Five Ways Grocery Stores Get You To Pay More

I try to make it a habit of keeping an eye on the prices of my groceries as they’re being scanned at checkout. It’s a habit that sometimes pays off. This week I caught three overcharges that would have cost me an extra 30 bucks. Ouch! It appeared to be an honest mistake (the items were on a shelf that advertised another brand at a much lower price), but sometimes you wonder if it’s a grocery game of “catch me if you can!” And how many “mistakes” shoppers really miss at checkout.

So I found it interesting when I came across “Five sneaky ways grocery stores take you for your money” at Livecheap.com. Livecheap is a website that helps people… live cheap. It says “while many people worry that their supermarket might cheat them by charging a higher price at the cash register, there are much more subtle ways that stores can take you for hundreds of dollars every year without you even knowing it.”

In other words, I can’t relax for a moment while shopping for groceries. Great! Livecheap.com says some of these are “out and out cheats, while others are just shrewd business practices that help them make more money.”

So here they are, the top five ways grocery stores can get you to pay more than you should from Livecheap.com:

Intentionally Lean Packaged Meats:

We don’t mean low fat, we mean low weight. Earlier this week, the Ralph’s grocery chain in Los Angeles was sued by the city for deliberately selling pre-packaged meats that weighed less than advertised. The Department of Weights and Measures found the practice was widespread dozens of stores. How do they do it? A combination of many different methods: including the package in the weight calculation, adding an ice glazing to the weight, and just plain selling meat that was less than the stated weight. In some stores the average was 3.5% lower than the specified weight. On a two pound package of $5 per pound meat, that works out to 35 cents. Doesn’t seem like much until you think about buying 100 of those packages in a year or the chain selling tens of thousands of them every day.

Paying 15% More for Water:

The next time you grab a package of chicken look at it very carefully. You might just find the words “Up to 15% solution.” The store will tell you it’s to improve the flavor, but it’s almost certainly done to boost their bottom line. So while you may be paying $1.99 a pound for that inexpensive chicken, its really more like $2.29. Virtually free water is what helps them boost their profits.

The Meat and Veggies in the Middle:

How often do you buy that big package of meat only to find that the cuts in the middle have a lot more fat or don’t look nearly as nice as those that are visible from the top. Butchers have good cuts and not so good cuts and those that don’t make the grade are often put into the middle or bottom of the package. Once you get it home, you may be trimming off that hidden fat and throwing it away. An easy transfer of profit from you to the grocer. The same happens with large packages of fruits and vegetables, apples on the inside are often bruised.

The Essentials: In the Back and Away From Each Other

Most people heading to the store will get some bread, milk, juice, meat, and some fruits and vegetables. Now stop for a minute and do a mental map of where all of these things exist in your supermarket. Chances are getting these essentials will take you across the full length of the store. The goal to get you to buy more as you migrate across the store. It is not a scam like our other points, but it does shift money from you the grocer and wastes precious time. Of course, you can conquer this one just by going to a much smaller store.

Price Per Unit, But the Unit Changes!

Head to the ice cream aisle and try to compare the per unit costs of different brands of ice cream. Should be easy right? One tag will have a price per ounce. The next one a price per pint and a third a price per quart. Take a direct comparison between Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s. Not only is Haagen Dazs shrunk, but it sports a price per ounce while Ben & Jerry’s has a price per pint. Grocers may need to have per unit pricing, but they can change the units on competing items to make it more difficult for you. Time to get out that calculator and remember your conversions from grade school.

Hopefully your grocery store isn’t doing these things, but it just goes to show you have to be on your guard, and not just at checkout.

One Comment on “Five Ways Grocery Stores Get You To Pay More

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