Beware Of Pester Power And Grocery Store Layouts

Photo by Alimann courtesy of


“We don’t have any of this!” my daughter announced as she stood eye-to-eye with the cartoon character on a box of cereal at the grocery store. She was about 4 at the time.

“We have plenty of cereal at home,” I replied.

“But we really need this!” she exclaimed.

I ushered her back into the grocery cart and reminded her of the deal we had. Our cart featured a kid-sized two-seater truck connected to the front. She had agreed to stay in the “truck” while I maneuvered the contraption around the store. I tried to keep her more than an arm’s length from the shelves.

Obviously she didn’t hold up her end of the deal. I wasn’t enjoying pushing a truck around the store, either.

My daughter was a prime example of “pester power,” which is a marketing term that relates to the power of kids influencing purchase decisions. It’s also called the “nag factor.”

My daughter didn’t get the cereal. We had agreed ahead of time that she could pick one treat and it was in the cart.

Most grocery stores are arranged in a strategic manner to entice us to stray from our shopping lists and perhaps stretch our budget a bit. Marketing specialists and psychologists have helped plan layout and advertising strategies to entice us to buy things.

For example, highly sweetened cereals with beckoning cartoon characters don’t just happen to be at kids’ eye level. Products are positioned on the shelves to get noticed.

Look beyond eye level. Check what’s on higher and lower shelves, then compare Nutrition Facts labels. You may save some money and get more nutrition for your dollars, too.

Stores are arranged to promote lingering and impulse buys. Is the deli or bakery in your path? The delicious aroma of fresh-baked bread entices you to bring home some baked goods even if you have two loaves of bread in your freezer.

Maybe you need a gallon of milk. To get it, usually you need to travel to the back of the store. You may grab a few items on the way.

Often items are grouped to promote buying additional items. Yes, it’s convenient that special seasoning mixes are right by the meat, but maybe you weren’t planning to buy the seasoning.

Consider the layout of the store, and stick to your list. Try shopping the outer aisles, where most of the staples are located. Watch out for the end caps. Marketers know that we are much more likely to buy items on the ends of the aisles.

My daughter and I had just eaten dinner, and that’s a good thing. If you shop while you’re hungry, you may find yourself putting away extra groceries at home.

Beware of the signs that put limits on items, such as “Limit: 12 cans.” Psychologists have reported that by placing a “limit” on things, people are more apt to buy the upper number.

Is it a great deal? Maybe the dozen cans of stewed tomatoes at a special price will be in your cupboard for a while. Compare unit prices, too. You may find a better deal.

When my daughter and I finally reached the checkout counter, we were greeted by candy, gum, disposable cameras, lip balm, batteries, magazines and all sorts of small items. Some of those diet plans featured on magazine covers sounded quite amazing for four bucks.

My daughter and I did OK. I pushed the grocery cart-truck out to the lot with just a couple of items that weren’t on my list.

Consider adding some heart-healthy apples and oatmeal to your shopping list for this easy dessert recipe.

Apple Crisp

4 to 5 medium apples
1/4 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. margarine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a square pan. Remove the cores from the apples. Slice the apples. Spread the sliced apples on the bottom of the pan. Cut the margarine into small pieces and put in a medium-sized bowl. Add the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Using two knives, cut the margarine into the mixture until it looks like small crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the apples. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 28 g of carbohydrate and 2 g of fiber.