English: Mind-control | March 11, 2010

NOTE: My teacher had us write a paper on mind control a year ago, here it is. My teacher’s definition of mind control was very broad, and not the typical concept of mind control. Mind control here is anything that influences or sways thoughts at all.

     Mind control is anything that is used to influence or cause someone to choose in a way that they might not freely choose were they not being influenced. Supermarkets use mind control with layouts and other strategies that compels the consumer to buy things that were not in the initial intention on buying, and there are two simple solutions to this problem, one being individual recognition and control of these strategies supermarkets use, and then supermarket changes that it is not engineered to influence excessive buying. Since the latter is highly unlikely, it leaves it up to consumers to control and regulate what they do, and take a sense of responsibility to their own well-being other than to complain about something and depend on the supermarkets or government to change how they shop. There are many tactics supermarkets use to make you spend more. They include the more profitable items in the center aisles while putting essentials on the perimeter of the store, using time and eye level items to make the consumer buy more, or the more profitable. Also, they use deals, impulse buying, and use of in-store ads. These ploys they use to maximize the profit and to leave consumers with things essentially unneeded.

     Item placement is very important for supermarkets, in order to make shoppers buy virtually unnecessary or more costly things. The first thing they do is put the “essentials”, milk eggs, fruits, vegetables, etc., on the outer rim of the store. So any way you, the shopper, go is to be bombarded by in-store ads and many things that look really good but are not necessary and probably wasn’t in mind to buy in the first place. The items that fill the center aisles are the less needed and are the most conveniently placed items, right in the center and are on route toward the shopper’s main goal and the reason why you traverse through the tempting aisles that look so good and are easy impulse buys. The easiest way to avoid this is to strictly stay on the perimeter aisles. Do not go through the center just because it’s the fastest route to other side. Mark Twain once said “There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.” Which means that if you can’t resist impulse buys, just avoid it all together, even though it might not be as convenient to walk all the way around the store?

     Supermarkets have studied you. They have studied the habits through loyalty cards, which records what and when you but, and also through studying habits and movements in the store through CCTV(closed caption television). Those are big source of information in which they hired scientists to engineer the store to maximize time in store and how much you buy.  They use what is most convenient to the shopper and places the more profitable item in the more convenient space. One example placing items at the eye level of the target consumer. Putting it at eye level means that is the first item they see, and more looks, and it being the initial item seen, the probability it is chosen over others increase. And in some cases the consumer only looks once, and does not hesitate to grab it. This tactic especially takes advantage of the consumer if they are in a rush. Time in store also makes a difference. (Studies show that the more time spent in a store makes the chances of buying more increase) and (another study shows that on average, every extra unplanned minute in the store means another 2 dollars spent). Supermarkets have noticed that most customers go right when they enter a supermarket, and also when scanning shelves, look left to right spending more time looking at the item more on the right. So when shoppers enter the store, they see more likable items on display on the right, and on shelves, the items are placed cheapest to more expensive, incrementally, from left to right. Gondolas, or endcaps, in stores also are another marketing ploy. They put items on the endcaps, sometimes in a big display with a big sign, right before shoppers enter an aisle and it makes it seem like a sale, or the more expensive items are positioned there so you take a couple looks at it, making it more likely to put one or two in the cart. Only way to combat this is overlook it completely regardless of the item, and block it out.

     Deals are not necessarily deals in the end. Sure, you save a couple cents on a product, but you spent more money in the end, money you otherwise wouldn’t have spent had there been no deal. Deals are in the form of BOGOF(buy one get one free), and coupons. These deals are usually on items you wouldn’t have bought initially. Supermarkets do this to get you in the store, if they have a sale, it provides you the reason to browse and to buy other stuff, not necessarily on sale. It also clears out a stockroom that needed to be cleared, and dumps it on the consumer. KVIs, or Known Value Items, supermarkets have found, are few. So the price can vary without the consumer’s knowledge, and they can be lead to believe something is on sale when that is not the case. Gondolas and endcaps can be under this category, they look appealing in their display but they are not necessarily on sale even though they look so. How do you fight off the urge to buy because of the deal seeming so good? Substitution, only buy an item on sale if it replaces something that you originally wanted to buy. That makes it so you don’t lose out on the receipt and you still get just what you need, and really save in the end.

     Senses play a big role in supermarket shopping, you may not have realized it because, some, are at a subliminal level. It causes impulse buying, stores attack the senses. Namely, sight, hearing, smell, and in a small way, taste and feel. When shoppers walk into the store they are invited with easy listening, bakery smells, and big displays and signs with bright colors and bold letters. With music, there have been many studies by “Muzak”, a music advertising company that engineered the music and the playlists to invite and advertise shoppers to buy more. It keeps them in the store and on a subliminal level, tells them to buy store items. Then, the bakery smells, it makes you hungry, and want baked goods, or just food in general. And if you’re already hungry, then it’s just worse. When you’re hungry, impulse buying increases greatly. So the bakery smells do not help at all. The signs, too, subliminally, tell you what to do, indirectly. By use of fonts and colors they do. If something is bold, or has big letters, it shows a sense of urgency, or it shouts that it’s a good deal. Same with colors, red has a sense of urgency and bright colors in general say it’s a sale or a good deal. On a small level too, the other two senses are being attacked, feel, when you enter a store, the change in temperature is inviting and very comfortable, while samples tempt the person with a tangible thing, that is tasted. Supermarkets bombard the senses, overloading the senses, lowering our defenses against buying things we otherwise wouldn’t have. This is unavoidable, except for samples, as they are our senses being attacked. There are no ways to avoid these attacks, but there ways to prevent them from affecting you. With the smells, eat first and it will have a minimal effect on you, and with the signs, just try to be impartial to sign color and font, pay attention to the content of the sign. With the music, earplugs or headphones; everything else, shoppers just have to be aware of it. Supermarkets use these tactics to invite shoppers to spend more, and it works.

     The best prevention of these tactics are to have a strong will, and be informed of what supermarkets do to make money. The tactics come from studying human behavior in supermarkets, and it works really well. The whole store is engineered to make you spend your money, from the bakery to the milk aisle. From how high an item is, to how far right in the store it is. Being unaffected by the store layout is highly unlikely, especially if you don’t realize that each item placement is a trap to make you buy it. Supermarkets invest far too much time in how we shop, which, ironically, raises prices more, giving us a tighter budget making it harder to buy things. Their investment has paid off greatly with the application of these studies. It does make shoppers spend much more than necessary. In the supermarkets, the deals are, in the end, to the supermarkets, but in the short term, shoppers think they’re getting the deal.


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