manipulations at the supermarket

supermarkets, as well as anywhere/anything else has been designed to influence your spending. we’ve heard of candy and junk food by the register – but what else? according to this article from FastCompany, here are some ways Whole Food Markets and other supermarkets have been guiding you:


  • Freshly cut flowers is an example of “symbolics” – unconscious suggestions. Flowers are among the freshest, most perishable objects on earth, which is why fresh flowers are placed right up front – to “prime” us to think of freshness the moment we enter the store.
  • The prices for the flowers, as for all the fresh fruits and vegetables, are scrawled in chalk on fragments of black slate – a tradition of outdoor European marketplaces, as if a farmer just unloaded his produce, then hopped back in his flatbed truck to drive back upstate to his country farm. The dashed-off scrawl also suggests the price changes daily. But in fact, most of the produce was flown in days ago and the prices stay fixed (the chalk on the board is actually indelible; the signs have been mass-produced in a factory).

Ice / Water:

  • Ice is another example of symbolics. Does hummus really need to be kept so cold? What about cucumber-and-yogurt dip? No and no.
  • Supermarkets have been sprinkling select vegetables with regular drops of water. Sprinkled drops serve as a symbolic of freshness and purity. Ironically, that same dewy mist makes the vegetables rot more quickly than they would otherwise.

Color of produce:

Colors have been in part to manipulate perceptions of freshness. Examples:

  • Sales records show that bananas with Pantone color 13-0858 (otherwise known as Vibrant Yellow) are less likely to sell than bananas with Pantone color 12-0752 (also called Buttercup), which is one grade warmer, visually, and seems to imply a riper, fresher fruit.
  • The average apple you see in the supermarket, while it may look fresh, is actually 14 months old.

Cardboard boxes:

Then there’s those cardboard boxes with anywhere from eight to ten fresh cantaloupes packed inside each one. They’re left that way on purpose, symbolic to reinforce the idea of old-time simplicity. Upon close inspection, it’s actually one humongous cardboard box with fissures cut carefully down the side that faces consumers to make it appear as though this one giant cardboard box is made up of multiple stacked boxes.

read article on Yahoo! Finance by Martin Lindstrom from Fast Company: How Whole Foods “Primes” You to Shop

read book by Martin Lindstrom: Brandwashed

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