Rolling in the aisles

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog front recently, partly due to illness and partly due to a top secret side-project that I will hopefully be able to talk about here at some point.

So, to get back in the saddle, here’s a quick look at something interesting I saw on the Edward Tufte forum. Towards the end of a discussion on instructions at the point of need, a user posted this image of a supermarket cart/trolley (delete according to which side of the Atlantic you are on).

Supermarket map

What a brilliant idea, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wandered round and round a supermarket trying to find a particular item. Or even a whole section sometimes. Why don’t more supermarkets do this?

Well, unfortunately, supermarkets are businesses, rather than existing as some kind of public service, and they have many ways to make sure you part with as much of your money as possible. Not only do store layouts frequently change (which would require regular updates to the maps), but it is in their interest for shoppers to get lost and be tempted by all the other lovely goodies on offer. As the excellently-named James Intrilligator of Bangor University says here,

“It’s no coincidence that supermarkets don’t provide shoppers with clear maps of the store layout, that the names of aisles are often ambiguous or that they keep moving things around. It’s not to improve displays or make shopping more efficient – it’s to keep you lost, confused and receptive to their advertising of premium brands and aspirational products.”

So, props to Bloom Grocery Store (or Food Lion as it seems to be called now) for helping out customers in this way. If only we came across this kind of thing more often.

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