Psychological Supermarket Tricks That Make Us Spend

Posted on Posted in Supermarket Pricing Tricks

I have to hand it to them. Grocery stores are the masters of consumer psychology. How else can you explain walking into the grocery store for one item and coming out with a basket full of stuff?

In some ways they remind me of carnival pitchmen who’ve refined their sales pitches to perfection. In the process we spend more than we need to or would like to.

Lets take a look at the subtle grocery store manipulation that drains hard earned money from our pocketbooks.

The Limited Quantities Trick

How many times have you ever heard a cashier say,

No maam, you’re over limit on those mangos there’s a limit of 3 per person you know.

Do you really think that the store cares how many items each customer purchases? Of course not. Their only concern is making sure they sell as much as possible.

Here’s a simple fact In the direct marketing world the two easiest ways to influence a person to make a purchase are (1) limit the time an offer is available or (2) limit the quantities of product available for purchase.

Don’t believe me. Just take a look at the Home Shopping Network or any typical late night infomercial to see what I mean.

It seems supermarkets have adapted these time tested marketing ideas for use on the grocery store floor.

Placing a limit sign on the side of a product automatically guarantees that more customers will buy. I mean if the quantities are limited it must be a great deal right! Not only will more customers purchase but I’m quite sure each will make sure they get their limit.

So with a simple limit sign the grocery store has both increased the number of people interested in the sale and also guaranteed that those who do buy will buy more probably the limit allowed by the sale.

Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes these limit sales turn out to be great deals. Ive run into a few great limit sales recently. I’m simply saying that you should always check out such a sale before reflexively placing items in your cart.

Check the regular price to see if you really are getting a deal. Sometimes you’re only saving pennies. Make sure to check the expiration date of the product or the condition of the items if they are perishables. A limit sale is a quick way for a supermarket to get rid of items past their prime.

Finally, if it is a legit sale be careful of going over the limit because the scanner may charge you full price for any extra items.

The Limited Time (4 Day Sale) Trick

This limited time sales trick is another adaptation from the direct marketing world. Typically supermarket sales run for a week. Sometimes, however, stores feature special 3 day or 4 day sales the typical limited time offer trick. I believe they want to secretly give you the impression that the deals at these sales are especially good.

One night I was in the store to get some milk and noticed that a special 4 day sale was going on. I better make sure I check out all the deals as I wont be back before the sale ends, I thought. Yes, I have to admit that there were a few great bargains what I like to call super sales when you can get an item at 50% off or more.

But the truth be told, the normal week long sales also had many of these same super sales! Yet the difference is that because it was time limited 4 days long only instead of the normal week long sale, I felt compelled to stay and shop.

The Sucker Sale

This is perhaps the most interesting of grocery store tricks Ive come across. Supermarkets understand this simple fact. Everyone loves a sale. Don’t you? I have to admit my heart races just a little bit faster when I see the red sales sticker and the promise of a great deal.

Yet, I cant tell you how many times Ive been in the process of putting a sales item in my basket only to notice how much I was really saving. Ten cents off a $3.29 box of cookies, twenty cents of a $2.99 carton of orange juice! Not quite a deal after all.

These sucker sales, as I like to call them, are particularly effective since they are interspersed amongst real bargains items that are on sale for 30%, 40%, even 50% off their regular price. Were so conditioned by the savings we get with the true sales that we blindly act as if all sales are deals.

Next time you’re about to throw a sale item in your cart take a second to figure out how much you’re really saving. You may be about to become the next victim of a sucker sale.

Do you have any grocery store tricks you’ve come across?