Entering Grocery Store Hell

The little kid walked without purpose or direction in front of his dad. He wanted no parts of the trip to the grocery store. However, his dad’s cart had just a few items and looked like they were just getting started.

When I ran into them again in the next aisle over though, the young boy had started to catch onto the advantages of going to the grocery store. His father was no longer fighting with him to get out of the middle of the aisle. Instead, he had a box of Chocolate Pop Tarts in his hands and was begging his dad to put them into the cart.

“C’mon dad, we have to get these? Pretty please.”

Who can say “no” to that?

What are you gonna say?

The father picked up the Pop Tarts and turned the box over to look over the nutritional information. By that time though, the kid knew that he had his father right where he wanted him. First rule of grocery store shopping, never pick up the box. It’s the sales equivalent of “never letting them see you sweat” or “always be willing to walk away.” Of course, the dad placed the Pop Tarts in the cart.

Next up, the kid had grabbed onto the most sugar-filled cereal he could find. “Mom lets me get these, you’ll love them too Dad!”

In both instances, the kid-friendly food was situated in the mid- to lower-section, making them easily viewable and, most important, accessible to the young boy. The healthy food or should I say, the healthier versions, were up high.

“Damn grocery store,” I thought to myself. When I was a young father, I used to shop regularly with my kids, it was a way to get the kids out of the house; give my wife a few minutes to herself; and help with an important chore.

I tried to fight the good fight. When they were old enough to learn, I taught my kids important lessons on nutrition and sugar. I showed them the importance of vitamins and minerals. Yea, yea, that’s all good, but I still fell victim to marketing placement. Oh, I won a few of the battles, but yes, I lost a few too.

Science behind the selling

The people behind grocery store placement are smart people. I’m no social psychologist, but I know that placement works in other ways too. On adults!

I went to the Philadelphia Phillies game over the weekend. The temperature hit the mid-90s. Of course, as we stepped out of the sun to stand briefly in the shade, I saw several different concession stands: a water ice stand here, a beer stand there. Yikes, what’s a guy to do on a hot day?

Or it’s the way Amazon surfaces up expensive, precision watch advertisements for me. I ooh and awe at them like a kid looking through an old Sears Christmas Wish Book. Yes, yes, I save the watches that catch my eye for another day.

There’s science too behind the way my local car dealer places the fun-looking SUVs right where there’s the most traffic. I found myself staring at a new Jeep the other day. The lot didn’t have a ton of cars, the supply looked like slim pickings, meaning there weren’t a ton of cars, but they still managed to put the “fun cars,” near the busiest intersection. You couldn’t help, but notice them and the bright checkered flags the dealership had attached to the light poles.

When I buy a car, I try to pay close attention to a car’s gas mileage, the vehicle’s safety features, and price. Of course, gas mileage and the current cost of gas never even entered my brain. I fell “hook, line, and sinker” for the dealer’s games until my wife brought me back to reality.

Yea, we’re all fighting the good fight which is why I wished the father in the grocery store good luck when we passed again. He gave me a questioning look until he looked up and saw his son with a big bag of Hershey’s Kisses in his hands and a big smile across his face.

Something tells me the dad’s going to need all the luck he can get!

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