Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Saturday Rant - Supermarkets

I did a big shop in our local Tesco yesterday. It had been a little while since I had gone in there for anything more than a pack of yoghurts so I had expected it would take maybe 45 minutes to go around and get all the fruit, veg, meat and other things that I needed. However in the end it actually took almost an hour and a half.

The main reason is that since the last time I went there, they have moved half the products to completely different shelves and in some cases to the opposite end of the store. I had noticed this previously on occasion but given the amount of items I needed to buy yesterday it really brought it home to me.

Years ago I had naively assumed that the supermarkets did this in order to optimise the use of their shelves but I watched a TV programme a few years about the psychology of supermarket layouts and learned that that is not the reason. They do it because they know that shoppers fall into a regular pattern if the layout stays the same and will generally just buy the same things. So in order to disturb this pattern, they move a lot of things around so that shoppers will come across items they might not have previously purchased and be tempted to buy them.

Now that I understand this, it makes me more and more angry when I find that I have to criss-cross the store several times in order to find the one item I want. I virtually had to run the entire length of the very large store in order to find a tin of beans as they had moved from the last two places they had been in the last year. The frozen section had been completely changed too so getting a bag of ice took about 3 minutes and a full circuit of the section rather than the 10 seconds it would have taken. And so on and so on. What made it even worse is that some of the aisle descriptions hanging from the ceiling had not been updated so were still saying the wrong thing.

I guess they can get away with this because most people don't realise that their heads are being messed with in this way. If they did I suspect there would be a backlash against this sort of thing. Time is precious and supermarkets are deliberately sapping it from their customers in order to make a little bit more profit on top of the billions they already make.

I did think about complaining but this is a corporate level policy that the local managers will have no power over so I did not see the point. If I can summon the energy later I might write to the CEO of Tesco about it.

I wouldn't be surprised if in the next years or two there is a big expose of this practise and we start getting supermarkets pledging not to do it any more in their advertising.


Sara said...

Shop from home. I use Ocado for good quality produce and plenty of free range meat.

It saves money, as no impulse buys, and it certainly saves time.

sanbikinoraion said...

The Waitrose and Sainsburys near me in Bath do this very, very little - everything has been in the same place in there for as long as I remember (except that Waitrose replaced one regular aisle with chillers, but that's hardly cheap for them either). Whereas in Doncaster, I distinctly recall both Asda and Tesco doing it at about six-monthly intervals.

So I think that some supermarkets are already worse than others in this regard and if you have a choice I recommend switching!