5 sneaky ways grocery stores get you to spend more money


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Sticking to a shopping list at the grocery store is hard.

Sometimes it may even seem as though the second you walk through the store door, spot the colorful boxed items and get a whiff of the scents wafting from the bakery section of the grocery store, your preconceived list becomes useless.

Regardless of budgets and good intentions, it’s easy to get tricked into spending more money at the grocery store than you may have originally planned. In fact, many stores intentionally implement strategies designed to get you to buy more.

Here are some of the most common techniques stores use to get customers to pull out their credit cards and buy more than they need.

1. Free samples

Grocery shopping when you are hungry can wreak havoc on your wallet.

Sometimes, however, we have no choice and we find ourselves starving while perusing aisles full of food. Grocery stores feed off of that by offering free samples, which usually are very hard to pass up.

Riley Adams, a licensed CPA and founder of the blog, Young and The Invested, says that those free samples generally lead shoppers to spend more.

“If you’re a regular visitor to Costco, Sam’s, or other major grocery retailers, you’ve likely noticed the tendency for these grocers to offer free samples,” Adams says. “Doing so removes uncertainty from customers’ minds about the product as well as plays on their potential hunger to buy the item being sampled.”

2. Impulse items at the checkout line

Depending on the time of day you go grocery shopping, you might spend an extended period of time waiting in line to check out.

While you’re standing there, grocery stores try to capitalize on boredom or impatience by encouraging shoppers to pick up a magazine, candy bar or other nearby item.

Adams calls these impulse items and since they are located near the register, he says the margins are typically higher.

“Grocers know you may be hungry while you wait and want to meet that need by offering you sugary or salty snacks which will quickly meet your cravings,” Adams says.

3. Expensive items at eye level 

For some, grocery shopping may just be a weekly chore to get done quickly. Grocery stores play into this by keeping the most expensive items easily accessible and at eye level.

Tangela Walker-Craft, the founder of the blog, Simply Necessary Inc., recommends shopping the bottom shelves if you want to save the most money.

“Name brand product manufacturers often demand the best, most visible placement on store shelves,” Walker-Craft says. “They can do this because they’re often the ones that make stores the most money.”

Rather than grabbing what you see as you walk down an aisles, pause in a section where you need a specific product and look up and down to find a better price.

4. Buy one, get one offers 

Along with coupons, grocery stores also offer special deals that are either in the arena of buy one get one free, or bundle up and save more. However, BOGO’s should be something you shake your head at and walk right by.

Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert, says that BOGO deals are the trickiest of them all.

“Deals that offer “seven for $5.50” are designed to confuse shoppers who aren’t quick with the mental calculator,” Woroch says. “The same trick applies to the now popular 10 for $10 game making the supermarket rounds. Bulk buying can be cost-effective, but there are a number of variables to consider. You can fool grocery stores at their own game by checking the unit price for competing products and selecting the one that truly offers the best deal.”

5. Huge shopping carts 

The more room you have in the shopping cart you push around the supermarket, the more likely you are to fill it up with products.

Beverly Friedmann, the content manager for Reviewing This, says that the larger your cart is, the larger your payment will be.

“Have you ever gone into a grocery store and only needed a few items but noticed there seemed to be a shortage on baskets but an overflow on very large carts?” Friedmann says. “This isn’t just a coincidence. Grocery stores want you to use a larger cart because you don’t end up realizing how much you’re buying and physically can’t feel the weight of how many items are adding up. But you can see the bill at the end of the trip.”

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