Ten Things Your Supermarket Won’t Tell You

A little alarmist, but still fun, Get Rich Slowly has a great summary of the top ten tricks supermarkets like to play on you. Of particular interest are the claims that:

• Some supermarkets actually raise prices on advertised goods.
• There’s no federal laws mandating package dating actually jive with reality.
• Supermarkets make more money from manufacturers, not consumers, in the form of payment for prime product placement.

Get Rich Slowly’s short list is here, which actually does offer insights beyond those provided by in the original Smart Money piece.

What decepticons have you noticed your local supermarket pulling?


Edit Your Comment

  1. RandomHookup says:

    Here’s one I learned a year or so ago — different newspapers get different coupons in their inserts and often different values for the same coupon ($.75 off 1 vs. $1 off 2) based on how many groceries chains in the area double (or triple) coupons.

  2. RandomHookup says:

    Most grocery store frequent shopper cards are brain dead, meaning they have only minimal purchase history stored on you locally. If the limit on Coke 2 liters is 6 and additional are charged at a higher price, make 2 or 3 trips the same day and get everything at the sale price.

  3. J.D. Roth says:

    For the record: SmartMoney magazine publishes these “Ten Things Your X Won’t Tell You” every month, where X is always some normal business: supermarket, accountant, bus driver, dentist, etc.

    They’re *all* alarmist, which is part of their fun. Obviously, there’s truth to every point, even the supermarket list, but the points are often sensationalized for shock value. The magazine has been publishing these lists for many years. I remember them from when I bought my first issue back in the early nineties.

    Be sure to read the whole article, and not just my summary!

    >> J.D. @ Get Rich Slowly

  4. Juancho says:

    In Ohio, the major chains are Giant Eagle, Kroger, and Tops. They have been forced into double coupons (with Tops, sometimes triple), but they multiply only up to $.99. For example, a .99 coupon would get you 1.98, but 1.00 is just 1.00.

    One thing a lot of grocers try to stiff you on is using multiple coupons on a product. You are supposed to be able to. Say you got a coupon from inside your cereal box and another one from the paper for another box of cereal. You’re supposed to be able to use both, but many retailers have their scanners lock up when you try.

  5. RandomHookup says:


    True about the 99 cent doubling (though there are a couple of chains that double $1 and some that only double 49 cents). Of course, there are NO 99 cent coupons, so you are usually better off getting a 75 cent coupon that doubles instead of a $1 that doesn’t.

    I am pretty sure you can’t use 2 manufacturer’s coupons on one item (it is specified in the terms), but most chains will let you use a store coupon plus a manu. coupon (it’s up to their rules).

  6. RandomHookup says:


    You are right that you should be able to use 2 different coupons on 2 different items (sorry, I misread your post). It’s that old “1 coupon per purchase” language that drives me nuts.

  7. Drinker Nisti says:

    I’ve read this somewhere– you’re often better off using coupons near the end of their expiration date. Stores will raise prices on the item when its coupon is first published.

    My grandmother was a coupon zealot: she clipped them all and never threw them out (expiration dates were much rarer in the 70s & 80s, apparently). I inherited a bunch of her no-expiration-date coupons. A few weeks ago I tried one out: a coupon from the mid-80s for a bottle of Heinz. Ralph’s doubled it for a whopping 20 cents off! woo hoo! I know my Grandma is smiling down from grocery store heaven…

  8. ModerateSnark says:

    Jiminy, Random!

    You’d buy 2x6x3 = 36 liters of Coke on the same day? That’s almost ten gallons, double what Brownlee’s mom can eat in marshmallow goo. Have your bones dissolved yet?

    Sorry, forgot for a second you’re a fellow CACA founder.

  9. ModerateSnark says:

    There are very few, if any, chains around here (Minneapolis) that double coupons these days.

    The main thing to watch for is that the sale prices you were supposed to get were actually entered into the computer system. If you can’t catch it during checkout, you have to check your receipts at home and then decide if it’s worth the effort to go back and make a fuss.

  10. ModerateSnark says:

    Drinker Nisti:
    I have a stash of mid-80’s coupons that my mother clipped. There was apparently a fad around that time of printing “NO EXPIRATION DATE” proudly on the coupons. Only about half of them have UPC barcodes on them, and you have to wonder how good a 20-year-old barcode is anyway. The only problem is that the coupon values are less than half of current coupons (and the packaging of many products has completely changed from what is illustrated on the old coupons.) Anyway, I had to laugh at your story of doubling a 10 cent coupon. It’s fun to use these old things and see what happens.

  11. GenXCub says:

    My mother is a coupon zealot and always has been. She kept a shoebox full of labelled envelopes that contain coupons broken down by food/item type. She had a 2nd box (smaller) that contained rebate forms that also come in the food section.

    Each time a weekly came out, she would use the coupon when it would go on sale, and if there was a rebate involved, many times it would end up that she was PAID to buy the product.

    I’ve often thought of trying to create an online database which would have each week’s coupons coupled with weekly sales at various chains + rebates so it can flag when at least 2 match up. I mean she made it so if Family X bought $100 in groceries, the same groceries for her would be about $35. It was insane.

  12. RandomHookup says:


    Hell, Mrs. B is only down the street in Medford, so we get together all the time for “Coke&Fluff” parties. It can go for days.

    Actually, I live by the hardcore couponers’ motto of “stockpile when the price is right”. At a liter a day, that’s only one month’s worth for me. My pantry right now is full of Aquafresh toothpaste, Ken’s salad dressing, Ritz crackers, Quaker breakfast cookies and Cheerios, Campbell’s soup — all purchased “free” after coupons. I’m ready for the next hurricane.

  13. RandomHookup says:

    Promotional consideration for the previous post provided by the Coca-Cola Company and the Campbell’s Soup Company.

  14. AndyfromIL says:

    “Supermarkets make more money from manufacturers, not consumers, in the form of payment for prime product placement.”

    I wish….I run a small independant store and we do have to make sales to make money.

    We are not smart enough or staffed enough to re-price and re-tag the store to raise the prices just before a sale starts. Sometimes these lists of things people “just know has to be true” sound a lot like conspiracy theories to me…

  15. J.D. Roth says:

    Hey. I just noticed that the link above actually goes to my review of “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping”. The correct link to the Ten Things Supermarkets Won’t Tell You is:


  16. ModerateSnark says:

    I shouldn’t doubt you Random, but it would be great if Brownlee could chime in here now that we’ve learned you’ve been dissolving your bone(s) at “Coke&Fluff” parties with Mrs. B.

    Care to confirm or deny, John?

  17. ModerateSnark says:

    By the way, one reason Reynolds Wrap may be the #1 brand name despite very little advertising is that they’re still putting out COUPONS. There may be a big overlap between survey answerers and coupon clippers.