The retail industry spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, collectively, to come up with various ways to manipulate consumers into purchasing their wares. While some of these tactics are well-known, many are not. From the Not so freshly baked goods, manipulative placement tactics meant to drive up impulse purchases and unique ways of hiding shrinking product sizes so that the consumer will never notice, we’ve got them all!
Freshly Baked Goods- or Are they? – while those rows of goodies may look enticing, did you know that the majority of stores actually receive frozen goods and only need to thaw them or bake them. The “fresh” rolls you may have thought were just mixed up could be from dough prepared in a factory several weeks or months prior.
These displays serve another purpose as well- they work to stimulate the appetite of the consumer, increasing impulse purchases.
Manipulative Placement– Any parent knows that the worst aaisle in the grocery store is the cereal aaisle. The sugary smackle puffs with cute little cartoon characters is always at eye level for Junior to see, and of course, it comes with the latest greatest made in china toy, which will surely be the one you step on at 3 am when you get up to answer natures untimely call. It’s a well known consumer manipulation tactic to place items that are marketed towards kids on the bottom shelves, where they are more likely to see the item (and beg their parents to purchase them).
A lesser known manipulation tactic is for merchandisers to place the more expensive non-staple items at eye level. By non-staple, we mean items that you don’t necessarily need, but that you may be swindled into buying because the packaging is attractive and you’re hungry while your shopping (another grocery budget no-no).
End Caps – Ever notice those lovely displays at the end of each aaisle offering up “sales” on goodies? These are generally items that aren’t really on sale, they’re just dressed up to appear as though they are.
Impulse Buys- There are several ways that we, as consumers, are manipulated into purchasing items on impulse. a. Shopping While Hungry- if you’re already hungry when you shop, nearly anything will look tasty.
b. Clever Arrangement/Placement
Clever & Shrinking Packaging – this one is so deceptive, it need’s it’s own page!
Cheap Fillers – Lets delve a little deeper into the subject of those convenience items. Manufacturers often use sugar as a filler to their products simply because it’s cheap. We’ve been taught, as consumers, that we should read the ingredients label to see where sugar ranks in the product, but the manufacturers
have learned to disguise the high levels of filler by using different types (corn syrup, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, molasses).
When Buying in Bulk might be Bad– taking advantage of membership clubs such as Sam’s , BJ’s or Costco can be helpful in securing great deals in your budget. There are times when a “good buy” may turn out to be a considerably less savings than you had anticipated. Perhaps your favorite shampoo is available in bulk for $30, when the small bottle at your local store is $6.50. You may have discovered that when you’re using that bottle of shampoo – you’re pouring twice as much as you need from that gigantic bottle. After all, your mind is telling you that there is plenty of shampoo available. Or perhaps you bought a giant bottle of mayonnaise because it was less expensive than the smaller bottles available at your local grocery store. Now that it’s open and sitting in the back of your fridge, you’re trying to figure out ways to use it all up before it spoils. Items like these are not helping your budget; they’re what I like to consider fruitless purchases.
Inconvenient “Convenience” Foods– Convenience foods are the items that, back in the day, folks made at home in their own kitchens. Items such as cookies, cakes, brownies, sauces, gravies, and soups. The other day, while picking up a few items at the store, I was overwhelmed by the number of cake and cookie mixes in the baking aaisle.
The store no longer offered basic ingredients (in this case semolina flour for making pasta!), but they did have 26 different kinds of cake mix. In the refrigerated section, there were rows and rows of premade cookie dough for $2.50 a tube.
The amount in the “tube” of dough equates to less than half a batch of regular cookie dough! Consumers have been manipulated by marketing companies for decades to believe that we have less and less time and “need” these products, which are often loaded with colorings, preservatives and lack any nutritional quality.
The next time you find yourself in the grocery store, I challenge you to take a peek into the carts of folks that walk by. The majority of items within the cart is convenience items that people have been manipulated into purchasing under the false pretense that they “save time” or are easier than preparing real food at home.
Mammoth Sized Grocery Carts– Grocery store carts are getting bigger and bigger and the aaisles are getting wider. No, this isn’t your imagination, it’s a fact. When shopping with a large cart and you only have a few items, you’re manipulated into feeling like you don’t have enough groceries yet, so you continue shopping. If you’re running into the store for a single item, such as a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, forgo the cart or hand basket. It will force you to only purchase as much as you can carry and help avoid those impulse buys that make up more than 70% of our overspending each year
Limited Quantity/Availability Trick– This one has been perfected by those late night tv shopping networks, but has spilled over into the grocery industry as well. Oftentimes in sales flyers, the manufacturer will add a limit to the number of items a consumer is “allowed” to purchase at the “sale” price. Were you thinking perhaps they did this to be fair to all consumers to give them a chance to get in on the deal? Absolutely Not, this is simply a psychological direct marketing tactic.
Another “dirty little trick” I have discovered:
Our Wal-Mart puts baskets of clearance items at the front of the store sometimes that are actually marked down low enough to qualify for my opinion of “clearance” (in other words not just a 10% savings).
On several occasions, these items have scanned at full price and the cashier has to manually enter the clearance price. They are not surprised by this at all and tell me they have to do it all the time! How many of us are not watching every single item as it is scanned and miss this?!
I believe they do this on purpose. Shame on them!
You know, my other half & I were discussing this the other day- we had 9 items that rung up incorrectly at our local walmart- the cashier changed each one and when I got home we added them up, the difference was $24.35 . You’re exactly right, how many people are distracted by their children or spouse or just plain not paying attention & just Pay it. We watch the register like crazy when they’re ringing things up. 9 trips out of 10, they have to fix at least 1 item.
Do you remember the days that they paid You $3 when they made a mistake? They’ve ripped off the stickers at the registers that had that guarantee on them.
Holy cow!! $25 is a lot of money! I figure they are making a KILLING doing this!
No, I don’t remember the $3 back thing but that would be nice!
It really is sad, isn’t it?
People, we need to watch them!
We need to all band together and call them out on this!
My ex-husband used to work for Walmart stocking groceries, and he told me that they would have something like Hamburger Helper (Just using this as an example) 2 for $5 but the regular price for a single box would be $2.38. That’s one reason I avoid that store unless it’s absolutely necessary.
I actually took the time during my last grocery trip to add up each item as I put it in my cart. We were on a very tight budget and I wanted to get as much as I could without overdoing it. I knew what my total would be before I even got through the check out. I use pumps on all of my soaps, especially the ones I buy in bulk so I use the same amount every time.
I actually look at the unit prices when I buy and have for many years successfully been able to avoid impulse buys.
In Michigan, it is a state law I believe. I have found they have rung things up wrong, and when I present it to the customer service, I get $5 back.
I actually work at Wal Mart in the apparel and we do this all the time because we no longer receive the amount of markdowns from home office that we use to. So instead of the big wigs up top marking things down that we no longer carry or are out of season they leave them for months and months. We push them up front for price overriding so that we can get out our new products and keep our departments cleaned up. We do this at our own risk also, when we do this it shows up on all kinds of reports and we can actually get “coached” which is a form of disciplinary action or even fired for extreme markdowns.
I will admit we do this for our own benefit, as associates trying to make their lives at work a little less stressful, not really for the customer to save money although they do. We use to put signs on the carts to let customers know that cashiers would have to override the price but we are no longer allowed to do that. If we could mark it down in the system we would… we miss this actually.
I find that in the six years that I have been with the company stores are allowed less and less markdowns and less and less hours for associates to work. There are days that I want to scream and cry because I get so fed up with the pressure. I just wish that customers would remember that we are people too and that we are doing our best with what we are given.
You should check to see if your state has a scanner rebate law.
In MI if an item is scanned at the wrong price you can take the receipt to the customer service center and recieve 10% (with a $1 minimum) or $5 (maximum) of the difference as a “rebate”.
A lot of the times its really not on purpose, the cash registers are tricky and its up to the customer and the cashier to make sure the transaction goes smoothly.
You cannot blame a mess up entirely on the cashier when you didn’t pay enough attention to catch it. The clearance items are special sales, its called a price override when they ring it up like that. Sales like that are store individual and because of that our computer system does not update the price (that would involve changing the price chain wide and since stores vary with merchandise that wouldn’t be feasible)
I don’t understand how it’s a dirty little trick when you’re getting a deal that some other customers in other stores dont?
She did not blame the cashier in any way. If she was blaming anyone it was the store itself. It’s a dirty little trick because she is giving us information that will save us money, including the tip that you added of paying attention the your transaction to catch any discrepancies. So I guess what I’m not understanding is your point.
The same thing happened to me the other day. WalMart had cans of Manwich on an end cap 2 for 2.00. I put two in my cart and headed down the aisle to grab a few other things. I happened to notice that on the shelf, the same size can was $.88.
Sure enough, when the cashier rang up the cans, they rang up $1.00. I told the cashier she needed to change it to the .88 and she did but if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have spent 24 cents more. Every little bit helps.
I guess the reason for not putting the price of the food on the item, is so people can’t tell the difference if they are being charged more for an item. Who can remember what the price is on every item, I DON’T. UGH!!
Take a sharpie and write the price on the label as you fill the cart.
good to know about Wal-Mart… I’ll be paying closer attention now. can’t say I’m surprised though.
I think self check is another way they get you. You are busy scanning and don’t catch the errors and you can’t override it anyway.
one day i was in walmart and i only had $7 with me and i had to buy my son a cup (he is very picky with cups bc he is teething) the only cup i could find was like 599 so i just assumed that i had enough so i went to check out at the self check and when i was done the total was like 7.35 so i ask the person over there to void it so i could find a cheaper cup and she told me to wait and marked the price down… i was so grate ful… you can have things voided in the self check line and they can even fix the price
I bought some chicken last week at Wal-mart that was marked off 1.50. When I got home, I noticed the cashier had scanned the original barcode and charged me the higher price. I just didn’t have time to go back and point out the mistake, but I will sure be watching the prices as they scan from now on!
I like the picture of the jar of peanut butter. I hate packaging that has big indentations substituting air for product. Or those fancy face cream jars that look decent sized until you open it and see how thick the packaging really is or the big indentation on the inside of the jar.
I too have a pricing issue with Walmart.
A large bag of Siler’s dried pintos listed at $4.19 on the shelf, rang up at $5.98 at the register. When I brought it to the checker’s attention, she sent me to the service desk for a refund. Three months later I bought the same product. Got home with it before I checked my receipt.
(I assumed the price had been corrected two months ago), To realize the shelf price was still $4.19 and the check out price was $5.98. That’s $1.79 difference.
I recently bought 5 boxes of cookie mixes. The price on the shelf was $1. They rang up at $1.87. I insisted that the price was $1, so the clerk changed it to $1.
I told her that if it was $1.87, I would not have bought 5 boxes!
It’s true. I’ve had problems at Walmart with items ringing up incorrectly as well. We had a Publix store that opened up here a little over a year ago and my husband and i usually shop there now. Their generic brand is usually as good as the name brand items but cheaper and they always have great BOGO sales.
The list price on the BOGO item may be higher than someplace like Walmart, but they have the BOGOs on items that people will actually use, not buy 5 items at regular price get 1 free (although sometimes soda is pried like that but I don’t buy soda so eh.) I also try to avoid shopping at Walmart because I’m aware of how poorly they treat their employees and how much they’ve screwed up the economy in the towns they’ve moved into. I also try to shop at the local farmers market when possible. It can be a bit more expensive but local honey is AWESOME and ends up being more in the jar than a bottle at the store.
I am a new member and I had a problem with Walmart too. I had bought a cheap waffle maker for about $20.00
For m son, I did not know that his girlfriend already had one. So I put my receipt on the fridge for a later return.(busy week) aboutb2-3 weeks later I returned it for store credit since somehow the receipt disappeared. Walmart took it back no problem since it was only sold in their store.The girl gave me a plastic card with I thought was $20.00.
When I got to the register it only had $10.60 as credit on it. !!!
I ask the girl “What happened to my $20.00?” She replied that if I return any item without a receipt I will get the lowest sales price credit for this month.
Needless to say that I go out of my way not to shop at Walmart anymore.
Most stores do this now. Have had it done with Target, Kmart, JCP and Sears.
Unfortunately that is the policy for most stores when you return any item without a receipt. I recently tried to return a box of labels my mom picked up from Staples and since she lost the receipt I had the same thing happen.
The labels were buy one get one free so the lowest price was $0.00. The manager told me to try back in a month to at least get something back. I paid $40 bucks each for them. I’m not going to get my entire amount back but I will get something.
I will take note of some of the comments made about Walmart and pay attention from now on. However in Ontario we have no coupons like in the States. In fact if you check Mrs January it really can’t be done. However Walmart is the only store in my area that price matches.
This means I don’t have to drive all over town every week for the best deals. Also even though they take items back with no receipt and give the lowest price. I have purchased items with terrible return policies and returned the broken product to Walmart and was given a credit. Sometimes on stuff they don’t even sell in their tore!!
Recently a pan I maker I bought at a store with a terrible return policy broke soon after I purchased it. Walmart took it back and gave me the lowest price credit. At let I wasn’t out the entire 50$ and I will never buy another appliance at the other store (Hart) again. Walmart has saved my butt more than once.
Just say in.
I seldom buy groceries at Wal-Mart, although I do occasionally shop there for other items and sometimes pick up grocery items while there. I’ll certainly be watching for this, and thanks for the tip!
I try to avoid Wal-Mart at all costs. It is a double edged sword. Here in the Midwest we still have problems with people being unemployed. I know Wal-Mart provides jobs.
However, I think that their employees do not get many benefits for working there. We have a garden and try to swap produce with other people we know. And when we need other items we have a Hy-Vee grocery store. I try not to shop much at Walmart because I think there are some questionable ethics involved, globally.
Google “Walmart illegal pricing practices” no quotes and you will see that this is well known for them too.
Ok, I’ll add my 2 cents-(lol): I’ve noticed wrong prices being rung up at Wal-mart & was told to go to the service counter for a price adjust/refund. Yeah, the service counter had a the long line i had to stand in after leaving my 8 hour stand up job to get back my hard earned pennies back. My feet were aching and my time is worth money too! So wrong!
From now on, if they cant adjust it at the register, i tell them i dont want the product..you have to watch the produce at food lion too …i sometimes wonder if the scale is accurate or in their favor..cuz when i “weighed” 2 different packages of pre-packaged 3lb bags of apples, the scale said 3.5lbs! I would like to think the apple growers gave me an extra apple but not sure that is the case.-since most produce is weighed, that means i might be buying grapes at a sale price but they are weighing in heavier. lastly, at food lion, the coupons you give the cashier beep as if they were accepted but if you look at your receipt, only half of them “took”.. the cashier even told me they were having this “problem”!
and i ended up waiting for a person at the service desk again! and this coupon experience happened to me there on 3 separate shopping trips. BUYER BEWARE. I dont want to seem super negative but these are all true things that have happened to me.
Just letting everyone know to check your reciept before you leave the store to save your time and $$!! 🙂
I am in the process of making out a food price book with items listed under regular price with unit price, for all the stores I shop. When the item goes on sale, I know if it’s a bargain by comparing sale price with regular price and I know which store has the best prices for that item. I also take a calculator to the store and keep a running total of my groceries while I’m shopping. Also, I’m trying to find out the sales schedule for every store, for example, how often does the sales happen for any particular item, some stores use every 6 weeks and some use every 8 weeks.
If I miss a sales on an item I want, I know when next it goes on sale. Some stores have loss leaders, special items on sale to bring customers in, so if it’s a wanted item, I go over my budget and stock up on the item. I am a senior citizen on a fixed income and my grocery budget is what I have left every month after paying bills, so I try to be real careful and take advantage of every sale, etc.
Happy Shopping Out There, Ya’ll.
I will start bringing a sharpie pen and putting the price on the item that way I don’t have to remember the price of everything I put in the basket.:0tt2:
It has always been my nature to watch the cashier when ringing up anything. It is always in your best interest to watch at any register. I have saved thousands doing that. It’s funny I can remember 25 items prices at the checkout but can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday.LOL Most of the time the cashier has no idea so as the saying goes the consumer is always right.
At least they will check to be sure. Anyone remember when Kroger rang something up wrong you got it for free???? Those day are over too. I also heard the doubling of coupons will not happen any more.
I’m on the national consumer panel and have to scan the barcode for items purchased as well as list the prices so the sharpie idea will be a great trick plus it will keep the store honest as others have mentioned. Thanks for bringing forth this information everyone!
If you have a smart phone, there is a great app called “Mighty Grocery” that (among other things) can keep track of item prices, amount in cart, even sales tax and discount prices. You can make different shopping lists for different stores. There is a free version & for not much $ an expanded version.
The real thing is to have the list so one can be sure he/she buys only what is needed rather than what is wanted at the shop. I use an app on my phone so it is with me all the time (and in addition automatically sync between me and my wife…)
in my local Wal-Mart, they have an aisle where they put “clearance” items. What I have found is that they will put a clearance sticker on products and price them with the regular price, sometimes higher than what it is on the shelf in the department where it belongs. Gotta watch this too.
Sometimes while checking out the cashier is so quick to scan, as I am unloading my cart, that I am unable to watch the prices as items are being scanned. So sometimes I have to stop on my way out and check my receipt to see if given correct prices. I have noticed lately when taking my receipt to customer service because priced incorrectly, I have not been offered the “rebate”. When this first began it was just offered to you.
Are we now supposed to ask, as I thought it was just something that they did, as a courtesy?
I am curious about the scan error “reward”. When this first began and there was a error in price scanned you were automatically offered this. Sometimes the items are being scanned so quickly while I am unloading my cart that I cannot watch as they are scanning. I have noticed lately that if I have to take my receipt to customer service for an adjustment that I have not been offered the “reward”.
I thought this was supposed to be automatic. Are we supposed to ask for these now?
When this price scan “reward” first started I noticed the store would offer this to you and apologize for the inconvenience. It was at a recent shopping trip that I noticed that I have not been offered this “reward” in quite some time. Sometimes the cashier is scanning while I’m unloading my cart, making it impossible to watch every item scanned. Is this still a law in Michigan?
And am I supposed to ask for it? Or is supposed to be automatically offered to you?
A lot of times sales aren’t sales at all! Like the 10 for $10 .. Most of the regular prices aren’t even a $1 … They are more like .59 but you think since its 10 for $10 it’s a sale.
My husband actually works at Wal-Mart inmanagement. They do their utmost to keep prices low for the consumer; someitems they make only a few cents on, and others they make a fair profit,but every store takes huge losses every year because they do havesuch
generous returns, taking things back that are broken, etc., and because so muchtheft happens. There are people who come in and walk out with huge shoppingcarts of things and electronics and never pay a dime, and unless an employeeactually sees them walk around the registers, they get out the door. I onceactually watched a whole family (mostly men) come in and try on heavy dutyboots, and they put their old shoes in the shoe boxes and walked out with thenew boots on, laughing.
Wal-Martdoes its best to keep the correct price right under the item on the shelf, butI myself have often thought the price right under the item meant that item. Youhave to get up close and read the writing to see it is the actual product youare choosing.
Thisis true in any store, especially grocery stores…of all kinds.
Wal-Martwill bend over backwards to give its customers the lowest prices.
They have anapp that you scan your receipt into, and it automatically checks the localcompetition and registers for you the lower price (accumulates in a savings,which you can spend any time, and believe me, it adds up fast). You can knowyou are getting the best price compared to Target, Home Depot, Kmart or any ofthe big retailers around.
Thephilosophy of Wal-Mart has always been and always will be to give a goodproduct for the price, so that lower and middle-class families who are workinghard can afford to have a few extra things they would not otherwise be able tobuy. I know that they have had a lasting impact on the economy as a whole, andwithout them, we would all be paying far more for everything.
Wal-Martalso gives its employees store bonuses at the end of the year, every singleemployee, if the store losses (“shrink”) versus the profit ratio are good. Ifthere is a lot of mis-pricing, or losses that appear when inventory is done,all the employees are in it together.
They either help minimize losses,breakage, lack of good record-keeping, theft, and other causes for “shrink”, orthey get no bonus.
Theyearly bonuses are wonderful, and I will say this, they can be anywhere fromthe many hundreds per employee, up to the thousands. If the employees aresloppy and lose inventory or do not account for it properly, it shows and thebonus is not there.
However,I will say one last thing: Wal-Mart gives free products to every charity thatasks. A gal from church wanted to put a lot of school items in the Christmasshoeboxes that go out from Samaritan’s purse…Wal-Mart let her do so.
Thecompany gives so much money to each community and never brags about it.
They givea lot to local charities and to hospitals and they provide a tremendous amountin sales taxes right back into the local community…and the mayors and localofficials are aware of this.
Wal-Martis the biggest employer in the US, and they NEVER discriminate as to age, handicaps,or any other cataegory. It is the one place I know that people over 50 caneasily get into management. People with Parkinson’s and people with one arm,people with disfigurements, etc. are all working at Wal-Mart…
Peoplelike to joke about what Wal-Mart employees look like, but just think: they aregiven dignity and a chance to be a blessing to the community, and theycertainly are.
Ibuy everything at Wal-Mart, and have since long before my husband began workingthere.
He likes it much better than when he was making four times as much workingfor the CIA.
There was an article that I read several months ago that was about meat prices. The person that wrote the article bought chicken from Wal-Mart, Kroger, and a handful of other stores in her area. She compared the pounds on the label to the actual chicken, she also accounted for the packaging. She found that the chicken did not weigh what the label said it weighed.
She found that the white thing, (sorry not sure what it is actually called), in the bottom of each package was full of water. She squeezed out the water and weighed it as well. Then added to the actual chicken weight and it was equal or very close to the label. Some were well over a pound of water weight.
Guess whose was the worst? Wal-Mart! If the weight if the water and weight of chicken didn’t equal the label I would naturally assume that it was liwiud from the chicken itself. Since it added up to be the label weight or very close to it I came to the same conclusion as she did and that was they add water to those white pads and you are not getting what you pay for.
I personally do not ever buy meat from Wal-Mart except occasionally I will buy chicken but now I don’t even buy that from Wal-Mart.
I think it is important to remember that all stores make mistakes in pricing. Some sales don’t get added to the POS either by mistake or design. It is not the employees usually who are making mistakes. These things are usually controlled by the corporate offices.
I personally, try to write down the price for each item on my grocery list as I am shopping so that I can double-check prices at the register. Also I don’t know about other states, but the Publix management told me that here in Georgia in BOGO sales they have to allow you to purchase one item for half off. This only applies to BOGO, so if the add says buy 3 and get one free your out of luck.