Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Breaking the Grocery Store Code

Ever looked at your grocery store's weekly sales ad and thought, "That's a great sale price, but I really don't need 10 sticks of deodorant just so I can get them for $1 each." If so, then please realize that it's just a gimmick. The grocery store wants your business, and they'll try to do anything to sucker you in.

Here's a list of some common "tricks of the trade":
  1. Loss leaders--very common trick and talked about in a lot of blogs, so I won't go into detail. Basically, these are the groceries listed on the front page of the sales ad and are supposed to be really drastic price cuts. Unfortunately, the grocery stores in my area don't compete too well with each other and the loss leaders typically aren't a really great cut in price, at least not much when compared to discount stores like Target or Walmart.
  2. BOGO--or Buy One Get One. Very often they'll be BOGO Free; you buy one, get one free. Be careful with the BOGO's because the grocery store may have increased the regular price of the item you're purchasing. And what if you don't want the 2nd item? Take for example toilet paper. Quilted Northern 6 double rolls is on sale BOGO Free at Food Lion this week. Assuming I needed to restock, but didn't have enough for 12 rolls, I can still get 6 rolls at half the price. I don't have to get the 2nd package of toilet paper in order to get the deal. (This may vary from store to store; but I've found that Food Lion will do this.)
  3. Purchase so many items, get so much off--Just like the example of the Quilted Northern toilet paper in the BOGO up above, this is also a gimmick. For example, SunnyD is on sale at Food Lion (sorry Food Lion, I'm not picking on you, just happen to be looking at your flyer this evening). The sale price is 10/$10. Now, I don't know about your family, but I only have one refrigerator, one husband, two small children and myself. There's no way we could drink that much SunnyD. And where would we store it? Never fear, you can get one, two, three, or however much SunnyD you need, at the sale price. So instead of 10/$10, I can get 2/$2 or 4/$4...they'll all be a dollar off. Just be mindful if the sale says limit 10, don't try to buy 12 because you won't get the last 2 at the sale price.
  4. Store loyalty cards--biggest rip-off ever if you ask me. I never heard of a store loyalty card until I was in college and went to Randall's for the first time. Nearly everything in that grocery store is expensive, but if you use your store card, you can really save. That's fine, but the store, whether Randall's, Food Lion, or wherever, wants you to buy their stuff, right? So to get you into the store, they offer the sales, but you have to use your card in order to get the sale. And while you're getting the items on sale, the store hopes you'll pick up some of the more expensive items that are on the shelf. So you might get a 64-oz SunnyD for $1, but the price of a gallon of milk, which you just ran out of and need to buy, was increased to nearly $4, so have you really saved any money?
  5. Catalinas--these are coupons that print out at the register, and they can be a really great savings opportunity for you. But again, they are a gimmick to get you into the store. When I went to Food Lion a couple nights ago, I got a catalina for $2 off my next shopping trip. Great! Except now I feel obligated to go back to Food Lion before the catalina expires, and if I don't, then I'll feel very wasteful, as though I were throwing out free food.
  6. Items on display or at eye level--if there's a chance that it will catch your eye, then the store will put right there in front of you. When the store wants to move out items in their inventory, they'll put that item on display at the end of an aisle, or on a little kiosk smack-dab in the middle of the aisle, for that matter! Ever noticed the popular cereals are right at your eye level in the cereal aisle? Generally speaking, they cost more than the cheaper, more generic brands on the bottom or top shelf or at the end of the aisle. It's one tactic the store uses to get you to buy the product.
  7. Including regular-priced items in the sales ads--Walmart is notorious for doing this. They'll have rollback items mixed in with regular-priced items. Your brain is tricked into thinking it's a sale-priced item, but in fact it is not.

So those are just a few ways that the store will try to get you to "buy their stuff." It's a business, and like any other business, the more you buy, the happier the grocery store is. That doesn't mean that all gimmicks are bad. You really can get some great deals and save a lot of money if you stick to a few basic rules. Stick to your grocery list (make sure you make a list, by the way!); buy only what is on sale; buy only what you need or get into the habit of stockpiling and rotating through your stock; and don't feel like you have to buy EVERYTHING that's in the flyer just because it's on sale.

How about you? Have you discovered some "tricks of the trade?" Please share them here by posting a comment below! :)

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! :) Here are a few of my tips for some of the issues you mentioned:

    *I mainly buy BOGO free items if I have two $ off coupons I can use - since the BOGO free is the store promotion, and you are "buying" two items (at lest in the register's eyes), this usually works (of course YMMV always!)....also, if you have a BOGO free coupon for the item that is on sale BOGO free, you get BOTH items free which is the very best way to do these sales! Some of my favorite things to buy this way are mascara (I only buy Maybelline and so when it's BOGO free, I can usually get two for about $2 total)

    *With catalinas, I don't even keep the ones that I know I'm not going to use. I leave them there by the machine (if I'm doing self check out) or send them off in a coupon train or trade them for something I need! You can also be a "coupon fairy" and leave them by the product in the store for someone else who might need them!

    *To avoid getting sucked into the "regular-priced items in sale ads" scenario, it's really helpful to keep a "price book" early on where you basically make a list of the items you use most often and keep track of everyday and sale prices, so you know when things are a really good deal and you can stock up (there are also spreadsheets and such for this that you can download online but I always felt like those were way too in depth or complicated for me)


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