobsterling profile image

      jacobsterling 6 years ago from New York

      This always happens to me! Whenever I go to the grocery store to buy few stuff, I always end up like I've gone to a shopping spree! This is great. Thanks for the idea.

    • profile image

      George Manolatos 7 years ago

      I have seen companies relabel products for different stores, they do it all the time. I know I am a over the road truck driver . If anyone uses their head they will see the scam. 1/2 product= twice the price= "Branded" = three to more the price = All the same.

    • profile image

      Consumer#65421578754 7 years ago

      Once corporation consolidate and corner the market they won't have 'price wars' to worry about and can charge whatever they want. Whattaya gonna do? NOT eat?

      I try an support the small guy whenever possible but it's hard. I usually spend more but I like to think I'm hedging against a WalMart / Target / HEB Monopoly over my town.

    • Die'Dre' profile image

      Die'Dre' 7 years ago from The Great Pacific Northwest

      I have become increasingly aware of end caps. I wondered why things keep moving. Thanks

    • profile image

      jan 8 years ago

      Have you noticed that certain sale items are not at the store(even on the morning of the sale)?This happens ALL the time at the Walgreens in winchester,ky.The y won't always give a raincheck either.complete ripoff.the good sale items magically re-appear AFTER the sale is over.We have a small grocery store in town that does the same dirty trick.

    • profile image

      sports betting systems 9 years ago

      While everyone else struggles in the financial crisis, supermarkets thrive. Why do they try and get so much more.

    • AshleyVictoria profile image

      AshleyVictoria 9 years ago from Los Angeles

      Wow, the tomato can incident has my mind boggled...they really do that?!

      Also, I buy a pack of gum on most trips to the supermarket because GUM IS RIGHT THERE next to the register. It's almost instinct at this point for me to buy gum!

    • Proud Mom profile image

      Proud Mom 9 years ago from USA

      My mind is reeling! With everything else we families have to keep up with, the retailers throw this at us!

    • profile image

      Roman 9 years ago

      Wow wicked rocket science thanks.

    • Wednesday Morning profile image

      Wednesday Morning 9 years ago

      Another grocery tip:

      In the large grocery chains...

      The deli counter usually discounts their sliced meat around 8PM & sets out anything that had been pre-sliced for the day in the area you'll find pre-made subs & sandwiches. You can get it for usually half price after 8 PM.

      The bakery discounts the baked goods of the day after 9PM. Typically they set them in the back of the store near the dairy items.

    • Wednesday Morning profile image

      Wednesday Morning 9 years ago

      I worked for a dairy distributer for many years, servicing grocery stores with milk, butter & numerous brands of ice cream.

      Twice a year, the large store chains would do "resets" of the ice cream isles. This is done by pulling every item out of the freezer display & simply "resetting it" in a new location. This is done to "break consumer habits". So if you typically buy X brand of ice cream, you know exactly where it's located, you simply walk to that location, grab your brand & carry on shopping into the next isle.

      The reset is designed to leave you wondering where your favorite item is & scouring the isle looking at the different choices and the store is betting you choose a new favorite with a higher price tag.

      This proves to get the consumer trying new products on a regular basis. They do this in all grocery chains & in every department twice a year. Many times you'll never even know its happening because they start at 10-11 PM & work all night at it.

      Another trick the ice cream companies are playing with the consumers... a half gallon of ice cream is no longer a half gallon. You'll never notice from just glancing at it though.

      A true half gallon is 64 ounces. About 2 years ago they started making them in a 56 ounce package, but left "wiggle room" at the top of the packaging so the carton looked the same.

      Just recently, many brands (Edy's/Dreyers, Deans, Country Fresh, HomeMade Premium, Bryers) all went down to a 48 ounce package.

      The kicker... you're actually paying more for the 48 ounce package than you were for the 64 ounce.

      And one more trick the store don't want you to know. As soon as a brand "picks up speed" and starts selling more than usual, the price creeps up. Usually in just 5 or 10 cent incriments. They may raise it 10 cents and keep it there for about 2-3 months. The volume stays steady, they'll raise it again. This continues until they see a decline, then back down by 5-10 cents til they see it steady again.

      And finally... Target stores are a huge competition for Wal-Mart --belive it or not. Constant price wars between those 2 chains in the GROCERY departments. So be certain that if you have a wal-mart & Target within a 2 mile radius of each other, those stores will have lower prices than say... a wal mart that does NOT have a target within 2 miles.

    • profile image

      Skip 9 years ago

      Milk is placed in the back of the store for several reasons. Imagine a large fridge in the front of the store. It is surrounded by warm heat. Now imagine a large fridge in the back of the store that is surrounded by a cooler back room. Which is more energy efficient? Also milk is hauled on carts with wheel and some stores even uses these carts to display their milk. Since milk is cold and creates moisture, the carts are always wet. When these carts are moved, the wheels leave nasty marks from the dirt the wheels pick-up. Imagine rolling one of these carts to the front of the store. Store clerks would spend more time cleaning the floors instead of serving the customer. Also milk spoils quickly, so it is placed in the back so that it is the last thing bought and decreases the amount of time it is in the warm.

    • profile image

      Laura Schofield 9 years ago

      A very timely article, as many people are trying to save on groceries now. Thanks for the well-presented advice!

    • profile image

      jerry 10 years ago

      I was a Pepperidge Farms distributor for 25 years, the tricks the stores play are constantly evolving. It is their game and you cannot win, its like gambling in a casino. The game is fixed

    • profile image

      Will 10 years ago

      This is not new news. Tricks all the time. Beat them at the game and ask. Sometimes they are speechless. I had to check three markets to look for their advertised one pound lobsters which were advertised at seven ninety a pound but the market only had two to three pounders at 11.99 per pound.. NO THANKS.

    • knslms profile image

      knslms 10 years ago from North Carolina

      Very informative, also check out for a little savings help.

    • hedgeek profile image

      hedgeek 11 years ago from Low Earth Orbit

      Great advice Jennifer thanks so much for the info!