7 tricks supermarkets use to make you spend more6 min read

Even with the best intentions to manage your grocery budget, it can be difficult to stick to the plan. Supermarkets go to great lengths to squeeze as much as they can out of every customer. They research consumer behavior, and structure the entire shopping experience in a way that is designed to get you to spend more. From the time you walk in, to the time you exit, they use a wide range of different tactics that are intended to pull more money out of your pocket.

Once you are aware of these tricks, it becomes easier to stick to the plan, and with this knowledge, you can save some money. In this post, we are going to look at some of the tricks that supermarkets use to get you to spend more, and we are going to provide some tips for beating them.

Look Up and Down

The shelves are not stocked in a way that is designed for your convenience. Bigger brands pay a premium to get their products stacked at eye levels and at either end of the aisles. They even keep this in mind with products that are marketed towards children. If it is an item that a child is more likely to ask for, they place it lower.

If the placement is convenient and easy to see, it means the supermarket is trying to sell as much of the item as possible. When you see something on the end-cap or at eye-level, you can almost guarantee that it is a high-profit item.

They Want You to Take the Tour

Have you ever noticed that the essentials are always placed near the back or over in some far off corner? That is because they want to force you to walk through the entire store to get to things like milk and eggs. By getting you to walk through the store, they also have you walking past more items and by attractive displays that are intended to get your attention. This increases the chance that you will buy some of these items, even if you don’t really need them.

The Impulse Buys

If you are trying to manage your budget, it is safe to assume that things like candy bars and gossip magazines are not on your shopping list. However, many people still end up buying them. Supermarkets put things like candy and magazines at the cashier for a reason.

They aren’t items many people actively seek out in the aisles, but everyone has to go through the checkout. By making them highly visible in this area it puts them right in the shopper’s face, whether they like it or not. This, combined with a thing called decision fatigue, means that a shopper only has to have a short lapse while waiting to pay and these low cost but high margin products end up in your cart.

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Some Things Make Good Partners

Some things just go well together. Chips go well with their dips, and coffee goes well with different types of biscuits.

The supermarkets know that certain food items complement each other, and that people like to pair certain things up. For this reason, they place these items together. When you buy the one, you are more likely to buy the other. You might even buy both when your plans for the first item don’t even involve its common pairing.

The Highest Profits are Right Near the Entrance

Have you ever noticed things like flowers, rotisserie chicken and baked goods as soon as you walk in the door? It is not a coincidence that this is a common theme at supermarkets. These are high-margin items that offer a good return for the supermarket.

When first walking into a supermarket, you are less likely to question each item you put in your basket or trolley. As the items stack up, you begin thinking more conservatively. However, they’ve already made their first impressions on the items they make the most money from.

Along with that, the smells of cooked food and baked goods will get your hunger going. If they can get you to shop hungry, they know that you are more likely to spend more.

The Preferred Direction

Most supermarkets are designed to get you to start all the way to the right. They attempt to have you follow the perimeter around in an anticlockwise direction. Once again, this is no coincidence.

The research has been done, and they found that people spend slightly more when they move around the store in this direction. This is apparently linked to the fact that the majority of people are right-handed and are therefore more predisposed to pick up items if their right hand is closer to the shelves.

Slow Music

You might not enjoy the music that you hear at the supermarket, but that is not why it is selected.

Supermarkets pick their music based on the psychological effect that it will have on customers. You won’t hear anything that is particularly upbeat or something that is going to inspire movement. They like nice, slow music. These are songs that feel calming and relaxing. It might not be the music you'd listen to on your ride home, but it'll slow you down to spend more time in store.

Now that you know about some of these tactics, keep your eye out for them, and start avoiding these traps. By avoiding the tactics supermarkets use and having your own targeted grocery shopping plan, you can make a significant impact on your overall food bill every week. One of the keys to overcoming some of these tricks is shopping with a list. Also, thinking twice before putting any item in your cart helps with impulse purchases. Is it the best deal? If it isn’t on your list, is it something you really need? Just keep these points in mind, and you should have an easier time managing your grocery budget.

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Jennifer Jones

My name is Jennifer Jones.I started out life as Jennifer White but four years ago I married Mr. Jones and became The Frugal Mrs. Jones.I love finding ways to live frugally that ENHANCE your life not make you feel like you are missing out on the things you want to do. When you invest in being frugal in every aspect of your life – from what you eat, to where you shop, to how you research the products you buy – being frugal can truly be a joy.When you buy a vacuum cleaner that is going to last you 10 years because you did your research or make a delicious, healthy meal that your family loved for less that a single meal would cost in a restaurant, the satisfaction can be significant.Living frugally is not about doing without, it is about doing better!
Posted in Family, Frugality, Guest Post, Saving Money.


  1. I’ve heard most of these. One other one that I’ve also heard is that they make sure some areas of the store smell really good. Having the bakery area smell good isn’t just because they’re making stuff, it’s because it triggers the hunger response in you which can lead you to buy more.

    • This is a good tip to use if you’re having an open house or garage sale as well! Having those attractive smells really help get people in a better mood! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. This marketing strategy is also used at different levels at other stores. My best advise, aside from what has been mentioned on the post which by the way is great! Is get in and get out. Don’t tour the aisles grab your list ask someone where something is, jump between isles pick the stuff you NEED and leave.

    • 100% true.

      So many people think lists are mainly so you don’t forget to buy anything but they are just as important for not buying things that you weren’t supposed to

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