The Real Reason Grocery Store Checkout Lines Are So Narrow

Grocery stores use all sorts of tricks to get you to spend more money. We've all had the experience of walking into Target for one item and leaving with a full cart. They are one brand that's genius with the color choices, music, and location of items that are all decided with human psychology in mind — aka the "Target Effect."

Imagine for a minute walking into your favorite grocery store. Most likely, you immediately see a large display of some sort — yummy seasonal desserts or fun trinkets that are constantly being swapped out for something new. That same store will have its big sellers — like milk, produce, and bread — at the back of the building. According to Excellence Industries, this is because it forces shoppers to walk through the entire place, probably picking up extra items along the way as they browse.

By time you reach the checkout line, your cart has way more things in it than were on your shopping list. But the grocery store's psychological strategies don't stop there. The checkout lanes themselves are purposely narrow for the very same reason.

Impulse purchases are a store's best friend

Most of us are already aware that those candy bars and other small items in the checkout lanes are a last-ditch attempt to get us to spend more money. Most of us have also given into the impulse and added a Snickers to our cart from time to time.

But, while you stand in line and wait to get to the cashier, it gives you time to think and you might decide you don't actually need some of the things in your shopping cart — and this is why those lanes are so narrow. According to Reader's Digest, more than 60% of shoppers try to ditch extra items in the checkout lanes before they reach the cashier.

To keep you from doing this, stores make checkout lane shelves small and the lanes themselves narrow. This makes it too much of a hassle to shove items where they don't belong or even to leave the lane and put items back where they do belong, says Business Insider. The easiest thing to do is just continue with your purchases, thereby subliminally making you buy more. It's something to keep in mind the next time you make a grocery store run!