Supermarket Psychology - Are Shops Turning Into Casinos?
When is a casino not a casino? Well, when it is a supermarket, of course!
Although that may sound a little crazy, you will be surprised at the number of similar tactics that both casinos and supermarkets use in their joint mission to part us from our hard-earned cash.
Still not convinced?
Well, here are some of the similarities between these two establishments that you may find recognisable.
No Clocks, No Windows
Both of these ploys are intended to remove all sense of time and urgency on the basis that the longer you stay, the more you are likely to spend. By taking away anything that indicates the actual time (or the ability to recognise it by daylight, for example), you will naturally slow your pace.
The human brain is triggered by what we shall call ‘pretty, shiny things’. In a supermarket, it will be a particularly attractive display of luxury goods, or themed items, placed where you cannot miss it. For the casino, it is the flashing lights and the indications of chances to win.
Ambient background music encourages shoppers to feel relaxed and take their time, on busy days, supermarkets speed the music up to promote a quicker flow through of customers. Casinos also use music as a background, along with ‘jackpot sounds’ like coins dropping and sirens which encourage visitors to start playing.
There are particular smells which are known to have a positive effect on the human brain. The evergreen ones for supermarkets are freshly-ground coffee, the in-store bakery and the rotisserie; all wafted around to make us feel hungry and buy more food. It is done slightly differently in casinos, where pleasant and relaxing scents exude from the air control systems, designed to make us feel comfortable in the environment and likely to remain there for longer.
Refreshments on The House
Many supermarkets now have a coffee bar in-house and even give away free drinks. The same goes for the complimentary drinks and snacks that a lot of land-based casinos have on offer. These freebies encourage two things: firstly, they generate engagement and sociability, resulting in extended visits. Secondly, if you get something for free, you will feel the need to ‘pay for it’ by spending more.
Similarities in Layout
You will find in your local supermarket that there is no such thing as ‘popping in for a pint of milk’. Staple items like milk, bread, eggs and sugar are routinely placed as far away from the entrance as possible so that you have to pass numerous other products before you get to that milk. In the same way, casinos put their slot machines well away from the front door, especially the low-bet variations, which means that you are now obliged to pass all those tempting casino games on your way through.
You may not have spotted it before, but both supermarkets and casinos are laid out in such a way that you are ‘steered’ in a particular direction, which will usually mean going all of the way around and ensuring that you get to see everything on offer.
Although it is not a supermarket, the Scandinavian store Ikea has taken this to a whole new level; you cannot physically get out of its shops, other than by passing through every part of the shop and the checkout. Let’s face it. It takes a brave man to walk through a store’s checkout without purchasing anything!
Yet another ploy used by both establishments is regularly moving things around. No doubt a source of annoyance to you if you are trying to do a ‘quick shop’, but it works. Being encouraged to seek out one item in a supermarket almost invariably leads to buying another. In a casino, while you try to hunt down your favourite slot, you will undoubtedly find another (higher stake) one that takes your fancy.
So, do you think our supermarkets are stealing ideas from casinos to make us spend more?
We can’t say for sure, but whichever establishment you are in, it’s all about getting you to part with your money.
We hope this article will, at the very least, give you a little ‘food for thought’ on your next enforced trip out to a supermarket.
Gary has been an author for us since our launch in 2014. When it comes to all things gambling, Gary knows his stuff. Being born and raised in Las Vegas means the casino world is second nature to him. Learn more.