5 Ways Your Grocery Store is Ripping You Off

Ok, I am a marketer for a living, but I am an online marketer really more of a media analyst, so I don’t get into packaged cosumer goods or distribution processes. I am thinking though that I may have to go into a career change because these marketers have found a way to double their sales of items and it’s very coy. Most people don’t even realize it.

Most grocery stores in the 80’s were very organized, all the items that were made from that same food types or materials were categorized together. (paper products, dairy, meat etc…) and people knew where every thing was, and got in and out of the store quickly and efficiently.

Then in the 90’s it started getting hard to find things. I found myself looking for english muffins and not finding them where they used to be, in the bread isle, but in the refrigerated case next to the eggs. What the f are they doing there? I didn’t think too much about it, because there weren’t too many items that way and we all re-learned the layout of the Jewel and Dominicks and went about our way.

Since then they seem to rip appart the grocery stores about once a year just to re-organize them so that they are all confusing again. You find yourself taking an hour or more to do your grocery shopping, when it used to take maybe 30 minutes. About this time I began to suspect this disorganization was intentional and an article in TIME magazine about the monetization of space in retail stores confirmed it.

It pisses me off to be taken advantage of when I have to buy something other than what I need, because I can’t find what I want and the thing I do find that is similar, is priced twice as much. But hey, the marketer that thought of all this is probably promoted to VP by now, and sitting fat and happy, so what does he care? Anyway here are some of the things your grocery store does to cheat you out of more money than you want to spend.

1. They place basic necessities in the back of the store (milk, eggs, meat) so you have to walk by everything else to get to them. Marketers know that some of you will see the stuff you’re walking by and toss it into your shopping cart even if you had not intended on buying it until you saw it at that moment.

2. They group things together that often are used in making the same dish or meal to increase sales. The english muffins were not in the cooler with the eggs because they needed refrigeration. They were there because the marketers know that people make eggs and english muffins together a lot. And the ones in the cooler are the most expensive english muffins in the store. You see them, you think that would be good together, and in the cart it goes. You never hunt down the other brands that are a dollar or more less in the bread isle or wherever they are hiding them now. You just buy the expensive ones because of proximity.

3. The biproduct of this re-organizing is that people don’t know where the products are that they want and they spend double the time in the store wandering around looking for them. Marketers have also found that people see and buy a lot of extra stuff when they are wandering around the store looking for that thing on their shopping list that they can’t find. Its the see it, toss it in the cart method of raising the total average sale of the consumer. So they rip up and reorganize the store with even less efficiency each year. Just to get you to buy more stuff.

4. Placement on the shelf is usually decided by bids with manufaturers and distributors. The most profitable place on the shelves is the one at eye level. That costs the most to put your products there. The top and bottom are less expensive, but if you look there as a consumers you will find the better deals because the most expensive groceries are at eye level.

5. Latley they have also started adding flat screen TV’s to the checkout isle. This not only entertains people as they wait it is full of ads that get you to buy more. I think the other thing it does is it makes the consumer complacent about what they are ringing up. They don’t see that their kid just threw 2 handfulls of candy from the shelf by the checkout on the convayer belt and they get bought. They also don’t watch to see that the items they are buying get rung up properly and are priced what they were labeled as. So the stores get away with more and have less complaining customers when things go wrong.

Granted, the grocery business is a low margin business with maybe a 2% profit margin from what I have read, and any increase in sales helps them cover the damaged, rotted and spoiled food that happens in the store at a total loss when they have to throw it away. But something about this is just so decieving and I always resent someone who purposly builds a bad, inneficient and deceptive process to extract more time and money out of consumers. It’s just bad ethics, and at some point will backfire. Maybe when we all order our food over the internet.

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5 thoughts on “5 Ways Your Grocery Store is Ripping You Off

  1. I think you’re right about this. I ‘ve given up on retail shopping completely. Going to Chicago Botanical Gardens is a far better place to spend your time. When I’m inside a food store, I refuse to buy ANY product unless it’s under promotion! If what I want is not on sale, I don’t buy it. The thing that kills me the most though is WAITING at the check out line. It turns into a timeless experience . . . the drivel of life passing drop by drop. And go get carded for alcohol when you ‘re in your late 40’s is simply stupid. I show (with my finger) the cashier the gray hair and it’s not enough. They should thank me for pissing the beer away in a toilet and not on their sidewalk.

  2. So true. (Though regarding #2, I do think it’s sort of adorable how Jewel puts a basket of bananas in the cereal aisle.)

    Supermarket shoppers need to be more wary in general. Do the math with prices, read the ingredients and nutritional values. Come on people! “All Natural Homemade Style” or whatever probably means there’s a lot of garbage in it anyways.

  3. Wheat bread has molasses in it, not whole wheat grain. Safeway is the WORST STORE IN THE WORLD. Always shop for the weekend, on Specials Teusdays, and look at every store, and plan your trips. This drives the retailers crazy, they call it ‘cherry picking’

  4. Ha ha. What you are describing is a common corporate retail practice. I used to work in retail. They purposely reorganize and rotate products periodically to force customers to have to hunt around the store to find things. The thought is that customers will be forced to look at products they normally wouldn’t pay any attention to, and thus perhaps buy it. They don’t want you to go straight to the one section you need to go to, knowing what you want, while ignoring the other sections (and products you don’t need).

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