We may think that we are wise to supermarket tricks, but even the smartest shopper can be fooled into spending more than they intended. When you're doing your grocery shopping and buying dozens of items, it's easy to miss the various tactics employed by the supermarkets to make you think you're getting value for money. Here are just some of the supermarket tricks that will part you from your cash …
1. Full of Fruit
One of the common supermarket tricks is to get you to buy perishable goods like fruit and vegetables. You see a special offer on bags of apples and think that's a great deal, so you buy them. But you end up throwing some of them away as they spoil before you finish the bag. So avoid offers that make you buy lots of fruit or veg, unless you will use them up or can freeze them.
2. Sell-by Date
This kind of trick also often relies on making you buy more than you intended. For example, the multi-pack of yoghurts seems better value than buying them individually. But if you won't eat them before the sell-by date, it's not good value at all. Always check the expiry dates.
3. Price Reductions
Supermarkets often entice you in with the promise of low prices and special offers. Look closely though, and you'll find that there are strings attached. Perhaps you have to buy in bulk, the item is only available in limited quantities, or you have to buy more than you need.
4. Shrinking Size
Have you ever commented that you are sure a product used to be bigger? You may be right. Companies often reduce the size of a product while keeping the price the same. They argue that it's a way of reducing their costs without charging you more, but they're hoping you won't notice that you're getting less for your money.
5. The Bargain That Isn't
Supermarkets also fool you into thinking that buying more means that you're getting a bargain. For example, they may price something at 3 for $1 but 5 for $2. It looks like a bargain … until you do the math. Of course, they're hoping that you don't work out it would be better value to buy 3 for $1 …
6. Causing Confusion
Supermarkets also like to confuse shoppers. It's common for them to stock products in so many different sizes that you can't work out which is better value. Even with the price shown per unit or kilo, it's still confusing. They hope that you'll exit the store spending more than you'd planned …
Sure, this looks like they're giving something away. But you may not use everything up, and why can't they reduce it to half-price? Because they want you to spend more. Also BOGOFs ensure that you're not shopping with competitors for a while longer, because you've got enough.
8. Encouraging Impulse Buys
Markets want you to entice you with chocolate bars and magazines while you're waiting in the queue. They encourage buying something while it's on special offer, because it won't be sold at this great price the next time you come in. Another trick is placing 'themed' items close together, so that you pick up a dip to go with the bread you want.
9. Evade Endcaps
Encaps, which are at the front and back of each aisle, are prime real estate for manufacturers. They actually pay extra to have their products displayed there so if you see a "special" at the end of the aisle, it might not necessarily be a good value but was placed there with the hopes of you making an impulse purchase.
10. Don't Trust Circulars
Some stores will advertise "deals" in their weekly ads that aren't really deals at all. These advertised sale prices are actually the regular price, but it was included it in the ad to make it appear as if it's been marked down. Don't assume that all of the items on the ad are on sale.
11. Eye Level=expensive
Most times when you're shopping in a grocery store, the most expensive items are placed at eye level so you reach for them first. Lower priced brands are typically placed on lower level shelves so you see them after you've already made up your mind about what you're going to buy. If you're shopping for cereal, there's a good chance that all the sugary cereals are placed at eye-level for kids.
12. Super-sized Carts
The next time you run into the grocery store to grab a few items, don't automatically go for the big cart. Grocery stores often provide huge shopping carts with the hopes of us filling it up even if we never intended to buy that much. Grab the hand basket first unless you know you need a lot of items and prevent purchasing more than you planned.
13. Avoid Samples
It's always nice to be able to try a certain product before you buy, especially when it to food. However, nibbling on a sample can send a signal to your brain to eat or want more. There has been research that has showed that sampling foods can make you less disciplined as a shopper so you end up buying more.
Supermarkets are not there as a public service. They're in the business of making money, so it will come as no surprise that they want to take as much of yours as possible. Some of their tactics are obvious, while others are sneakier. So watch out for all the ways that they use to make you spend more. Have you ever been caught out by a particularly clever supermarket trick, or have you found a way to beat them at their own game?
This article was written in collaboration with editor Lisa Washington