SmartMoney has a list of ten things your supermarket won’t tell you. Though this was first published five years ago, it’s still informative:
- “We trick you into paying higher prices.” Frugal folk preach “buy in bulk”. But supermarkets have caught on. Now bulk isn’t always cheaper. “We found proof at a store near the SmartMoney offices, where a 12-ounce bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup cost $2.09, while a 24-ounce bottle was $4.65; a quart of Lactaid milk was selling for $1.79, while a half-gallon was $3.85.” Always check the unit pricing.
- “Our ‘specials’ are anything but.” Some stores raise prices on advertised specials. Coupons are often for more expensive brands. Your best defense: shop at one store and learn its prices.
- “Everybody pays a price for our ‘loyalty’ program.” You either pay higher prices by not joining, or you pay with your privacy by signing up. Some experts advise using a fake name when joining these programs.
- “Our stores might make you sick…” Insects, rats, and other vermin are a problem for any place that handles a large quantity of food.
- “…and if they don’t, our employees will.” Cleanliness programs cost money. And people are lazy, in the grocery industry just as anywhere else. Surveys have found that nearly half of all deli and meat workers engage in unsafe practices.
- “Federal guidelines? Who cares?” There’s no uniform standard for supermarket safety. Some of the guidelines are thirty years old, and there’s little enforcement.
- “‘Fresh’ is a relative term.” “Except for regulations about baby food and infant formula, there are no federal laws mandating product dating. In most states a retailer may legally sell foods beyond the date on the package as long as the product can be considered unspoiled and safe to eat. Even repackaging is legal.”
- “We like to play head games.” Remember my review of Why We Buy? Supermarkets use many subtle ploys to get you to buy more than you plan. Sometimes not even shopping with a list will save you.
- “Our product offerings are rigged.” Supermarkets make more profits from manufacturers than from consumers. Manufacturers pay “slotting fees” to have their products placed in desirable locations. Supermarkets say these fees keep costs low for customers, but the manufacturers say the fees result in increased wholesale prices.
- “Our scanners are a scam.” You’re overcharged more than you think. “Over the course of one year, [one man] patronized California supermarkets that give customers an item for free if the scanner rings up the wrong price. By year’s end, he says, he took home more than $4,000 in free good…”
Supermarkets want to make money. You want to save money. Sometimes it’s a battle of wills. Read the entire article for more details.