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Old 08-24-2020, 06:58 AM   #1
hazel
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A riddle from the supermarket


I know more or less how supermarket pricing works. There's a barcode on the packaging and it's linked to a specific price in the central computer. If they want to sell of something off cheap, they put one of those yellow labels on it with a new barcode. When the barcode is scanned, the price comes down the line from the stock record.

Today I wanted to buy some eggs, preferably free-range. They had three stacks of 10-egg boxes for 2 each. I saw at once that was more than I was accustomed to pay; you can usually get half a dozen medium-size free-range eggs for less than a pound. So I decided to buy the caged ones. But just then, a shelf-stacker walked past, pulled off the 2 label from the left-hand stack and said, "Those are only 1.65". So I took a box from that stack. And sure enough, at the checkout, it cost me 1.65.

Now those egg boxes were exactly the same as the boxes on the other two stacks, which were still labelled 2. They all had the same barcode on them. They hadn't been relabelled. How did the computer know they had been reduced in price?
 
Old 08-24-2020, 07:09 AM   #2
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Maybe the 3 stacks were literally the exact same bar codes, or the three bar codes were different and you were unable to discern.

Also, consider the varieties of:
  • Human error
  • Human laziness
  • Products of different manufacture are sometimes treated by a store as the same product because of their cost, the distributor from where they obtain them, or etc.
  • One thing to do is to ask the person who added the label, but one additional thing to consider are the first two bullets when you consider their answer anyways.
If selecting a specific product is important to you and you have a suspicion that the price also applies for that product, then take one to the register and see if your suspicions are correct, if so, then buy. If not, then tell them you do not want them.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 08:21 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hazel View Post
Now those egg boxes were exactly the same as the boxes on the other two stacks, which were still labelled 2. They all had the same barcode on them. They hadn't been relabelled. How did the computer know they had been reduced in price?
Most likely the SEL (Shelf Edge Label) was incorrect. It's fairly normal for retailers to have prices changes, and on a daily basis there's usually a bunch of new SELs printed overnight, quite possible they just hadn't made it out on to the display.

When I did IT for a large cash and carry chain I learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about barcodes! Barcodes can have a price embedded in them which over-rides the tills doing the lookup of the stock code. Although, There can be a lot more to the barcode than "just" the product code.

Quote:
Also known as Data Embedded, Price Inclusive or Random Weight Barcodes, these contain two pieces of information, a product code and a product price. They may alternatively contain a product code and weight, but this is generally not recommended for most retail situations.
If you've ever weighed fresh vegetables etc. and had the scales print a barcode label for you to stick on then that's where Data Embedded comes in to play.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 11:30 AM   #4
KGIII
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hazel View Post
Now those egg boxes were exactly the same as the boxes on the other two stacks, which were still labelled 2. They all had the same barcode on them. They hadn't been relabelled. How did the computer know they had been reduced in price?
That's my guess. My guess is the price was lower in the computer, but the human aspect had not yet marked the new price. Had you taken another, with the same UPC, the price would have been the same price that you paid at the register.

That's just my guess. I'm a tiny bit familiar with retail, as we modeled both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Yes, traffic patterns exist and are optimized for grocery stores. They, more often than not (when modeled), are optimized to make you spend more time in the store and thus more likely to spend more money. There's quite a bit of psychological manipulation that goes on in many retail outlets, but that's a different subject entirely.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 11:44 AM   #5
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There are good reasons for why the milk, bread, and eggs are where they are in a grocery.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 11:56 AM   #6
hazel
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I once read somewhere that raw bulk goods (which are relatively cheap) are usually arranged around the walls of a supermarket and the more expensive packaged goods in the aisles. In my Tesco, that's true of eggs, milk and porridge but not of rice, bread or pasta.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 12:07 PM   #7
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I heard it differently in High School health class.

The instructor noted that most, if not all, of the natural foods are on the outer perimeter, veggies, fruits, milk, cheese, meats, and as you go down the aisles, you find manufactured stuff, cereals, cookies, crackers, pasta, soups, etc.

It was an interesting observation, his point to us was that we should stick with the outer perimeter. I'll grant that there are tons of other advice such as avoiding dairy or meats, etc.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 12:18 PM   #8
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What I've heard is that the most often bought items are at the back, so you have to go through lots of other stuff to get to them, thus be induced to make impulse purchases. And they are spread out in the back to make shoppers see as many items as possible. If you go in for milk, and walk past the chocolate, you may decide that you haven't reached your minimum daily chocolate requirement, and buy some. Any item at all can be substituted for chocolate in that scenario. But the plan is to force you to go through as much of the store as possible, even if you only came in for a couple of items. It works. We go for just a few items, and the checkout total is seldom undr $100. My wife just keeps putting stuff in the cart.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 12:27 PM   #9
hazel
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You should make her use a list. I always carry one. I only impulse-buy when I see something going cheap.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 12:48 PM   #10
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After 45+ years of marriage, I am resigned to the status quo. I almost always have a list, but the list is just to remind me of what we need. I have discovered through hard experience that I cannot make her do anything, and if I did, neither of us would be happy for some time. Some things are worth fighting over, and some aren't.

Last edited by sgosnell; 08-24-2020 at 12:51 PM.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 01:17 PM   #11
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In a typical American grocery store, you'll enter and be faced with colorful things with large logos. At the same time, you'll be urged to enter the store by going to the right. As you do this, you'll have your olfactory senses tweaked with things like breads and cakes. The milk will be far away, in the back of the store and often in the left corner. Staples will not be in one section, but will require traveling multiple aisles. Vendors will provide benefits to the store for putting items at eye-level, or at eye level for young people if the target audience is children. End caps, the things at the ends of aisles, are often reserved for things on sale - again aiming at impulse purchases, often taking advantage of advertising lower prices or used to move excess inventory.

The list goes on... You're manipulated from the moment you enter the store. Knowing you're manipulated helps some, but the data behind it all suggests this is currently 'best practice.' I'll leave it as a subject of debate as to whom it is actually best for.

The tech has improved a great deal since then. These days, they do things like have multiple wireless access points - not because you'll connect to them but because they can use that data to track your progress through the facility. They can see when you stand in front of a selection for any length of time and that correlates with the data collected when your UPC crosses the scanner at the register.

When I was doing this, we programatically put a dot to represent people and followed them via video feeds, it was all automated and there was still a margin for error as computation cycles were expensive and there was less fidelity in the data. The tech has improved a great deal, and I assume they use things like facial recognition and more. I sold my company like 13 years ago and signed a non-compete. I kinda keep track of industry trends, but that's just curiosity.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 01:43 PM   #12
hazel
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I've noticed that a lot of people are now scanning stuff as they go, either with their phones or with a scanner that you can borrow from the store. That must provide a huge amount of information because they know in real time exactly where you are standing and how long you've been there.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 01:55 PM   #13
ondoho
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Riddle me this - I have seen it applied to loads of different articles, usually beverages (not necessarily alcoholic):

1 item costs, say, 99ct, but a 6-pack costs not 5.94 (or even less) but 5.99.

It has nothing to do with the magic .99, that's just a simple, easy to grasp example. And the price difference can be significantly larger sometimes.
I don't doubt for even one second that this isn't done completely on purpose: enough people buy the sixpack even if it's more expensive. For what I can only guess is a combination of several reasons:
  • a sort of laziness or even inability to properly calculate the prices
  • the convenience of having the six items held together by extra packaging
  • in some cases even a conscious choice to pay more for the convenient packaging, even though they roll the trolley from the cashier straight to the trunk of their car
The latter horrifies me TBH. It's that sort of thinking that will drown us all in our own filth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
the plan is to force you to go through as much of the store as possible
Also holds true for malls; around here they combine them with bus/metro stations, and somehow you always end up passing almost all stores when changing transport.

Last edited by ondoho; 08-24-2020 at 02:35 PM.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 02:03 PM   #14
sgosnell
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Elevator? I have never seen a grocery with multiple levels. Perhaps they exist, but I haven't seen them.

All this is moot for me now. With covid19 being a definite risk for me and my family, we do not go to stores. We haven't been inside a grocery store since perhaps early March. I make a list, send it to the store, and someone picks my items for me, and then they are delivered to the curbside delivery spot I park in. Delivery is available, but I like to get out of the house and drive around now and then, and that's a good excuse. I don't care what the 'personal shoppers' have to see while consolidating my orders.
 
Old 08-24-2020, 02:29 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
Elevator? I have never seen a grocery with multiple levels. Perhaps they exist, but I haven't seen them.
I've seen them in cities where there's little room for stores.
 
  


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