This has happened to us all. Our significant other asks us to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home from work. We enter the supermarket with a twenty in our wallet. Forty-five minutes later we leave with the bread and a bag full of stuff we really don’t need. All that’s left of the twenty is a handful of change.
It was all so easy. We entered the supermarket and hung a left. This put us in the produce department, and all of a sudden, it was back to nature as the sights and odors flooded our senses. Our pace slowed as we started moving up and down the aisles.
Shapes and colors caressed us as the pressures of the day fall away. The lettering on a label evokes a memory of childhood, so into the basket it goes. A redesigned container holds the dishwashing liquid we’ve been using for years, so we pick it up. We can’t remember how much sugar we have left, so we pick up a bag, just in case. In another aisle, we find a clever little tool for opening a pop top can of soda, saving wear and tear on our fingers. Have to have it. Then there is the jar of marmalade that reminds us of a pastoral cottage in the English countryside.
It feels good; it’s relaxing. As our basket fills, we feel whole again.
This doesn’t just happen. We have fallen victim to what is known in marketing circles as the Gruen Transfer, named after Victor Gruen who designed the world’s first shopping mall.
The transfer is the moment when the an individual is transferred from a focused shopper to a passive zombie “more likely to make an impulse purchase because of unconscious influences of lighting, ambient sound and music, spatial choices, visual detail, mirrored and polished surfaces, climate control, and the sequence and order” of shelving and merchandise.
The antidote to the transfer is simple: maintain a brisk pace and remain focused on why you’re in the store. Once you find your pace starting to slow, a warning light should start flashing. Pick up the pace again and you’ll be sure to leave the supermarket with only the bread and a lot of change.