STAND YOUR GROUND: How To Shop Smarter At The Supermarket - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andy Wise

STAND YOUR GROUND: How To Shop Smarter At The Supermarket

Every grocery store plays them.

They're not illegal or unethical -- just clever little marketing games that almost always get shoppers to spend more money at the supermarket. 


Grocery stores hide the true value of their products behind unit pricing.  Unit pricing is typically the price per ounce of a product. 

"If you look at the unit price per ounce and compare that to different brands, you're going to get the truest dollar savings," says Donna Downen, supermarket specialist for the University of Tennessee/Shelby County Extension Service ( 

Example:  Schnucks, Midtown Memphis.  We found a package of pre-sliced Hoffman's Colby Jack cheese, about seven slices.  The price was $5.49, but the UNIT PRICE was 68.6 cents an ounce.  That calculates to almost $11 a pound ($10.98)! 

Right next to the display is the Schnucks deli counter.  Its freshly sliced, cut-to-order Colby Jack cheese was $6.99 a pound.  Just three steps to the left, and you get more cheese, fresher cheese for almost $4 a pound less. 

We just had to do the math using the UNIT PRICE.


"End caps" are the eye-catching displays at the end of grocery aisles.  They're designed to be attractive and to give the sense that what's displayed is on sale.

Here's a hint:  they are always set up at the OPPOSITE end of the store where that product and its competitors are regularly displayed.

"There may be other items of a similar quality at the same or lower price back on the shelf," says Downen.  "This is something they are trying to get rid of."

Example:  Kroger, Hickory Hill.  We found an end-cap aisle sale of Tostitos white corn chips, 13-ounce bag, for $2.48. 

So we seek out the regular chip aisle.  As expected, it's at the OPPOSITE end of the store.  The Tostitos are the same price there, but we found the Santitas brand of white corn chips, 18-ounce bag, for $2.29.

Five ounces MORE -- for 19 cents LESS.


The more you munch on free samples, the more you spend, says Downen.

"Pizza...300 percent sales increase if they give you a taste," she says.

Example:  Costco, near Wolfchase.  One of its employees temptingly and lovingly spread out wedges of mini Angus cheeseburgers.  They tasted incredible, and they should have -- for $4.13 a pound (remember, check the UNIT PRICE, then calculate to POUNDS!). 

Costco's butcher had a bin full of ground beef for almost half that price:  $2.89 a pound.

But the employee told us as long as folks were sampling those Angus burgers, they were buying.  "I sold a bunch of 'em today," the unidentified employee squealed gleefully.


The sign says, "10 cans of soup for $5."

Does that mean you have to buy ten cans to get the benefit?  No!

"It's another gimmick to get you to hopefully buy more," Downen says.

Remember, always go by the UNIT PRICE.  It's the same no matter how many you buy.

Back to the Schnucks in Midtown.  We found a sign that said:  "10 cans of Schnucks soup for $5."  We took two cans to check-out and still received the advertised discount.


It's the wall at the FRONT of the store, near the entrance and exit - you know, the one you face when you're checking out.

It's typically stocked with seasonal items - grills and charcoal during football season, artificial Christmas trees and gas logs during the holidays, etc. - all designed to catch your eye before you walk out of the store.

"A lot of seasonal items there, things that people...they're wants, maybe not needs," says Downen.  "Little extras that they are trying to encourage you to buy.

"It's just a sales gimmick to get you to buy one more thing while you're at the line."

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