Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Grocery store advertising tricks

Do you make a grocery list using store ads to save money?  Have you ever really looked at the store ads and spotted the ways they trick you into making purchases you don’t plan?  You could plan your purchases very carefully using the ad but at the register you may realize you have gone over budget.  Does this puzzle you?

I see the trickery all the time.  I don’t know if the same thing happens in other countries.  I’m guessing it does.  Or at least some version of the same thing.  Let me show you some tricks I’ve spotted.

Ok, let’s start with this.  The ad says $.99 a pound for the pork riblets.

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I decide to buy one pound which should be enough for two people or for one person two meals.  But wait a minute.  I read the fine print which is barely legible.  Its quite blurry even with a magnifying glass.

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It says, “sold in a 10# box at $9.99 each”  So in order to get that ninety nine cent price I must spend $10 instead of $1.  Why couldn’t they just say, 10# for $9.99 instead of the blurry fine print? Because people don’t see beyond the ninety nine cents.  It doesn’t register in their mind they will be spending ten instead of one.

Here is another trick.  Soda 12 packs sold 4 for $8.  I’m not much of a soda drinker but sometimes I use one in cooking or as a special treat for myself.  I drink soda maybe twice a year.  Anyway, logically one twelve pack should be $2 at the sale price.  Right?

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Not so. “Buying less than 4 you’ll be charged $2.50 each.”  I read the blurry fine print.  So if I’m trying to keep my food budget low, do I want to spend $8 or do I want to only spend $2.50?  When someone buys all 4 packs, to get the bargain price, the advertisers have gotten the shopper to up their spending by $5.50.

How about this one.  This tactic happens a lot.  This one happens to also be for soft drinks too.  Its two liter soft drinks.  Buy 3 and get 2 free.   Final cost $1 each. Sounds like a good bargain IF you drink a lot of soda.  But what if a person only needs one instead of five?

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Well in order to purchase only one you will be paying $1.67.  Should you spend the $5 or the $1.67?  If you buy the five instead of only the one you need then the store has gotten you to up your spending by $3.33 more.  Also, at other stores the same brand 2 liter sells for $.89 each regular price.  So this store is asking us to buy already over priced soda AND purchase more than we need.

Look at this one.  In this trick they want you to spend several dollars in order to get the $3 savings.  Is it worth spending that much to save fifty cents on each item?

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Ok, IF I can use multiples of these items, and had already planned to purchase them,  and I had coupons too then it might be a good deal.  But what if I don’t want six of these items?  What if I only need the kool aid.  Well, I would rather pay the regular price of $1.49 than to pay for items I don’t need.  If I bought six kool aid to save $3 the store will have gotten me to spend $4.95 extra.  I used an example of buying six of one item but the mix and match of other items could be more.

Here’s a good one.  The price says $.99 cents but if you read the blurry fine print the package is only 6 ounces.  That works out to $2.64 cents a pound.  Your brain only sees the ninety nine cent price, not the tiny printed ounces.

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Well what do you know, another trick.  These prices look rather cheap don’t they?  Read the fine print and it says grapes are sold in 2 lb or more packages.  The kiwi come in packs of three and the peaches are in 2 pound packs too.

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Why not just give the package price instead of the per pound price?  Trickery.  The magical number nine.  Only one penny away from a whole dollar but many don’t think of that.  Also, $.99 cents or $.89 cents looks better to the eyes and the brain than $2.99 for three or $1.78 for two pound pack does.

Oh my, just look at the pretty little red arrows pointing down and the big red arrow saying lower prices.  That’s a lot of items with lower prices isn’t it?

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Don’t be fooled, except for the 5 arrows in the bottom row none of the prices on any of the other red arrows are lower.  Those are regular price.  An eye fooling trick to have you believe all the items have had the prices lowered.

Here is another version of the earlier buy 6 get $3.  This one is buy 5 and save $5.  Look closer, you’ll see those are one pound packages.  Do you really want to pay $1.99 for a pound of hot dogs, bologna, or ham?  What about paying $7.97 a pound for the package of Deli Fresh carving board meat that has been slipped into the mix?  That package is 5 ounces which works out to almost eight dollars a pound.

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Some items shown in an ad are not on sale at all but are made to look as if they are.  The manufacturers pay to be included in the ad. There will be a large picture of a pretty food or package and a large print price proclaiming a price of “$2.77 lb with card”  or something like “$1.99 while supplies last.”   Those are normal everyday prices made to look like a sale.  Made to look like the quantity is limited when in fact it is there all the time.

The larger the picture and font size, the more it looks like a fantastic sale.  But, if it doesn’t have “save __% or save $__” then its not a sale.  Its the everyday regular price.

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Yes, you and I have to be diligent in our search for the trickery.  Not only are we getting blindsided daily by shrinkflation but trickflation too.  Food advertisers are pushing the limits of what is considered truth.  I’m sure if you start looking you’ll find more of those tricks too.

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9 comments on “Grocery store advertising tricks

  1. Nathalie
    July 13, 2015

    I keep a price book (as you do, but mine is on a spreadsheet) and Aldi has lower prices on most everything that is NOT on sale in other stores, at least in my area. But I agree with you that one has to be to be vigilant when looking at ads… or at price tags on the shelf, for that matter! I was looking at the Winn Dixie 3-day sale flyer yesterday and the ONLY item on sale that would have been worth a trip was the gallon of milk for $1.99 (great price in my area). Everything else that was on BOGO sale had the base price so ridiculously inflated that the BOGO sale wasn’t a sale at all. But it’s not just grocery stores that do that. Kohl’s is famous for overstating the amount of money you save when you shop there. I bought a pair of pants and 2 pairs of shorts for my husband yesterday and the cashier claimed that we had saved over $80 on our purchase… well, yeah, if I had been willing to pay over $60 for one pair of shorts to start with! What a ridiculous thought 🙂

    • Na Na
      July 17, 2015

      Its not what you “save” that is important, its what you spend that adds up. A man ran all the way home from work behind a bus. When he walked in the door he announced to his wife what he had done to save the $3 bus fare. She looked at him matter of factually and said, well honey, why didn’t you run behind a limousine and save yourself a whole lot more money?

  2. sarasinart
    July 13, 2015

    So many tricks and so much fine print. Stores will get you one way or the other if you don’t check into everything. This was good info: you did a lot of research.

  3. boblosan
    July 13, 2015

    Yes – and then there are the “loss leaders”. That one item that is on a drastic sale, but leads you to the store so you will purchase other items that are “on sale”. I have a local store that offers buy one, get 3 free sales. Unfortunately they raise the price on them substantially, so that when you buy one, get 3 free you are actually buying more than the regular price of one.

    • Na Na
      July 19, 2015

      Yes, I’ve seen those sales too. I’m often saddened when watching people putting items like that into their carts.

  4. Amy
    July 13, 2015

    I very rarely look at the fliers, I usually go directly to the discount bin for meat, choose my vegetables and go home.

    • Na Na
      July 17, 2015

      Ooo, another person who does the discount thing. Love it.

  5. Linda S.
    July 13, 2015

    I have 2 major stores near me – Albertsons is notorious for the very thing you’re talking about. I go there for meat because they have the best but otherwise I only buy sale items & then I read the fine print. Fred Meyer, however, will always let you buy one or two @ sale price even if the tag reads 4 for $5. Everyone says WalMart is cheaper but I go there once in a while (to compare, not to shop) & at most the items I usually buy are 2 cents cheaper. And some are higher! WalMart has sold the idea of being cheaper but like you say, read the fine print. You are such a smart gal! Please keep sharing.

    • Na Na
      July 17, 2015

      I don’t like Walmart…. period. Because of the way they treat their employees and the way the factory workers are treated in other countries that produce Walmart goods. I wish we had an Albertson close to me.

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