Here's How Trader Joe's Tricks You Into Buying More Frozen Food

Trader Joe's is one of America's favorite grocery stores, and the chain has more than a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to getting people to shop in its stores — even in the freezer aisle. And while they do have an undeniably impressive and tasty array of frozen foods, it's not actually the products themselves that makes the Trader Joe's freezer section so successful. 

The way Trader Joe's tries to entice customers into buying more frozen foods is twofold — they focus on the physical layout of the frozen food aisle, and they offer a smaller selection than your typical grocery store. 

Instead of having vertical freezers that are closed off with glass doors you have to open to inspect the products inside more carefully, Trader Joe's has horizontal freezer bins with open tops. According to supermarket analyst Phil Lempert, this makes it especially easy to reach in and grab what you need, or to turn a package over to inspect the ingredients, all without turning into a human popsicle (via Business Insider). 

Trader Joe's also incorporates non-frozen items into the freezer aisle, which can help boost traffic. Items complementary to the foods in the freezer bins are often found on the shelves above them, and that means that someone who needs soy sauce might impulse buy a selection from the Asian frozen food offerings that they didn't even know they needed. Smart? Sneaky? Maybe a little of both.

The other way that Trader Joe's encourages people to buy more frozen foods is by avoiding what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls "the paradox of choice." Basically, when humans are presented with too many options, we can freeze, and, overwhelmed with the possibilities, don't end up making a decision at all. Trader Joe's offers less variety than a traditional grocery store (14 pasta sauces, compared to 144 at a typical grocery), and Schwartz says that this can encourage people to make more purchase decisions, even in the freezer aisle — which may be one of the reasons why Trader Joe's makes almost double what Whole Foods makes per square foot. 

Now you know why you always seem to end up with a package of frozen mandarin chicken in your cart, even when it's not on your list.