How we screw ourselves over

Just learned this interesting tidbit from grocery stores.

I have known and suspected this for a while but it was just confirmed today by a source.


Apparently, we, as consumers, don’t want the lowest price. We just want the biggest sale.

(The only possible exception is Wal-Mart, but they don’t really have stores here in Canada that also sell groceries).

Grocery stores have caught on, and now they price items way above what they should price it at, and regularly do discounts.

So if their base price is $5 for something (the lowest they can sell it for while making a profit), they price it at $8, and then discount it down to $6 regularly so that people think:

WOW! A $2 discount! I am buying 5 boxes right away!!!

And the problem is NOT that the grocery stores don’t want to sell at a steady pace at $5.

No no.

It’s that we as consumers don’t trust them.

We don’t want to keep buying the same thing over and over again at $5 even if that’s the lowest price possible.

We WANT that discount. We WANT excitement when we shop for something as mundane as groceries.

We want to buy it at $8 once in a while and then stock up when we think it’s a great deal because we only care about the savings difference between the $8 to $6. If it was $8 to $7, we may not be as interested, but saving $2 a box!? WOW!

If a retailer came up to you and said: This is the lowest we can sell it for, $5.

We’d immediately scoff and think: IMPOSSIBLE! They can go lower!

Retailers have since shrugged their shoulders and said: Fine. Let them eat cake. Give the people what they psychologically want, it’ll be better for us in the long run.

So in essence, we screw ourselves over, by chasing and wanting the best deal and not wanting to believe that the $5 may be the best deal.


Pre-made stuff that is like homemade is another big market seller. They have pre-cooked roasts that you just eat up, plate it, and your family thinks you slaved over the stove (so to speak) to prepare that delicious roast in front of them with mashed taters and gravy, when in fact you just picked it all up at the store.

Or they have half-cooked frozen meals that you finish in a pan by heating it up and then serving. No need to cut, prepare or season. It’s all done for you.

Grocery stores are giving us what we want and it’s a bad thing because now they’re turning into mini restaurants.

I walked into a grocery store the other day and was surprised at the breadth of selection they had for pre-made meals, frozen dinners and ready-to-eat meals and I was even more surprised at the prices.

Their goal is to sell you that stuff based on their research that says that consumers are just plain lazy.

Instead of buying the tomato, lettuce, sliced deli meat and mayo with some bread, consumers would rather just fork the $7 over for the pre-made sandwich even when they are in the middle of a grocery store where it is dead easy to just slap your own sandwich together for lunch.

We don’t want to slice tomatoes, pick out the mushy seeds, wash and rip the lettuce, slice the bread and arrange it all with a liberal spread of mayonnaise.

That’s work, damn it!

Even if it only costs $3 maximum for each sandwich (not including the full price of everything), and you can get at least 4 sandwiches out of the groceries you buy.

I understand if you forgot your lunch one day, and you buy the $7 sandwich, but if you do it repeatedly, then you are just playing into their hands like putty.

How long does it take to make a sandwich? Like 15 minutes with proper washing and cutting? And you could be preparing those things for the entire week.

But it’ll get mushy, FB!

Well here’s a little tip from me to you. Just keep the tomatoes and lettuce separate, and put the mayonnaise in between the deli meat so that it doesn’t sog up the bread and make it mushy.


These retailer tactics aren’t just limited to grocery stores by the way.

It’s also done by electronics retailers, the biggest culprit being Circuit City or The Source, whatever the hell they’re called. (They’re going out of bidness right?).

They have ridiculous prices on GPS and laptops. I did price comparisons when I was buying my Garmin Nuvi 255W GPS and they were priced at almost $100 more!! And they were in the middle of a “BIG BLOWOUT RECESSION SALE”.

My butt.

Stores like Jacob, can also sell their clothing at $5 a piece, and still turn a profit. But instead, they price it at $60, $100, and then discount it down to what they consider to be ‘reasonable’, but only after the first flash of bleeding edge fashionistas comes along like locusts to buy it (say that really fast 10 times, I dare you!).

We just think that paying a higher price means it’s of higher quality. And in most cases, it’s true.

But I’ve been to cheap stores like Stitches (ghetto chic) that turned out a white camisole that has lasted and stayed pill-free much better than the Jacob version.

And it’s thicker and less see-through to boot!

What you need to do, is evaluate the quality of each item, regardless of price.


The last thing I am fairly sure we have ALL done, especially if we are women who have been at a makeup counter, is buy $50 – $75 worth of makeup that we don’t really need, just to get the cute bag for free.

Am I right?

Well groceries have done the same tactic. My local grocery gives away free sweet peppers (or whatever food they want to get rid of), if you buy over $60 worth of stuff.

While it could be a great thing because you end up getting something free when you were going to spend $75 at the store anyway, some people (he says), will actually buy more than what they need to hit that $60 just to get the free $2 peppers.


Anyway, just found all those things interesting, coming from the horse’s mouth, considering the amount of research that went into how we buy and then the retailers just adapted to our psychological demands for the best price.

It’s funny that we don’t want to be boring and just buy at a simple, low price all the time. We’re so conditioned to look for a sale that retailers have to inflate the prices and create one just to get our wallets working.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.