Food & Drink

10 Ways Supermarkets Trick You Into Buying Stuff You Don't Need

 Anthony Humphreys/Thrillist

Your grocery store isn't conspiring against you, but like any business they want to maximize profits, by analyzing how you shop and what you buy, then magnifying the crap out of those tendencies. Prepare yourself, because you're about to find out that everything you think you know about impulse buying and baguette packaging is completely wrong. 

They control your brain with music
Wikimedia Commons 

1. They play music to control your brain

According to the British Food Journal (1999), shopping centers typically play slow-tempo tunes, which makes you sluggishly linger in the store and buy significantly more. And, for whatever reason, classical music makes you spend more. Probably because it makes you feel fancy. 

Watch for watery goods
Moving Moment/Shuttershock

2. They drench veggies to charge you more

In addition to making the fruits and veg look fresher to death-er than they actually are, the excess water can add weight to your purchase, particularly if you’re buying something leafy. Also, all that watering can also make your produce rot right quick (which means you’ve gotta buy more). To avoid this, shake off your romaine and store it in dry plastic. 

Don't believe the signs
Wikimedia Commons 

3. When they say "buy one, get one free" they may not really mean it

You may just be able to get one for half off. But because grocery stores need to move inventory just like any other store, they want you to take two off their hands (and give them more money in the process).

4. They tell you samples are "free" but they're really not

They have a social cost. We’re social animals, hardwired to act cooperatively. So when someone does something for you -- like gives you food -- you’re inclined to feel like you owe him or her something in return. In these situations, you’re more likely to buy because you feel compelled to return the favor of a “free" sample. 

Watch the big carts

5. They keep making shopping carts bigger for a reason

According to grocery store marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom, when he doubled the size of shopping carts for a study, customers bought 19% more stuff. It's no coincidence you can fit a small house in modern carts. 


6. They design the floor to slow you down so you can buy more

As you push your cart along, the click-click-click sound of wheels on those carefully designed tiles creates the illusion of moving fast, which makes you want to slow down (remember those carefully chosen tunes?). Moving down an aisle more slowly, you’re more likely to notice (and possibly buy) products.  

Don't get bread bamboozled

7. They want your food to go stale faster

While bread in a paper bag makes you look super chill coming home on your Vespa, it leads to your baguette going bad much faster... meaning you have to buy more sooner. Just like the veggies, put your bread in an airtight plastic bag when you get home to prevent this. 

Look at all dem veggies
Corepics VOF/Shutterstock

8. They try to confuse you with the worst thing in the universe, math

Why the hell is loose fruit priced by the kilogram? How much is a kilogram, anyway? Unless you’re a vegetarian drug dealer, you probably can’t eyeball it. But if you are a vegetarian drug dealer, we should hang out. 

Steve Rhodes/Flickr

9. You think impulse buys are at checkout, but it's aisle two they've set you up for

According to Dr. Brian Wasink, professor at Cornell’s Food & Brand Lab, grocery stores know that, in aisle two when your cart is still empty, you’re more likely to try new things. He calls this the vacuum effect. So, while there are impulse buys loaded near the register, the real adventurous buying tends to happen earlier.

10. They put expensive stuff right at eye-level

Dr. Wasink recently did a study in the Atlanta and DC metro areas that suggested near 60% of purchases happened within 12 inches of eye level. That said, most of the cheapest options are on the bottom shelf. So, in the words of Lil’ Jon, “get low.”