Don’t Let Your Supermarket Fool You

16 September 2010

Grocery cart

Supermarkets are cunning. They set things up so that we are manipulated into spending far more money than we planned, and some of their strategies are very, very smart. Smart, but rather wicked. I’ve done some digging and uncovered some of their tricks so you aren’t caught out when you do your weekly shop.

The Discount

Offering discounts on leading brand names sounds really kind and helpful, but actually it can end up making you buy something you weren’t planning to in the first place. Brilliant if you happened to desperately need discounted noodles, not great if you spend £10 on a product that will lurk at the back of your cupboard for years. Unless you need them, don’t get those bargain products because you’re just spending unnecessary money.



Whether it is ‘buy two, get one free’ or ‘buy three and get one free’, you are still spending more than you should on something that you probably only needed one of. This, of course, does depend on the product and the price, but overall these are just a con. If you compare the prices of similar products not on offer you may well find that buying three of those is still cheaper than your BOGOF deal.

The Lower Shelf

I didn’t believe this one when I first heard it and I was both impressed and horrified when I discovered that it was true. Impressed because that is really savvy, horrified because money really does rule the world. Supermarkets put the cheaper products at the very bottom, or the very top, of the shelves.

The products that sell for more or have higher profit margins will be placed at eye-level. Wander around your local supermarket and see for yourself. 

I did my shop for much less when I looked down and got cheaper variations. Also, this same strategy is reversed when it comes to child-friendly products – the high-end toys placed at the lower levels to catch their eyes so they can start nagging you.

The hungry hook


Eat before you go to the supermarket. They cunningly design the store so that the smell of freshly baked goods wafts up to the entrance and entices you. That utterly delectable scent of baking bread is designed to stimulate your stomach and make you hungry, and a hungry shopper buys more than they should.

Feed yourself and your kids before getting into the car and note how much more efficiently you shop. You’ll also buy fewer naughty snacks, which can only be a good thing for that diet.

The Impulse

Magazines, sweets, DVDs and other such delectable treats are placed by the tills so you grab them at the last minute. I don’t do this at all anymore but I know I’ve been caught out thinking, “Oh, well, might as well throw that in.” Considering that most magazines and DVDs cost anything from £4 to £15, that’s an expensive impulse!

Hiking about

This particular one is a bit hit and miss for me. Some people have said that supermarkets are laid out so that we’re forced to walk the entire run of the shop to buy our staple items, and that this run will entice us into buying things we didn’t need (like those discounts and deals).

The thing is, and feel free to disagree with me here, one person’s staple item is another person’s frippery, so surely you can’t lay out a store without making someone walk the distance at some point? Considering how much there is for sale, I’m not sure they can lay the shops out any other way.

That said, you do usually have to traverse the entire store to get simple items like bread, milk and eggs so it does hold true to a certain extent. The solution is to never go shopping without a list and to never deviate from that list once you’re there.

Watch where you shop


This particular trick is a doozy. I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you buy raisins or nuts in the specified snack sections, or from the allocated boxes in the fruit/veg section, they are almost five times more expensive than the exact same products in the baking section. This doesn’t just apply to snacks, you can also find this with other products that have been cunningly distributed across the store.


There are several different design tricks that supermarkets use to keep us focused on the merchandise. In some stores you’ll find that they’ve changed the flooring from linoleum or tiles to carpets. This is to slow you down and see the products.

Also, displays sitting at the ends of aisles or in wider areas have all be designed to make you pause and take a look at products that they want to sell, but you don’t necessarily need. Although, sometimes this may work for you if you wandered into your local with a hankering for a new HD TV.

What do you think?

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