MSNBC has posted a list of 10 Things Your Grocery Store Doesn't Want You to Know. Seeing as I work in a grocery store, and would like the chance to defend my store (even though it sucks sometimes), here's my response:
1. The shopping carts have cooties.
Well, duh. So do most doors, railings, and pretty much anything else a large group of people (not to mention their grubby kids) put their hands on on a regular basis. My store provides handi-wipes that customers can use to sanitize the carts before use. If you're really worried about cooties, give yourself a cootie shot (kidding, but just barely) and make sure you wash all your raw produce and fully cook all your food before you eat it. Washing your hands often also helps.
2. Dates are open to interpretation.
This is true. The majority of foodstuffs are actually good for another few days after their printed "sell-by" date. Stuff like deli meat, however, should be eaten within 3-4 days (cheeses last a little longer). In the deli, we keep most meat after it's been opened for 7 days, then toss it.
3. Kid-friendly food is purposely placed within their reach.
Well, yeah. That's just a clever marketing strategy.
4. They cut up food so they can charge more.
Yep, we exploit lazy people for more money. Here's the thing: if you want something that's difficult to cut up (like a pineapple), pick out a non-cut one, then take it to the produce counter and ask them to core it for you. They have a machine that will do it, and they (hopefully) won't charge you for it. I once used a deli slicer to shred lettuce for a customer (I told him I couldn't guarantee there wouldn't be bits of meat still on it, but he didn't mind). Remember: the customer is always right, most places will go out of their way to make you happy, and chances are, whatever you're about to request is not something they haven't heard before. It never hurts to ask.
5. Good-for-you foods require bending and reaching.
Not necessarily. Check to see if your store has an organic or healthy section (we have four - one for organic produce; one for organic dry foods, such as cereals and chips; one for organic dairy; and one for organic meat). These areas are clearly marked, and hard to miss. For some reason, vegetarian foods (such as Tofurky!) are kept near the organic produce - because it's made out of vegetables? - so check these places if you want healthy foods.
6. End-of-aisle displays are there to distract you from your mission.
I don't know why someone would assume that just because something is located at the end of the aisle, that makes it a better deal. That sounds pretty nonsensical. Off the top of my head, things we're selling on our end-caps right now:
Knock-off Vera Bradley purses, Mission chips (on sale), Nabisco products (either crackers or cookies, I can't remember, but they're always there), Thomas' English muffins (on sale, but they're usually sold there), 12-packs of Coke products (same as the muffins), wine, children's fishing gear (we're a lake community, after all), Little Debbie snack cakes, some sort of cereal (on sale), Pantene Pro-V shampoo and condition (special promotion), sunscreen (it's the summer), refrigerated pasta and sauce, ice, and those nifty bags that keep foods cold or hot or frozen for up to three hours!
I don't think we've ever advertised our sale items on the end-caps. We have a special clearance section at the front of the store, but the rest of the sales are advertised throughout the store. The end-caps are usually reserved for seasonal items or special promotions.
7. Bargains aren’t always a bargain.
Didn't some sociologist somewhere discover that people believed buying something for 99 cents was a much better deal than buying it for $1, even though it's essentially the same price? Same sorta thing. My advice: make a list before you go, and don't buy anything not on the list. If you want to check out the sales, read the paper before you go and make sure you're getting a deal.
Fun fact: you know those "Early Bird" specials department stores advertise for sale days? Speaking from experience, they're usually not much of a bargain. I remember one sale when our "Doorbuster" specials were (at most) one or two dollars off the regularly advertised sale price. If you want a really good deal on clothes, the best times to shop are at the end of season sales. The only problem with doing this is that you may not be able to find your size. Unless it's something that you really can't live without, it's better to wait until it's at least half price.
8. You’ll walk the store the way they want you to.
Like I said, make a list before you go, and this won't be a problem. Our bakery department is at the front of the store, but they don't make that much money, so I don't know how sound this logic is.
9. The salad bar can make you sick.
We have strict health code standards that we have to abide by - chicken is tossed after 3 hours of being cooked, food has to be maintained at a certain temperature to prevent contamination, and we FIFO (First In, First Out) all of our perishable foods. I wouldn't be eating the pre-made crap anyway - do you know how much unnecessary fat, calories, salt, and sugar that adds to your diet?
10. They don’t always clean as often as they should.
I don't know where this guy shops, but it's not at my store. We clean our equipment constantly, and do a thorough cleaning of the department every night. If your grocery store has visible bugs or dust, for heaven's sake, shop somewhere else! It's been my experience, however, that cleaner stores + better customer service = higher prices. I guess it just depends on what's more important to you.
Some other stuff to know:
The best time to shop is in the early morning. Stores usually aren't crowded, and that's when the fresh produce comes in. Also, most managers work during the day, so if you have a problem or a question, you can go to them and they'll be guaranteed to fix it and make you happy. If you don't see something that you want, go to the customer service counter and ask them to special order it.