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Super Marketing continued...

"The grocery is trying to do a lot of things, and a lot of it is based on efficiency," Hutchinson tells WebMD. "They want to keep their loyal customers and they want to get people in and out as fast as possible. In the meantime, they try to sell you some things. They're trying to move a lot of volume through the store as fast as they can."

About 80% of grocery store purchases are straight rebuys, says Herbert Jack Rotfeld, PhD, professor of marketing at Auburn University and editor of the Journal of Consumer Affairs. That means we have a good chance of emerging from the grocery store without too much overbuying.

"I am optimistic about people's ability to handle things," Rotfeld tells WebMD. "People go in with their coupons and their lists. It's not a free-for-all."

Getting More From the Store

Rotfeld's optimism notwithstanding, there's lots of room for error. That's because two-thirds of our grocery-shopping decisions are made in the store, says Barbara E. Kahn, PhD, director of the Wharton undergraduate division and Dorothy Silberberg Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

"People come in with a general idea of what they are going to buy, but their lists tend to be vague," Kahn tells WebMD. "When decisions are made in the store, you are vulnerable to cues such as corner displays, big red 'Value!' arrows, and other in-store merchandising."

Some of these cues result in impulse buying. A true impulse buy is hard to resist. That's because it's not a conscious act.

"Impulse buying is an emotional, almost out-of-control sort of desire to grab something right now without much thought for its consequence," Mick says.

But cues also get us to make unplanned purchases. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. A big red arrow, for example, may alert us to a good buy on our favorite kind of soup. We may not have planned to buy soup, but we can save a little by picking up a couple of cans now, so why not?

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