The Unsettling Reason Why Grocery Stores Have No Windows, According To Psychology

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Unless you’re living on a remote island and living off of its land, you’ve gone inside of a grocery store at some point in your life, if not probably just this morning. This is the one place you leave knowing you’d be back to again soon. Grocery stores don’t need to market to you because they know you rely on them.

However, that doesn’t mean that you’re immune to their psychological tricks. Your psyche is being manipulated to consume as soon as you pull up to the door. However, one unsettling psychological reason, in particular, explains why grocery stores never have any windows.

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First Reason: Maximizing Space

There are actually a few reasons why grocery stores don’t have windows that aren’t all about manipulation. Some of them are practical. For instance, grocery stores need to pack a lot into a limited space so they have to figure out ways to maximize their aisle. The display space is split into aisles with each aisle being about four or five shelves high. This leaves very little room for windows.

Grocery store aisle with lights mostly off
Franki Chamaki / Unsplash
Franki Chamaki / Unsplash

After all space in a grocery store is money. Every inch is used for display or functionality. With space especially in popular areas being limited and pricey, stores need to choose efficiency over natural lighting.

Second Reason: Damaging Packaging

The second reason is also not surprising. Even if windows block its direct heat, constant sunlight affects packaging over time. Leave a piece of paper on your dashboard long enough and you’ll notice the writing on it start to fade.

Grocery Bag laid o marble with vegetables and tzatziki piled in it
No Revisions / Unsplash
No Revisions / Unsplash

The same thing would happen to packages in a grocery store if they were constantly in direct sunlight. They would need to be replaced or look worn out and lose they’re “new and shiny” appeal. Packages are designed to remain in shady room temperature conditions so the store can keep them on the shelf for as long as possible without wasting them.

The Real Psychological Reason

Okay now down to the third and most manipulative reason why grocery stores have no windows. It all comes down to shopper psychology and carefully planned out customer behavior.

woman grocery shopping looking at the camera
Joshua Rawson-Harris / Unsplash
Joshua Rawson-Harris / Unsplash

Grocery stores purposely design their stores so that you walk slowly, browse as many shelves as possible and buy more. The problem is that most shoppers are in a rush and just want to get what they need and go. So to capitalize on them too and still maximize impulse purchases, they took away windows.

Let’s explain how this affects your mind.

Think about it, without windows, the concept of time fades. You forget the world outside, don’t notice if the weather changes, if it gets dark, and get caught up in the contained world of the grocery store. Unsettling right?

The Psychology Of Grocery Stores

Retail shopping psychology is a real thing that you can study just like marketing or communications. These corporations hire people to figure out the best ways to make you comfortable spending as much time and money as possible, even beyond what you can afford.

woman posing with grocery cart in parking lot
Napat Saeng/ Unsplash
Napat Saeng/ Unsplash

Every detail is carefully planned and thought out, even the floor. The fact that it’s made of tiles is meant to cause carts to make a lot of noise. This forces shoppers to instinctively slow down. Doing so they end up browsing more.

Spending Both Time And Money

We depend on grocery stores for survival. Where else are we supposed to get food with most of us living in apartments in rural cities? Grocery stores know that there will always be demand for them, but they also take advantage of your obligatory visit by selling you more than you actually need.

grocery store cereal aisle
Phil Aicken / Unsplash
Phil Aicken / Unsplash

Statistics show that American households spend up to ten percent of their income on food and groceries. If you break it down, this comes to about $105 every week, or $50 per grocery trip.

It Comes Down To 23 Minutes

Want to know more grocery store psychology secrets? Even the music they play is a careful choice. If you pay attention next time, you’ll notice they play slower beats to slow you down or faster ones when the store is busy and the need to speed shoppers up. However, when it’s slow, you’ll find yourself relaxing and syncing up your pace, filling your basket with more than what’s on your list.

Gustavo Fring / Pexels
Gustavo Fring / Pexels

The key is to keep you there for 23 minutes of shopping. At that point, you start to make more emotional and less practical decisions. This is how you justify the extra bags of chips.

One Way In And Out

The lack of windows isn’t the only spatial grocery store trick. Have you noticed how hard it is to navigate a supermarket? For starters, the doors are a one-way entry only, and it’s not to control theft. Rather it’s to force you to walk around the tempting products while you find an exit.

fruits and veggies aisle at grocery store
nrd / Unsplash
nrd / Unsplash

You’ll also notice all the attractive and fresh fruit, veg, bakery ad flower items are displayed at the very start of the store by the entrance. They’re purposely placed there to give you the illusion of freshness and healthiness. This uplifts your spirits and puts you in the right mood to shop.

The more you think about it, the more unsettling it gets. If you’ve wandered around supermarkets aimlessly looking for items that go together like milk and eggs, you’ll find them at completely different isles just to get you passing more stuff. You get the point.

No Concept Of Time

It all comes down to a simple concept, making you lose sense of time (and space), the concepts by which we make sense of the world, structure, and rationality. It’s guaranteed that you won’t find a clock in sight in the store.

man puts his hands sitting around a round-silver-colored-wall-clock
Oladimeji Ajegbile / Pexels
Oladimeji Ajegbile / Pexels

It’s important that you make the conscious choice to spend your time (and money) wisely and figure out what actually matters.

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Aria Misty

Aria Misty is a recent university grad. She did her undergrad in media, information & technoculture with a Master in Journalism & Communications in 2018.

Aria has a particular interest in all things astrology and spirituality. This is driven by her desire to create healing. In fact, Aria went back to school for A master’s in counseling p[…]