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How to read your supermarket

shopShopping has long been a fascinating subject for us cranks here at Globaleyes. The shiny plastic utopia of consumption, the cathedrals of commerce that are our shopping centres and the transient contentment from that latest purchase: all of these things now fill a vacumn in our lives that the dying Christian church once occupied.

But retail therapy would appear to be a dangerous hobby. Credit card debt seems to be out of control. Personal debt, we are told, is rocketing. And we're spending more and more than ever before. Our economies depend upon it: if we stop spending, 'consumer confidence' indices drop, the economy crashes and a new post-apocalptic reign of genocide and anarchy will engulf us. Or so we're led to believe.

Shopping is something that most of us do at the weekend. Whether it be for clothes, books or movies, shopping has become a leisure pursuit more prevalent than sports or movies.

But most of us 'interface' (to use that puke-inducing marekting term) at our local supermarket. You may buy your nappies, cereals and Darth Vader shower-gel according to what you think you need, but there's a lot more going on than that. More than likely, you are being completely manipulated into spending more money than you wanted to and purchasing things that you simply don't need.

Enter the folks at OPIRG at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada who want you to take a 'supermarket tour'.

What strikes you as you enter the brightly lit environment of the supermarket? As the clean aisles,the colourful arrays of fruits and vegetables, the full shelves and the cool frozen foods stand mutely before you? What messages do these potential breakfasts, lunches and dinners impart?

They have provided a detailed analysis of how supermarkets lay out their produce, what they sell, how they sell it to you and how you can de-code the nonsense to find what you want.

You can download the free tour here


How they change your mind

we want your money!
Loyalty cards, a subject in which I am intensely interested, has been popping up quite a few times in the last few weeks. Specifically, I am interested in the introduction of tracking devices in supermarkets, customer profiling and loyalty schemes.

I became intrigued by this subject some months ago, when I was given a guided tour around a supermarket by a Category Manager from a large British company who specialised in the manufacture of toiletries. During our tour I asked him many questions about how supermarkets figure out what their customers want. He was more than forthcoming in spilling the beans. What started out for me as a fool’s errand, became a learning experience that left me reeling.

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