With this financial crunch upon us, I’ve been making a serious effort to spend less money. So why is it that every time I go out for bread, I come back with four packages of sandwich cookies and two cases of soda, and sometimes no actual bread? How is it that my fridge is always so full that I can’t get my leftovers into it, yet there’s never anything to eat in there? Why do I have eight open bottles of barbecue sauce and no milk?
60 to 70 percent of all supermarket purchases are unplanned!
I used to think this was my fault. But then, thank goodness, I came across an article that said that I’m not alone. According to the article, about 60 to 70 percent of all supermarket purchases are unplanned. Supermarkets employ an endless array of tricks to get you to spend more money than you want to, and you’re too busy saying things like, “Hey, that’s a great price for sixteen bottles of salad dressing!” to even notice.
There’s a lot about supermarkets that has bothered me for some time. Don’t get me wrong – they’re very convenient and all. It’s like one day someone said, “Hey! Why don’t we just have a big store where people can buy any kind of food they want, as well as cleansers and paper goods and, occasionally, a snow shovel? And we’ll have huge shopping carts -- a Jew invented the shopping cart by the way -- where you put the baby right over the food, and each cart will have one bad wheel, and we’ll keep the milk all the way in the back of the store, and every month and a half we’ll rearrange all the shelves for no good reason!”
Because that’s what they do. Considering they were designed for convenience, there’s a lot about them that’s very inconvenient. The milk is all the way in the back of the store, and so are the eggs and the bread. Don’t most people come into the store for milk, eggs or bread? You’d think that they’d put them near the entrance, or at least at the checkouts. But for some reason, they put them all the way in the back of the store, so that you have to pass every other item they sell to get to the milk. Not only that, but all three of those items are usually stocked within ten feet of each other, so that at some point everyone in the store forms this massive clot around the milk, creating a huge bottleneck of people crashing into each other’s carts at zero miles per hour and apologizing and exchanging insurance information and who knows what. I have no idea what they’re doing up there, because I’m waiting all the way out in the middle of the dog food aisle. (“Hey, that’s a great price for five hundred biscuits!”)
And what do they put near the checkouts? Candy. And not even big packages of candy. Single servings of chocolate. Because people are coming out to the store just for one bar of chocolate, and they’re in such a rush that they want to run right in and head straight for the checkout counter.
And what’s up with their rearranging the shelves every two months? Sure, occasionally a new product comes out, and they have to move a few things around to make it fit. So why does the peanut butter have to move six aisles in a random direction? And then they don’t update the signs, nor do they tell their employees that they’ve changed things, because it’s some big national secret. Like Iran’s trying to figure out how to rearrange their supermarkets, and we don’t want to give them any ideas. So when we ask an employee where we can find the gefilte fish, he goes, “I don’t know; did you try the aisle you just came from?”
“Yeah. I just came from there.”
But it turns out that what I thought were just silly mistakes are actually done very much on purpose. It seems, according to their research, that the best way to get us to buy more is to: a. make us spend as much time as possible in the store, and b. make us walk through as much of the store as possible. That’s why they give us slow carts and traffic jams and put essentials in the very back of the store and keep moving things, and that’s probably why they hire little old ladies to mill around and be in your way and spend ten minutes on line in front of us looking for an expired coupon, while we’re standing six inches from the single bars of chocolate, which we can somehow smell, even though the wrappers are closed. Where is that smell coming from? I think that at some point in the near future, all supermarkets will consist of one very long aisle, six feet wide and a half-mile long. At one end would be the lone checkout counter, and at the other end would be the milk.
And that’s not all they do. They put ice cream cones right near the ice cream, so that you’ll buy both when you don’t need either one. Then they put the ice cream at the beginning of the aisle, so you have to pass it to get to the frozen spinach. And did you notice that ice cream is always on sale in the middle of the winter?
Not that the sales mean anything. People will assume that anything on sale is cheaper than it usually is, even if they have no idea how much it usually is, because they generally don’t buy it. The store can take an item that usually costs five dollars, and put it on sale as “2 for $12”, and you’re like, “Hey! Two for twelve dollars! I’d better buy two! Or four!” What are you going to do with 4 cans of onion powder?
I’m actually glad I read this article, because these aren’t the kinds of things I generally notice on my own. I’m the type of person who will say, “Yeah, it is easier to pour.” I might wonder why I’m finishing the package faster, but I don’t say anything, because I just figure it has something to do with my constant weight gain.
On the other hand, every time I get scammed, I’m doing my part to fight the recession. If I actually figure out how to spend less, the recession will only get worse. But maybe, if we’re all just gullible enough, we can get through this thing.