Shopping Traps

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Exposing several tricks used by stores to entice consumers to spend more – based on a report by Sean Poulter in the Daily Mail on 15 April 2014

I often notice in supermarkets I regularly frequent that from one day to the next new shelf arrangements appear. It is rather annoying as I then have to scout around to find the new location of certain goods which even the staff hasn’t figured out yet! So why is this being inflicted on customers?

You guessed it: more turnaround!

UK consumer group ‘Which?’ decided to investigate. Several people were fitted with eye tracking headsets and sent into chain stores to record the layout of the stores’ shelves. Equipped with detailed shopping lists they were to report how they were influenced by purposeful shop layout and signs. All guinea pigs were equipped with a shopping list and had a firm idea of what they needed. And all of them bought more items than planned and of course had a much larger bill than anticipated.

“The experiment has lifted the lid on the psychological warfare waged by stores to subconsciously steer customers towards the products that deliver the biggest profits.”

Supermarket Traps

Some of the tactics used by the shops were:
Red stickers on products signal price cuts to our brains’ memory banks, so the shopper reaches out without realising that it is not a bargain.

‘Wobbly’ paper banners hanging from the ceiling attract attention and customers will feel animated to go check out the displayed items. ‘Which?’ said, “Our shopper almost made it past the cheese offers but then appeared to be drawn back by the motion of the wobbling sign.”

Fruit and vegetables are placed near the entrance on purpose to create the image of a healthy locale.

The experiment showed that when shoppers walk along shelves they read them from left to right and downwards like a book. As a consequence, big brands allegedly pay supermarket chains a premium to ensure their products are at eye level.

These strategies are not only being exploited in the UK but in supermarkets worldwide.

There’s no need to be fooled though. A few hints:
Never go shopping when you are hungry: You will buy more than intended and that full fat brie that you usually don’t eat because of its high fat content, will end up in your cart and eventually in your tummy.

Never go shopping without a shopping list: Try as you may, you probably won’t remember all the items you wanted to buy when you left home.

Be flexible and do keep an eye out for special offers. In particular bulk items are often sold at low profit and really worth buying even when not on your shopping list. It helps if you have the usual price for such items stored in your grey matter. However, if the specials are for food items, make sure to check the ‘sell-by’ date before dropping them into your cart. And yes, you’d obviously scrutinise fresh food specials for their age…

BhagawatiBhagawati is a regular contributor

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