Grocery stores use many different clever marketing tactics to get you to spend more money than you want to. Tricks like strategically placed items and deceptive sales are just a couple of the traps that grocery stores put in place to increase your bill. It’s important to be aware of these tactics and be able to spot them so you can make smarter choices and stick to your budget. Here are 18 common traps to watch out for when you visit the grocery store.

99 Cents

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CBC reports that “over 60 percent of all prices in all stores end in the number 9.” This strategy is known as the 99 effect, where stores price their items with amounts ending in 99 (like $9.99) because people psychologically view it as significantly cheaper than the round number. Many people get caught out by this trick and end up spending more than they think they have.

Today’s Discount

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Grocery stores often have today’s discounts, which typically offer perishable items that are nearing their expiration dates for discounted prices. These deals tend to entice shoppers into buying more items than they need when doing their grocery shop, which generates more profits for the store. The discounts that are available are usually pretty small and definitely not worth straying from your shopping list or going over budget!

Loyalty Cards

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Loyalty cards are designed to benefit the customer right? Wrong. Loyalty and points cards are another strategy for grocery stores to get more business and profits. They allow the store to track your purchasing habits so they can target marketing toward your specific preferences and coax you into spending more money. These cards also encourage loyalty to one store and stop customers from looking for better deals elsewhere.

Tannoy Announcements

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When you’re strolling around a grocery store and you hear announcements being made over the tannoy, it’s hard to ignore them, and that’s why they’re such a clever marketing trick! These tannoy announcements are designed to draw attention to the store’s promotions and convince you to make impulse buys. Many of the promotions they announce are limited-time offers too, which create a sense of urgency in the customer to make the most of these deals.


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Everyone loves a buy-one-get-one-free offer, but maybe we should take a moment to think about it before we jump on these deals, as they can sometimes be a trap! Buy-one-get-one-free deals will usually be on items that are close to expiry, which means if you purchase these items, they’ll likely be out of date before you can enjoy them. Therefore, at the end of the day, they can still be a waste of money.


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The most basic tactic that grocery stores use to sell more products is a simple sale! Sales tend to be on seasonal or overstocked items instead of essentials that everybody needs. Some sales fail to even offer significant savings compared to the regular prices. Always remain vigilant and work out whether the sale is actually worth it rather than just giving in to the fear of missing out on a sale.


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Grocery shopping when you’re hungry can lead to you buying more than necessary, especially things like snacks and junk food. Forbes highlights that “those who were hungrier had spent 64% more money than those who were less hungry” in a study. Stores capitalize on this by placing certain items at eye level to tempt you, and because being hungry can reduce your decision-making abilities, many people fall into this trap!

In-Store Exclusives

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We all crave exclusive, limited items; it’s in our DNA! Grocery stores take advantage of this by creating in-store exclusives. People are often attracted to these promotions as they don’t want to miss out on getting the exclusive before it runs out. The catch with these items is that they’re typically priced higher than similar items that are available elsewhere, and they can make customers overspend due to the suggested exclusivity and scarcity of the item.

Checkout Items

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Have you ever been waiting in a queue at the checkouts and picked up extra things to add to your basket simply out of boredom? Grocery stores purposely place items around the checkouts as a trap, as customers are more likely to impulse buy and pick up unnecessary items while waiting for the checkouts. These items are also usually high-margin items like snacks and small gadgets that can significantly increase your bill.


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2-for-1 items might sound like a great deal but think twice before you purchase these offers. If you buy something for 2-for-1, you can end up wasting the food or product as well as your money if you don’t get around to using it all up before it expires. Sometimes stores even inflate the price of a single item to mislead you and make the 2-for-1 deal look better when you’d actually be better off just buying one.

Daily Discounts

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Some grocery stores have daily discounts on a rotation, and this creates a cycle of impulse buying based on those temporary deals. Having different promotions on different days of the week can encourage customers to visit the grocery store more regularly and spend more money than necessary. This is why it’s important to plan your grocery shopping list to avoid visiting multiple times a week or plan to buy certain items on certain days to take advantage of the deals without overspending.


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Coupons have long been loved by shoppers for helping them save money; however, they might not be as great as they seem! Coupons tend to encourage purchases of a specific brand, which limits your options when other brands like store-own brands would likely still cost less. People also often fall for the trap of buying items they don’t need solely to use a coupon, meaning they’re spending money they wouldn’t have spent otherwise.

Under $5

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According to CNN, groceries cost about 33.5% more than they did at the start of the pandemic,” so it’s not surprising that under $5 deals can be very tempting. Stores price things at under $5 for this reason exactly, as it entices customers to purchase more by making items seem cheaper. The small cost of these items can quickly add up, making you spend more than you planned to.

Money-Back Guarantee

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A money-back guarantee can make us feel safe when buying larger items, but this is often a false sense of security that’s created deliberately to get us to make riskier purchases. Money-back guarantees also typically involve a complicated and time-consuming returns process that purposely tries to put people off returning their items. Don’t get tricked into making expensive purchases by the lure of a money-back guarantee!

Seasonal Sales

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Seasonal sales promote items that are only temporarily needed at certain times of the year. If you get sucked into buying items in a seasonal sale, you’ll most likely store them away somewhere until you need them, by which point they’ll probably have gone missing or will remain unused. Seasonal sales are also often limited-time offers, which push you into making a quick decision (usually a costly decision!).

Red Signs

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Most grocery stores use red signs to highlight discounts and sales, as they effectively grab customers’ attention. The color red also signals urgency and creates a sense of pressure to purchase the items immediately. Our brains are hardwired to notice red and associate it with good deals in a grocery store; however, they may not always represent the best deals that are available, so it’s best to ignore these red signs and always shop around for better prices.


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A clearance sale can be great if you know you’ll be able to quickly use up everything you buy, otherwise, it can be a waste of money, as items in clearance are usually nearing their expiry dates. Getting attracted to items on a clearance sale simply because of their cheap price can also lead to you making unnecessary purchases. Clearance discounts might be minimal too, disguising the true value of the deal.

As Seen on TV

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Many of us are glued to our TVs and can’t help but want the things we see on them, and this makes as seen on TV deals a genius tactic in grocery stores that gets us to splash more cash. These products often have a high markup compared to similar items, as they’re sought-after items, and they may not actually meet the quality and functionality advertised on TV. Try not to be deceived by these promotions because they can make you overspend!

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