If you're a fairly savvy shopper, you may stroll into the supermarket with your trusty coupons in hand and your flier of specials perused, secure in the knowledge that you're going to walk away a savings champ. Truth is though, those things are a bit of a set up to get you through the doors. And once you're on site, supermarkets have all sorts of strategies to get you to spend more money.

Here's how to avoid the traps.

1. Resist the Smells

The olfactory bombardment starts as soon as the front door swings open. Mouth-watering scents emanate from the bakery and deli, enticing you to buy the more expensive prepared foods, says consumer expert Andrea Woroch. One grocer in New York City even pipes in artificial scents to inspire shoppers to buy more.

2. Forget the End Caps

End caps are the spots at the ends of each aisle, where supermarkets place so-called sale items that aren't always that cheap. They're counting on our preference to avoid heading down an aisle to lead us to grab an end-cap item that seems reasonably priced.

"Don't give in," says Woroch. "Wait until you can comparison shop amidst the appropriate aisle. Better yet, find grocery coupons on your smartphone from sites like CouponSherpa.com, and see if the product on your list is available at a discount."

3. Get Physical

Manufacturers pay big bucks for prime shelving real estate, either at adult eye level or, in the case of products marketed specifically to children, on the lower shelves. Corporations shell out extra cash because they know we're more likely to buy what catches our eye most easily. "Before you grab the first item you see, take a moment to scan the entire shelf and make sure you're truly getting a good deal," says Woroch.


4. Appreciate the Plain Stuff

Product packaging is usually exceptionally bright, featuring plenty of yellows and reds because these colors attract our eyes, says Woroch. Between that and the bright store lights, grocery shopping can lead to migraines.

Fight back against the visual assault, and you'll save money. "Buying generic brands is one of many ways to combat escalating food prices. Before grabbing the first item that attracts your eyes, look for less-gaudy house brands and compare unit prices," says Woroch.


5. Ask for More Cashiers

Stores intentionally understaff checkout lines so customers spend more time standing around near the impulse items that line the corridor leading to the cash registers, says John Tschohl, author of Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service. Items such as lighters, candy, magazines, nail clippers and gum are often found here. "Don't stand for it: Complain to the store manager and ask him or her to open extra checkout lanes," he says.

While you're waiting, don't start picking up things. Instead, think about what you want to accomplish for the day.

6. Expect Tricky Tactics

"Grocery stories will put regularly priced items on display with a sign. Customers then think because there is a special display that the item must be on sale," says Jack Taylor, professor of retail at Birmingham-Southern College. "They will also price items 'two for $3,' which may not actually be a sale."

Agnes Huff says her husband refused to play the supermarket games. "Every week, Costco changes the location of all the items - so you have to walk back and forth through the store, and I'm sure to encourage you to get stuff you do not need or can use as impulse purchases. My husband complained countless times to management, and to no avail. He finally told them he was not coming back to Costco at all," says Huff.

The key to success: Stay focused.

7. Be Wary of Pairings

"Grocery stores will also put related items together," says Taylor. "For example, they will put chips near the chip dip display. This way, if the customer was only planning to purchase chips, they may see the two together and make an impulse buy. Oftentimes you'll even see these two items on the same display."

Stick to your list.

8. Ignore the Expensive Wines

Supermarkets in states where they are allowed to sell wine often have a glass-front cabinet with $40 and $50 bottles even though few people ever buy them. The reason: Just having it there increases the number $20 and $30 bottles sold, says Patrick Schwerdtfeger, author of Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed. If the selection ranges from $8 to $30, most people will buy something in the middle; say a $17 bottle. But if the selection ranges from $8 to $50, once again, most people will buy something in the middle; say a $24 bottle. "Simply by having a few expensive bottles on display, supermarkets can increase the average purchase by 50% or more. And the best part is that most consumers don't even realize they're behaving differently," says Schwerdtfeger.

Stay within your budget.

9. Don't Buy the Numbers Hype

Signs may say "10 for $10," or "2 for $5," but in most cases, you get the same price if you buy only one, says Carrie Kirby of the blog Frugalistic Mom.

Not every item pictured in store ads is on a large discount -- in fact, sometimes an item pictured in the ad costs more this week than it did last week, she adds.

Deals that offer "seven for $5.50" are designed to confuse shoppers who aren't quick with their mental calculators. The same trick applies to the now popular 10 for $10 game making the supermarket rounds, says Woroch.

Keep your guard up, always, and do your own math.


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202 Comments

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df1099

See:
http://youtu.be/aU-smQ1RguU

October 25 2011 at 8:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sjean

You missed one of the most common underhanded tactics. The extra large Family Sized box or bag may actually cost more per ounce, or per serving than the smaller sizes. Especially in the cereal isle.

October 19 2011 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Catryna White

This woman is a moron or she is part of the "suck the consumer in".. She talkes in a condescending tone which is annoyingenough, but her constant talk of this product or that product as easy, just shows that she has been sucked into the system of junk food and feeding your children non-nourishing garbage and lazy on top of it all. Wheat is good for you? Most packaged foods are made from GMO wheat. Flavored water is expensive. Just drink plain water. Luna bars are not inexpensive and they are loaded with sugar. The soy grown throughout the world is almot 100% GMO and even if it weren't soy is not a good thing to be ingesting, whether it's soy nuts, flour, milk or oil. It's high in Estrogens and can be the cause of cancer in some people. "The gluten free movement!" What kind of statement is that other than a condescending stupid remark directed toward people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. This woman is merely a sheeple spreading her idiotic advice on buying and using the crappiest packaged junk. I don't know much about the Crofter's spread, but do know that it is sweetened with fruit juice, which is a plus! Lindt chocolates are high quality and the manufacturer is devoted to quality. I was appalled by this woman's gall and ignorance.

October 15 2011 at 9:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
md

#5 is total B.S.

When I managed the front end of a grocery store, we pushed the checkers to up their items per minute and regularly walked the store to time breaks with lulls between rushes. Not once did we ever discuss slowing things down. How much profit do you think there is in a pack of gum?

One thing an experienced store manager did after taking over our less-than-a-year-old store was remove two checkout lanes -- because we only had enough staff to man them on the busiest days. Doing this reduced customer complaints because every checkstand was manned during the after-work rush. And on busier days, it allowed us to use the additional checkers as relief checkers -- ensuring the staff got their breaks in a timely manner.

October 13 2011 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dontnodip

Are you kidding with #5? The LAST thing we want is people hanging around in line. Sure, we want customers to stay in the store and buy more products but keeping customers milling around the front end of the store is just asking for trouble. Believe me, once you are finished your shopping we want you paid and out in the shortest amount of time possible. FYI, a line can only go as fast as it's slowest member and that person is usually not the cashier but the person in front of you. Go ahead and complain if it will make you feel better but know that we can not open another cash register unless there is someone available to run it.

October 13 2011 at 10:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron

I went to Publix today before work, started up my computer, and read this article. I have to share my experience.

I bought:
8 cans of Emerald Mixed Nuts B1G1 free (regularly 5.79 each).
2 Gaviscon Xtra Strength Liquid Antacid (regularly 7.99 each).
2 Phazyme Anti-Gas (regularly 3.49).
6 Packs of Sominex Sleep Aid (regularly 3.19 each).

I used: 4/ 1.50 off 2 coupons for the nuts.
6 / 2.00 off each Sominex
2 / 2.00 off each Gaviscon
2 / 2.00 off each Phazyme
Publix had their own coupons: 5.00 off any combination of 2 of the above health products. I used 5 of those.
Do the math; That is 88.42 worth of products, minus 25.00 in Publix coupons and 26.00 in manufacturer coupons minus the B1G1 nuts deal (4 @ 5.79 = 23.16) which is 88.42 - 74.16 = 14.26. No sales tax on those items in Florida.
BEAT THAT WALMART!

October 13 2011 at 10:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TPA

The article forgot to mention this: compare items by looking at the cost per unit, not at the price tag on the item. If the store quotes different units for similar items (say, one brand of soda is 72 cents per quart, while another brand is 60 cents per liter), complain to the management. You need to be able to compare like items if you want to avoid overpaying for things.

October 13 2011 at 3:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TPA's comment
maryanne

I do this also. And not just to compare brands, but sizes also. Things that are bought over and over, say like ketchup. They may have a smaller size on sale now that would be cheaper to buy now, but if you look at the unit price, you're actually saving money in the long run to buy the bigger item.

October 13 2011 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ROB

I had to comment on #5. I find it hard to believe that is true. I highly doubt that the money made off of impulse buys because of a long line outweighs cons such as the customer not returning because of slow service. I would think saving money on labor would be the #1 reason for such shortages.

October 13 2011 at 3:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mr41005

All this advice sounds good, but stores have been doing this for years. It is still your choice to buy or not

October 11 2011 at 12:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mr41005's comment
Greg

@mr41005, exactly. It's called capitalism. It's like what banks do with mortgage loans. It's your choice to buy or not. We all make good and bad financial decisions.

And, since we're on the subject, wouldn't it be great if the government would step in and pay for my groceries when I walk out the door and am upside down on the produce I just bought?

October 11 2011 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
papercut

You mean that most annoying trait of trying to say my last name after checkout in a blatantly fake "we know you" way ISN'T on this list? Gawd I HATE that. So can they stop doing that now?

October 11 2011 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply