It’s not quite that simple, and not every retail decision is made with the goal of tricking us. NPR’s Planet Money podcast team rounded up a diverse group of grocery managers and retail experts to answer the question. The final verdict: milk is located where it is for practical reasons, not to inconvenience you.
Dairy products are quite perishable, and the people who handle milk during its journey from the cow to your cereal bowl want to preserve its shelf life. That’s why you’ll find dairy coolers at the back or on the side of a store. On the other side of those rolling shelves is a walk-in cooler. Often stores are laid out so that dairy can go right from a refrigerated truck to the back of the store, and products never reach room temperature until they hit your cart.
The experts agree that making customers walk through a whole store isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the main reason why milk is located in the back of the store is a very practical one. If the point were to inconvenience us, some grocery chains wouldn’t have a small dairy cooler at the front of the store for people who need milk and are in a huge hurry.