Money To Live

June 3, 2009

Incentives at the grocery store

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

I have been back in Texas for several weeks now and can comment on differences in grocery stores:

  • Packaged goods are noticeably cheaper here.
  • Fruits and veggies – hard to say because prices vary with seasons and I wasn’t in Virginia in the harvest season.
  • Junk food is displayed more prominently, and there are more types of junk food

At the local HEB (a discount grocery store that has a “natural foods” section), junk food snacks are prominently displayed. At the upscale grocery stores I frequented in Fairfax County, junk food was not on display at the ends of aisles. Instead, expensive yoga mats and scarves were displayed every few aisles, in between displays of expensive crackers and soy protein powder.

It is very likely that there are stores in Virginia with just as much junk food, but I never saw them.

At the HEB check out, an employee always offers me a disposable camera or sunscreen. The third time this happened, I asked if the employees get a bonus or prize for selling the most cameras. The employee said sheepishly that some people do (meaning he had never gotten it). The prizes range from cash or a gift card to extra break time. (Read this post at the Freaknomics blog for another example of incentives.)

I wonder if cashiers at certain types of lanes are more likely to win.

The HEB at Hancock Center in Austin has 4 types of lanes:

  • self-check out (one employee oversees 4-6 check out stalls)
  • 10 items or less
  • 20 items or less
  • unlimited items

The cashier running the self-check out lanes has no chance of winning the “who can sell the most disposable cameras” contest. These customers want to do their shopping quickly. They get in and get out without talking to anyone.

People in the “10/20 items or less” lanes may be more likely to buy the disposable camera. They are picking up a few items and are more likely to be on the way to an event (a summer bbq or a kid’s birthday party, for example) than people in the unlimited item lane.

What do you think? If you were an HEB cashier and wanted the prize for selling disposable cameras, which lane would you try to work at?

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1 Comment »

  1. hrm I hate the idea of that mode of up-selling consumerism. I’d rather people make informed, conscious decisions than purchase rashly and possibly (likely? :)) wastefully. If I were an HEB cashier, I might want the prize…but since, ideologically, I oppose the idea of both unnecessary consumerism and disposable cameras, I probably wouldn’t try to sell them.

    Comment by Anita — June 6, 2009 @ 6:40 am |Reply


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