If you have to stand in line while waiting to check out, you’ll inevitably find yourself in the midst of everything from bobby pins to Tic Tacs. The displays near the register are the perfect place for stores to entice waiting shoppers into making some last-minute impulse buys. In 2020, shoppers bought $6 billion worth of items displayed near registers, according to a report from IRI.
Even though items near the register might seem like a good purchase, they’re often of lesser quality or have an inflated price, neither of which is a smart way to spend your money. Here’s what to be aware of so you don’t get suckered into buying these 12 useless things at the checkout line.
“This is probably the biggest culprit for the temptation to impulse buy in a checkout line. It may not seem like a terrible price — plus you can talk yourself into getting just one candy bar there rather than going to town on the candy aisle,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews.
“But the truth is that you’re better off buying in bulk to get a great price; just plan on sharing the candy with family and friends or keeping it on hand when you need a sweet treat.”
Unless you’re in desperate need of a pair of shades, the checkout line isn’t the place to buy them.
First of all, think of all the people that probably have handled them before you. Next, will you really have time to make sure the frames aren’t bent and the lenses are completely scratch-free before you pay for them? It’s doubtful.
“Magazines and tabloids can be found in practically every checkout, but the prices on these items are absolutely ridiculous,” said Ramhold.
“And if you happen to see books there? Those are also overly expensive. Instead of shopping at the grocery store for these items, consider going to the publisher’s website and getting a subscription to the magazine you’re interested in. If you aren’t sure, you can head to your local bookstore to sit and thumb through the latest issue before deciding to subscribe. As for books, head to Target or a bookstore to grab the latest bestseller — you’ll get a much more reasonable price (and have a better selection, too!)”
As Seen On TV Products
If you’ve ever ordered any of these types of items, you know that more often than not, they don’t live up to the hype. Even worse, some of these items go straight in the trash once you try them.
The same goes for the As Seen On TV items at the checkout line. Unless you personally know someone who has the item and loves it, keep walking.
These may seem like great last-minute gifts, but you’re paying list price for them and sometimes even added charges to activate them,” Ramhold said.
“Instead of picking them up in the checkout lane, buy them in bulk at warehouse clubs like Costco. You can buy multipacks for different restaurants and retailers and save anywhere from $15 to $50 off the list price.”
Think about it. Have you ever received a gift set that you thought you couldn’t live without? Likely not. Unless the gift set has items you know you’ll use promptly and it’s truly a good deal, pass it up.
And if you’re thinking about saving it as a holiday gift, you’re running the risk of stashing it somewhere once you get home and forgetting you ever bought it — which is also a waste of money.
“Unless it’s a colorless lip balm, it’s best to skip checkout cosmetics,” Ramhold advised. “Anything with color is going to need more investigation than you’ll have time for in a checkout line; not only that, but there’s a good chance these items won’t have any kind of deals going for them. If you want the best price and a bigger selection, head to the beauty aisle in the store, not checkout lane No. 5.”
It makes sense for stores to put cheaper, lesser-known brands of chargers, cases and other phone accessories by the checkout. This strategy is targeted at shoppers who realize at the last minute they need such an item but do not want to abandon their place in line to go back into the depths of the store and retrieve the brand they’d normally buy.
Just remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Ending up with a charger that loses connection or an ill-fitting phone case just isn’t worth it.
Travel Size Toiletries
“These are almost always a terrible purchase wherever you buy them because you get far less than you would if you were to buy full-sized items, and the unit price is much higher than if you were to buy full-sized items,” said Ramhold.
“Instead of buying travel-sized items, buy the full-sized from the beauty or personal care section, and then put those into smaller bottles if you need a travel size to carry with you.”
Cheap is probably the first word that comes to mind when thinking about jewelry at the checkout. Otherwise, it would be locked away in a display case somewhere.
So unless it’s an amazing and unique item that you’ve never seen anywhere else, which is doubtful, keep your money. Chances are that it’s an item the retailer bought in bulk and priced way above its actual value. Plus, cheap jewelry also has a tendency to break easily, which makes it nothing more than junk.
“Especially at grocery stores, these items aren’t going to have good prices, but they also have low turnover in places like that, so the batteries may be on their last leg before you even open them,” Ramhold said.
“Skip buying the batteries there and consider going to Best Buy or, at the very least, shopping in the electronics aisle of Target instead.” You can also buy batteries in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco to save a nice chunk of change.
No matter how much your child tries to convince you that the little toy near the checkout is what he’s been wanting forever, don’t give in.
Toys located in this area are most often novelties, designed to attract children’s attention long enough to rip the packaging off and play with it for a few minutes before they move on to something else more interesting. At that point, the toy becomes nothing more than a piece of clutter.
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