Grocery Store Psychological Tricks
By Stephen Bucaro
How rare is it that you leave a grocery store having purchased only the items that you came in for?
Unless you're a very savvy shopper, I would bet this is very rare indeed. That's because as soon as
you enter a grocery store you are exposed to psychological manipulations. In this article, I expose
one of those psychological manipulations known as "anchoring".
Anchoring involves getting an idea or number into your mind, once that idea or number is placed
into your mind, it influences your decisions, even if the relationship between the idea or number
has nothing to do with the decision. And, you often don't know how the idea or number got into
your mind, or that it's influencing your decisions. Here's an example;
You receive a flier from Ajax grocery store with your newspaper that advertises huge price cuts
on several items. Naturally, everyone wants to save money, so the idea of huge price cuts at
Ajax grocery store gets anchored in your mind. So when it comes time to purchase groceries,
you head over to Ajax grocery store.
The fact of the mater is that Ajax grocery store's price cuts are not that huge, in fact you can
get the same prices or lower at any grocery store. Not only are the price cuts on the advertised
items not that great, but they raised their prices on many other items in order to compensate
for those price cuts. The end result is you saved nothing or actually paid more to shop at Ajax
grocery store. You shopped there because the idea of huge price cuts at Ajax grocery store
was anchored in your mind.
Another psychological anchoring trick grocery stores use is "multi-unit pricing". With this
technique you might find beans priced at 4 cans for $5. You think this must be a huge quantity
pricing opportunity. Heck, beans were $1.25 each can last time you shopped. You pick up 4
cans of beans.
You've probably already figured out that 4 cans for $5 IS $1.25 for each can, so you haven't
saved anything. But that's not all. Your mind has anchored on the number 4. There is nothing
in the sale that indicates that you MUST buy 4 cans of beans. Eventually, maybe you'll use
up the 4 cans of beans, or maybe you'll donate some to the food bank.
Next time you see multi-unit pricing, calculate the price per each to make sure there is really
a price advantage, and make sure the sale requires you to purchase the advertised quantity
in order to realize the savings. Of course you might be subjected to another psychological
anchoring trick grocery stores use called "quantity limit".
With this technique you might find a limit of 10 cans of beans per customer. Research has
shown that the quantity limit trick always results in a major boost in sales of a product. But
does the sale price of the product justify purchasing 10 items? Your mind gets anchored on
the number 10. Even if the sale price is good, who the heck needs 10 cans of beans?
The psychological anchoring trick requires getting an idea into your mind. That's why grocery
stores put the products with the highest markups in the center aisles on eye-level shelves.
If you're looking for beans, being the first brand of beans seen always results in a boost in
sales. Standard grocery store design places lower priced and generic brands on the upper
shelves, lower priced and bulk items on the lower shelves.
Because of the sales advantage, higher marked up brands are placed on eye-level shelves.
Not only does the grocery store get a higher mark up on brands placed on eye-level shelves,
but many manufacturer's pay the grocery store for eye-level shelf space. The same thing
applies to aisle space. Products that don't provide a high markup are placed around the
perimeter of the store. High mark up products and nonessential items are placed in the
As soon as you enter a grocery store you are exposed to psychological manipulations.
With the knowledge revealed in this article, you can avoid falling for grocery store psychological
tricks, and leave the store having purchased only the products you came for and for a good price.