You know it when it happens yet you’re powerless to stop it: you walk into the grocery store for three things and walk out an hour later, $200 lighter and with a cart full of stuff you don’t really need.
It happens in grocery stores near you every day. You’ve just been Jedi-mind tricked into buying more by retail magicians.
Supermarkets are carefully thought out and engineered organisms whose sole purpose is to trick shoppers into spending and consuming more than they desire.
This is where the real life hunger games are played.
Beware of the following sorcery aimed to make you blow up your budget and eat more calories than you should and you just might navigate the aisles with confidence and come out the other side okay.
Enter The Land of Oz
What do you see when you walk in the front door? Beautifully colored fruits & vegetables, sweet sugary bakery items and fragrant flowers. You can almost hear the munchkins singing. The bright colors and sweet scents lift your mood (making you more likely to spend) and give you a favorable opinion of the store. The sweet aromas serve a second purpose: to activate your salivary glands and trigger hunger sensations making impulse buys more likely to find their way into your giant cart.
Beware the Musak
Supermarkets strategically choose slow tempo music meant to keep you in a relaxed state of mind. It encourages you to slow down and consider pina coladas and walking in the rain while you linger in the store. Consider wearing headphones with some up tempo tunes to keep you on the move and out the door faster (with more money in your pocket).
Samples Samples Everywhere
Similar to the musak, the samples are meant to slow you down and trigger impulse buys (more saliva!). They also trigger a guilt response: trying something for free can make you feel obligated or committed to buying the product. Sometimes its best to just keep walking.
Bulk Buying POWER?
Yes, you may save a little money by buying items in bulk but now that you have all this stuff, what will you do with it when you get it all home? Consume it of course! Not only have you blown your financial budget, your calorie budget is now subject to compromise. When you see it, you eat it and since you’ve bought so much, you’ll be chomping your way through it for a while (more guilt in play here: you couldn’t possibly let it go to waste, could you?)
Wait. Where’s the Beef?
You’re not losing your mind. Those crackers were in a different place last time. Just when you thought you knew the layout of the maze, overnight it seemed to rearrange itself into a new configuration. Suddenly you can’t find what you need – and that’s the idea. When you have to search for things you spend more time in the store and thus spend more time browsing (and buying!) its many temptations.
Just like the layout changes, the forms of measurement used to calculate weight to price ratios are not consistent either. Some are calculated in pounds, others in ounces. How are you supposed to determine the better value? You’re not. Bring a calculator and conversion chart if you want to foil the masters of this game.
It’s not your imagination, the carts got bigger. Research shows that when the size of the cart doubled, consumers bought 40% more stuff. The bigger the cart, the more likely you are to overspend and feel like an extra from “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”. Skip the cart and consider grabbing a basket at the door if you really are there for only three items.
Five for $5
Five cans of soup for $5? What a bargain! Even if it only costs $1 to buy one, your brain has been tricked into thinking it should buy 5. It’s a little multiples game the stores play. Our minds think it’s a deal so we buy more. Even though you may not have to buy 10 cans of tuna to get the discount, you probably will anyway. Pretty sneaky sis.
Quick In & Out? Good Luck.
Just popping in to grab a gallon of milk? Don’t lose your way. You will find the essentials: milk, eggs, bread, etc. all the way at the end of the maze. Again, they want you to trek through the whole store passing “too good to pass up” deals on the way and filling up that giant cart.
Like any good retailer trying to stay in business, supermarkets use all the tricks in the book to get you to spend more money. It’s like the Hotel California: you are meant to breathe deep, listen to the music, wander aimlessly, and stay in this lovely place.
Self-control and awareness is the key to avoiding their best-laid traps and do more than just survive the hunger games. Go for the win: escape with money in your pocket and no more food than you can reasonably consume.
You’ve probably heard these techniques before as means to keep the odds in your favor, but they are worth repeating: before you go make a list, only buy what’s on it, and if you want to win the game, never, ever go to the store hungry.