For those who aren't aware, it's not just the placement of the milk
that's been cleverly chosen to make you walk through more of the store. Every aspect of every grocery store's layout has been painstakingly crafted to maximize the amount of stuff that each customer will buy. The staple items, like produce
are placed around the perimeter of the store. If you're only shopping for a few items at the store and they happen to fall into these popular categories, you can be damn sure you're going to walk as much as they can make you. And just what will you happen to see out of the corner of your eye as you walk along the perimeter? Those would be the endcap
s, where the best deals in the store are displayed and often given great big signs advertising the wonderful discount. There is usually a helpful notice that points you in the direction of the aisle
where more of the endcap product can be found if for some reason all those in the endcap have been purchased.
If you actually enter one of the aisles, you'll be in for a treat. The store layout folks, whoever they are, have taken the difficulty out of choosing which brand of a given product you should buy. Figuring that you are probably very lazy and unwilling to bend your knees extend your arms any more than necessary, they've placed the very best products in the vertical center of the aisle, where they are easiest to see and reach. What criteria are used in determining which products are best? Well, it turns out that companies actually pay grocery stores for preferential aisle placement. From this information, we can conclude that the company whose products are placed in the middle are the best, since they have the most surplus money to spend on things like aisle placement, implying that they make the most sales in that particular line of product, implying that more people prefer their brand to their competitors, and here in America, the majority is always right.
Of course, impulse items like candy, magazines and cigarettes are placed at or near the register for the benefit of the bored person standing in line who is still willing to spend more money. It is the ultimate crime for a store to fail to get you to spend as much money as you are willing.
Almost every other type of store you enter will use similar tactics to increase your awareness of the products in their store, and I know there's at least one multi-billion dollar company that does nothing more than consult department stores who want to make their layouts more effective. If you don't believe me, go into any store and see what's been placed 5-15 steps from the entrance, slightly to the right (the first place most people's eyes scan upon entering a room): if it's not the best deal or most desirable item in the store, it will be the ad from the newspaper that lists all the sales for the week. And if you're in a clothing store, take note of the placement of women's clothes, because 9 times out of 10 they'll be in the back. There was an article on this in the New Yorker some years ago, but I sadly lost it when I was moving.