Will power is a finite resource. You only have so many good decisions in you.
Do you ever wonder why supermarkets are laid out the way they are?
I mean it doesn’t make sense, right? You walk in and bang – fresh fruit and vegetables. Exactly the kind of squishy stuff you don’t want to put in first at the bottom of your trolley.
But that’s exactly what we all do. Building little wheat-bix box fortresses to keep them safe.
But let me tell you a secret: That glitchy lay-out is not an accident. And it makes the supermarkets millions.
Supermarkets know that the logical thing to do is to break right and head to the dry-goods areas and start filling your trolley there. But they know that none of us do. We’re either lazy, or we see all the fresh stuff there and that just grabs our attention.
And then we’ve fallen into their trap.
Basically, a supermarket’s bread and butter is the basics, but the real cream is in the discretionary items – the stuff we don’t really need – the chocolate, ice-cream, fancy hygiene products.
But if you were to ask someone just as they entered a store if they were going to buy chocolate, they would say, ‘No way. I’m going to make some healthy choices.’
And that’s why they don’t give you that decision at the start of the store.
Supermarkets are relying on a phenomenon called ‘decision fatigue’ or ‘will-power fatigue’.
Basically, every decision we make costs us decision and will-power energy. Even choosing the six best-looking apples is a mental load.
So supermarkets give us all the decisions we were going to make anyway straight up. We were always going to leave with cucumbers, no matter what.
They then save up the ‘maybe’ items for late in the game – when we’re fatigued and just looking to get out of there.
Right then, they know we’re vulnerable.
And if we still make it through with our healthy agenda intact, there’s one last temptation. The check-out isle chocolates. Just as we let down our guard and are ready to congratulate ourselves for making so many good, healthy choices, we’re offered the most irresistible treats of all.
“Hey, you’ve made some great choices. Why not reward yourself with a Cherry Ripe.”
None of this is an accident. Supermarkets know us better than we know ourselves. And they know how to play us off against ourselves.
This decision fatigue is something to watch out for. It’s not just in supermarkets
Often salesmen will present the extras (say on a car purchase) one by one, rather than as a batch.
They do that because after you’ve said no to the tinted windows, and the spoiler, and the lambs-wool seat covers, the up-graded sound system AND the alloy wheels, maybe the premium after-sales care plan isn’t such a bad idea.
Will-power is a finite resource. If you know where someone is at with their will power, you can kind of predict where negotiations are going to go.
And watch yourself in negotiations where you are tired, hungry, or having to tick off on a large range of items. You’re game could start to drop if you’re not on to it.
And now tell me. Next time you enter a supermarket, what are you going to do?