How to disrupt the flow

Bill Packard: Cruising the aisles with flair

Posted:  Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 9:30pm

I’m not a shopper, I’m a buyer.  For years I’ve been the grocery buyer and I’ve learned a lot from the grocery shoppers.  Suspecting that there are others out there like me who want to appear more savvy in the grocery store, I’m offering some tips just in time for the festive, holiday, grocery shopping for a meal that many would prefer not to even cook.

First off, if you’re a guy, and this is directed toward guys because we’re the ones who need the help, you need to appear savvy.  Savvy is important in the grocery store.  If you look confused or not sure of yourself, you will get taken advantage of.  Take it from me.  Thanks to many years of buying, I’ve got savvy down pat.

The cart is a very important tool in your buying experience.  It’s not just for purchases.  It’s very important to the savvy.  The produce section is a chance to get comfortable with your buying experience since there are no aisles and it’s very difficult to annoy shoppers with your cart but you can get ready. Once you’re in the meat or deli section, you can begin your savvy.  When you park your cart, do not park it at the item you are purchasing.  Park it in front of the busiest item in that department.  This holds up everyone else and brings attention to you as a savvy shopper. It’s difficult to ruin people’s day in the meat, seafood, deli sections because they are wide open, too, but again, it’s great practice.

Even if you’re a buyer and know you don’t need things in certain aisles, I suggest you visit every aisle, because the more you exercise these tips, the savvier you will appear.  Take it from me.  This is how savvy shoppers do it.  As you cruise the aisles, be aware of other shoppers.  If you are cruising along an aisle and notice someone approaching from behind, SLOW DOWN!  The next technique will require a little practice as you don’t want to appear obvious.  If you see the shopper behind you gaining on you and it looks like they might be going to pass, drift to the center of the aisle.  Keep moving slowly to the other side until the person tries to pass and then move back across the aisle.  It is important to maintain your SLOW SPEED and even if you have no interest, look at the items on the shelf so the shoppers don’t suspect a thing.

From time to time, you will come to the items that you want to purchase.  You will be tempted to do a grab and run without completely stopping the cart.  Do not do this under any circumstances!  Stop the cart completely. Here is one of my favorites.  As you are looking at the price per unit and others are travelling the aisle, keep your eyes on the item and slowly turn the cart toward the center of the aisle.  Do not look at the cart of the shoppers.  Keep examining your item even if you’ve bought the thing a hundred times.  Once traffic in the aisle has stopped, turn the cart back to the direction of travel and proceed on without making eye contact with any shoppers whom you stopped.

If you are fortunate enough to have your item across from one of those special displays in the aisle, you can simply stop your cart there and shut the aisle down, but if not, park your cart there anyway and walk up to your item.  This one always identifies you as a savvy shopper.  Sometimes you have a wide open aisle with no traffic and no opportunity to appear savvy.  Wrong.  Park your cart appropriately on one side of the aisle and then look at items on the OTHER side of the aisle.  Just keep looking and occasionally pick up a pickle jar or whatever and pretend to look at the label.  Eventually someone will come down that aisle and you will have them blocked.  It’s a great feeling.

The next tip is subtle, and hardly anyone will think you’re doing it on purpose.  This one requires a great deal of confidence.  The traffic flow almost always moves in the same direction in the grocery store. Determine that direction and go the opposite way.  If you appear to know what you’re doing, the other shoppers will turn around and follow you.  It’s awesome.

It’s not over at the checkout.  No matter how many items you have, go to the 14 and under aisle.  You may be a little uncomfortable with this one, but stay strong.  While you might think that shoppers in line behind you will think you can’t count, the message you send is that this grocery store experience is all about you and you don’t care about the rules.  Actually, they’re just suggestions, anyway.

Well, I hope these tips help your holiday and beyond grocery store experience.  You’ll start to enjoy the experience more and people will begin to look up to you.

One last tip and this is serious one.  If you have children or grandchildren who ride in the cart, turn the cart around and push it backward so the child can see where they’re going. This gives the child something interesting to look at besides you and makes them much happier. There are no rules on which direction you have to push your cart, so do your thing.  You’re now a SAVVY buyer.

Bill Packard lives in Union

Bill PackardBill Packard lives in Union and is the founder of He is a speaker, author, small business coach and consultant.

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