The chapter titled “What Supermarkets Don’t Want You to Know” was by far my favorite. I have worked in a local supermarket for more than 3 years where I am a cashier, but I also am the back up scan coordinator. This means that each week when we change our ad I go around and hang the new tags, make new signs, fix any mistakes sent down by our corporate office (there are more than you would think) and possible make any in store specials we made need. I could probably write a book on the number games that supermarkets play, but I’ll try to be brief. As Harford mentioned, a good shopper does not find the cheapest store (because in the end it won’t be the cheapest), shop the sales and the ads as much as possible and you will end up on top. More often than not our ads run specials that are much better than even a Wal Mart would offer as an everyday price.
The first way that super markets get customers is by impulse buying. I’m sure everyone has heard of this and probably done it a few times. This is way candy bars, chips and soda are located conveniently next to where you wait to check out. The less obvious was that this works is by putting the products that are considered necessities (more inelastic items) towards the back of the store and the less needed items (elastic goods) right along the path to get to the other items. This is why in a lot of stores milk, eggs, meat, bread, cheese and these things are a long the back wall or in the corners of the stores. The point is to get the consumer to pass all of the impulse buys along the way and end up buying more than you came for. I know this works because one of the main questions I have to ask people when they check it is “did you find everything OK”. 90% of the time the answer is “I found more than I needed”.
Next is the way things are priced. Recently the pricing “10 for 10” has been popular. The first way they get people is by offering products for just $1.00. What a deal (some weeks these very same products go one sale for 75 or 80 cents but they sell better at 10 for 10). With this people assume they have to purchase ten of the item to get the deal so everyone comes up to check out with ten cans or jars of everything. Most of the time you can buy just one and get it for a dollar. Stores that run sales will also raise the everyday price on the tag while they are running the sale to show more of a savings. For example, if a can of tomatoes is regularly $1.59, on a sale week they might raise that price to $1.79 and put it on sale for 10 for $10. Now you are still getting a good deal, just not as good as you might have thought leading customers to believe they are saving more than they really are. This is also part of the discount card scam which tracks what you buy and then runs sales based on this purchasing histoy. At the end of your visit you may hear, "you saved $27 today", but did you really? Not even close. In the same breath store will also run amazing deals on turkeys or hams around the holidays where they are actually losing money on the product. So this IS a good deal, except the sale is draw new customers in (and regulars too) in hopes they will buy all the other items they need that are now marked up higher to compensate for the ham. This last Thanksgiving our store did exactly that. Our turkeys were on sale for $.88 a pound with a $20 purchase, but the green beans that are normally $.99 a pound were marked up to $2.99 a pound. They do this because you are already in the store and less likely to go elsewhere to get the additional products needed and especially at the holidays, where certain items are less likely to be substituted. This is where a good memory comes in handy, as Harford said, if you can remember and compare like items you will be better off.
There are many, many other ways that supermarkets make money. Hopefully this will help next time you go shopping.