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5 Sneaky Ways Grocery Stores Take You For More Money

submitted on May 14, 2010 by orangearrows in "Stores / Merchants"

Saving money at the grocery store is something we all strive for. While many people worry that their supermarket might cheat them by charging a higher price at the cash register, there are much more subtle ways that stores can take you for hundreds of dollars every year without you even knowing it. Some of these are out and out cheats, while others are just shrewd business practices that help them make more money. Little by little these practices add up to a small fortune over your entire lifetime. Here's 5 of the most common ways that stores separate you from your money without you even knowing it.
Intentionally Lean Packaged Meats:

We don't mean low fat, we mean low weight. Earlier this week, the Ralph's grocery chain in Los Angeles was sued by the city for deliberately selling pre-packaged meats that weighed less than advertised. The Department of Weights and Measures found the practice was widespread dozens of stores. How do they do it? A combination of many different methods: including the package in the weight calculation, adding an ice glazing to the weight, and just plain selling meat that was less than the stated weight. In some stores the average was 3.5% lower than the specified weight. On a two pound package of $5 per pound meat, that works out to 35 cents. Doesn't seem like much until you think about buying 100 of those packages in a year or the chain selling tens of thousands of them every day.
Paying 15% More for Water:

The next time you grab a package of chicken look at it very carefully. You might just find the words "Up to 15% solution." The store will tell you it's to improve the flavor, but it's almost certainly done to boost their bottom line. So while you may be paying $1.99 a pound for that inexpensive chicken, its really more like $2.29. Virtually free water is what helps them boost their profits.
The Meat and Veggies in the Middle:

How often do you buy that big package of meat only to find that the cuts in the middle have a lot more fat or don't look nearly as nice as those that are visible from the top. Butchers have good cuts and not so good cuts and those that don't make the grade are often put into the middle or bottom of the package. Once you get it home, you may be trimming off that hidden fat and throwing it away. An easy transfer of profit from you to the grocer. The same happens with large packages of fruits and vegetables
, apples on the inside are often bruised.
The Essentials: In the Back and Away From Each Other

Most people heading to the store will get some bread, milk, juice, meat, and some fruits and vegetables. Now stop for a minute and do a mental map of where all of these things exist in your supermarket. Chances are getting these essentials will take you across the full length of the store. The goal to get you to buy more as you migrate across the store. It is not a scam like our other points, but it does shift money from you the grocer and wastes precious time. Of course, you can conquer this one just by going to a much smaller store.
Price Per Unit, But the Unit Changes!

Head to the ice cream aisle and try to compare the per unit costs of different brands of ice cream. Should be easy right? One tag will have a price per ounce. The next one a price per pint and a third a price per quart. Take a direct comparison between Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry's. Not only is Haagen Dazs shrunk, but it sports a price per ounce while Ben & Jerry's has a price per pint. Grocers may need to have per unit pricing, but they can change the units on competing items to make it more difficult for you. Time to get out that calculator and remember your conversions from grade school.

Got 1 Minute? Read 12 Things We Used to Do Ourselves That We Pay for Today

It will get you thinking.


  • 62102
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    Posted by midget on May 14, 2010
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    While many people worry that their supermarket might cheat them by charging a higher price at the cash register.

    Vons has a policy if you are overcharged at the register you get the item for free. Not many people know this - Not even some of the employees.

    So if you buy 2 boxes of crackers and the tag price says 1.00 but the register rings up $1.01 you will only get one of the items free - the other will be charged the $1.00 price.

    Vons operates under a couple different names across the states but I believe the policy is for all their stores.
    • orangearrows
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      Posted by orangearrows on May 14, 2010
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      True - same at Giant stores here. But I noticed at times when that happens for some people who are unaware of that policy - managers/cashiers conveniently skip giving the item for free. I myself once had to request that the item should be given for free since it was a price error on their part.

      Also there is a policy at certain store that if they don't provide you the receipt for the purchase - the purchase becomes FREE.
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    • equipurple
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      Posted by equipurple on May 14, 2010
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      I find errors in pricing on about 50% of my shopping trips. Stop & Shops offer the same free guarantee, Shaws no longer does, but they will often give a $1 off coupon when it happens. About half of the time I have to remind teh cashier/manager that I get it for free. I am continually surprised by how infrequently anyone ever notes the product name and code to make a correction in the computer or to a shelf tag.
  • 62176
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    Posted by mooncow728 on May 15, 2010
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    I worked at a County Market at the service desk for a while. The free item policy was true there too. I think the reason that the employees don't like to give the item for free is because there are so many rude customers out there. The customer would purposely switch tags on things and then act stupid about the product name matching up. Or there was one guy that would completely flip out if one thing was a penny higher. And the worst was there was a man that would ask for a pound in the deli of different salads. Afterwards if the package was 1.01 he would demand that it be free because that was the way of grocery stores making there profits.

    I do agree that stores should have policies like this because it makes them want to keep their prices accurate, but there are so many people that try to abuse the system.

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