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Compulsive Shopping Spree: Buying Too Much at Supermarkets

Abstract: Many people have problems visiting supermarkets, they feel a kind of compulsive shopping spree. Some simple techniques can help you to defend yourself against sales psychologists and limit yourself to buying only products that you really want to buy.

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Compulsive Shopping Spree: Buying Too Much at Supermarkets

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Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 28 Nov 2015.

I have problems visiting supermarkets, what should I do? Do I suffer from compulsive shopping?

Answer:

Many people have problems when visiting supermarkets. They are enticed to buy too much food, and junk food.

The problem, apparently a banal one, not only concerns obese people or those who suffer from eating disorders, but also, in some ways, the majority of us who are already used to shopping at a supermarket.

It is particularly true that for a lot of obese people or those suffering from eating disorders shopping at a supermarket can be a real torment, often resulting in the purchase of excessive food quantities that are eaten during binges or binge-eating episodes with subsequent strong guilt or shame feelings.

Unfortunately, present-day supermarkets are built on sales psychology principles and it is frankly difficult to avoid the techniques used to induce visitors to buy.

We can list some of these techniques:

  • Notice how essential food like bread, milk, sugar, salt, flour are placed ingeniously in one strategic place - at the far side in a supermarket. It is only possible to buy these foods after having wandered throughout all the store. And there are market researchers who have found that for each extra minute spent in a supermarket you spend more money.
  • In supermarkets many products are periodically moved from one department to another to induce even buyers with fixed habits to wander around the store and view other products while they are searching for their favourite goods.
  • Supermarkets’ colours, environmental lighting and background music are studied to induce a reduction of control and responsive attention. Have you ever noted the suggestible, trance-like condition in which you usually find yourself after entering a supermarket?
  • The majority of supermarkets welcome the customers with the fruit and vegetables department; market research has shown that this reassures the customers, reminding them of the atmosphere of the old familiar and comfortable shops or village markets that have just vegetables on show in the foreground.
  • Free packages often have links to other products. Sales psychologists affirm that when customers receive a free gift there is a 90% probability that they will buy at least one package.
  • In supermarkets products that must be promoted are exposed well, for example, it is not by chance that products are placed roughly 135 cm from the ground at a level a little below the eye level of women with an average height.

So how can you defend yourself against sales psychologists and limit yourself to buying only products that you really want to buy?

Some simple techniques can help people who have eating disorders or overweight and obesity disorders.

Always shop when you are not hungry, avoid going to a supermarket just before a mealtime.

Make a list of things that you need and as you wander round the supermarket, keep looking at the list so that you will avoid being captivated by many things that in reality you had no intention of buying.

Keep only enough money for shopping and leave your credit card at home; if you have less money in your pocket it will be impossible to buy food in excess.

Buy food that must be prepared, not ready eat. Avoid food that usually provokes binges.

Intelligent natural language question-answering in the area of psychology and psychiatry. Ask a simple question:
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