Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Trader Joes”

Brainwashed in 3.5 Minutes (by Roger Ingalls)

The History Channel aired an interesting program a few days ago about the design of convenient stores. It’s amazing how much thought goes into the layout of a 7-11 and other twenty-four hour quick turn stores. Their goal is to get you in and out within three and a half minutes while manipulating you into impulse buys. Convenient stores generate an amazing $1.7 billion every twenty-four hours.

After watching the program, I went online to find out more about retail and convenient store tricks that make us spend more money. Here are some of the manipulating tactics they use.

People usually go to a convenient store for a purpose which means they are headed for a destination in the store. Of course, there are common purposes for being in a 7-11, such as buying milk, soda and coffee. Impulse items are placed between the door and the destination item. This is why most of the stuff we want is in the back of the store.

If you grab a soda from a cooler at a Quik Stop, the cooler door is hinged to close in a way that directs you past more impulse items. For example, if the door swings open from left to right, you will more likely turn to your left when walking away so flashy products are place in that direction. Coffee is a huge seller at convenient stores. Donuts, bagels and breakfast sandwiches are grouped with coffee to entice you into making a package purchase.

Grocery stores are big manipulators too. All the basic real foods like milk, meat, bread, eggs and produce are place in the back and far sides of the store. You must walk past everything else to get to these staple foods. The meat section uses slightly tinted lights to make the items look pleasantly fresh. Did you ever wonder why produce is misted? It gives us a sense of freshness but it actually reduces the shelf-life. Additional produce tricks include displays that put fruits and veggies in crates along with signs resembling chalkboards to give them a farmers market feel even though they may have been trucked in from another country.

Grocery carts and flooring play a big role in how much money we spend. Stores that switch from small carts to larger ones see an average revenue increase of 37%. Have you noticed the trend to put kid carts in stores? Parents who bring their children spend 25% more than if the kids were left at home. Floors are also being modified with color changes every few feet or the physical texture changes to make us watch our step, look around and slow down. The slower pace correlates to a spending increase of 6%.

Even apparel stores are getting into the act. They put harsh lights and plain mirrors at the entrance and then put tinted mirrors and filtered lighting in dressing rooms. Once we are in the changing room, our appearance is improved giving the illusion that the clothing made the difference. Many retailers are also engaging in the practice of vanisizing where the sizes of the clothes are actually larger than what is on the tags. We can now fit into pants, dresses and shirts that were previously too small so we make a vanity feel-good buy.

There are many more tricks to get us to buy and spend; the more human behavior is understood, the longer the trickery list gets. I don’t know…maybe I’m making a big ado about nothing. After all, the economy is driven by commerce.

But I just hate being manipulated!


Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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