19 Sneaky Ways That Stores Trick Shoppers Into Spending More Money Than They Want To

It’s an all too common scenario: you run to the store in need of just one single item, and you end up walking out with a shopping cart full of stuff. Your $3 journey just turned into a $90 one, and you can’t seem to figure out how it happened.

If that sounds familiar, know it’s not really your fault. There’s a lot of psychology that goes into designing stores so customers stay inside for as long as possible and rack up big bills along the way. Brush up on your grocery store’s ploys so next time you’ll stick to your $3 dollar plan.

1. How do you sell snacks and candy to people who don’t want them? Place them right in the checkout lane! This way, when lines are long, customers can grab a quick bite while they wait.

2. It’s been proven that customers are more likely to buy an item if they’re able to hold and inspect it thoroughly. That’s why items like produce and snacks are placed close to the store entrance — so as many people as possible see and then touch them. 

3. When customers see a particular item is selling out, or there are very few left, it leaves them feeling like they need to take advantage and buy one. Who knows when the store will restock?

4. No one likes to spend time in a place with unpleasant odors, and that’s why stores put a lot of effort into their smells. Flowers and savory food are great ways to entice guests to keep lingering in hopes they’ll buy more.

5. According to a study done by the Journal of Consumer Research, customers are inclined to buy more if they’re given a free sample while they shop. Something as simple as a free piece of chocolate or a sample of alcohol can coax people into purchasing much more expensive things.

6. The first thing anyone notices about a store is its visuals. Keeping the vibrant and lively-colored items like produce near the front to welcome the customers usually puts people in a better mood — and happier customers spend more cash.

7. People usually form opinions about a store based on how much it charges for staple items like bread, milk, and eggs. Many times stores will mark down these items only to give people the impression all their prices are reasonable.

8. If you’ve spent more than a few minutes in the fresh produce section, you might have seen those mist machines give the food a spray. You might think the water is for keeping foods fresh, but it’s actually to give it a just-picked look that makes you want to buy.

9. You probably wonder why you have to walk all the way to the back end of the store to get items like meat and dairy products. Well, it forces you to walk past a plethora of other items on your way — and you just might realize you need some of them.

10. The smell of delicious food makes anyone hungry, even if they’ve recently eaten. Placing the bakery near the store entrance allows the enticing smell of fresh baked goods to waft into the noses of customers, hopefully igniting an appetite.

11. The items that are meticulously placed on the ends of aisles stand out way more than the stuff lining the actual aisle. Stores will place more expensive goods in these locations so they catch the eye of customers quickly.

12. Shopping carts were designed to make people buy more, and some places have experimented with extra-large carts in hopes people will feel the need to fill the extra space. As it turns out, they absolutely do. The trick works!

13. You’ve probably seen packs of extra-small items like cans of soda, and at first, they look like their purposes are to help people consume less. However, people consume more because they’re not as filling, which means a return trip to the supermarket.

14. Companies know how to market items to children; familiar movie characters and bright colors immediately grab their attentions. Kid-targeted products are usually placed on the lower shelves so they’re at a child’s eye level and won’t be missed.

15. Just like placing items geared for kids on the lower shelves, most stores will put name-brand items on the higher ones so they’re at eye level with the adults who are actually spending the money. Name-brand stuff always sells.

16. Here’s a sneaky little trick some stores use so you’re forced to buy everything in your cart: designers make the checkout aisles extra narrow so you’re physically unable to put unwanted items back with ease.

17. Nothing leads people to items quicker than those brightly colored sale signs. However, most prices are based off an item’s weight, so those discounts may be worthwhile for heavy items, but they don’t make smaller items worth the purchase.

18. Just because a carton of eggs at one grocery store costs a couple bucks doesn’t mean that brand of eggs at a different store will cost the same. Stores charge whatever people are willing to pay, so in affluent areas, they’ll charge higher prices.

19. The music that plays throughout a store has a large impact on how long a customer stays. Slow to medium-paced tunes will get them lingering longer and puts them in a calm and unrushed mood.

The next time you go shopping at a grocery store, pay attention to all the little tricks they implement to ensure your cart fills to the brim. You don’t need everything they’re selling, even though they want you to believe you do.

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