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Shocking Grocery Store Secrets The Managers Don’t Want You To Know

By: Deborah Hughes | Published: Jul 12, 2022

To many shoppers, the promise of crisp, bright aisles and fresh produce are all part of a grocery store’s appeal. Gone are the rough edges of the outdoor market, the fishmonger’s shop front smell, or the dubiously-washed hands of the butcher. It’s a time to wander, free to pick and choose, away from the muddy fields, packing factories, or slaughterhouses in which the products were made. 

 

But between the walls of cereal brands and under the organic vegetable shelves lurk disturbing secrets. For your perusal, we’ve collected ten of the most shocking admissions from real grocery store employees. So the next time you find yourself in one of these sterile, unassuming dispensaries, remember what you will have learned here—try not to let it creep you out too much.

The Shopping Cart Cleaning Schedule

If you had to guess, how often would you say an average grocery store tasks its cleaning staff once a fortnight? Once every three months? It turns out that in most stores, the only thing cleaning your shopping carts is the rain.

 

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Worse still, one employee commented that shopping carts are often used to haul trash from one side of the site to another. Speaking of wheels: a store’s motorized carts are often left with urine residue. Thankfully, employees use a cloth to clean this up—no soap or disinfectant gets used, though.

Where The Wild Ones Roam

Employees have been known to comment on the frequency with which giant spiders emerge from fruit crates while unpacking in the back rooms, especially the banana boxes. Can you imagine how many decide to hold the fort once the box is opened?

 

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Not only that, but other animals are sure to be nearby wherever you visit a superstore. Mice, roaches, flies—they’re all invisible to the naked eye, but you can be willing to bet there’s a nest of them somewhere nearby—usually in the space under the aisles—lurking in the darkness.

Made From Scratch

If you’ve ever been convinced that the bread or cakes made at a bakery were “made that morning,” unfortunately, you’ve been conned. Most bread items come frozen and are defrosted in a microwave oven before being laid out on the shelves. 

 

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Getting your bread shipped frozen from a faraway factory hardly counts as being made in-house. The same is true for cakes and other sweet treats. Only special decorations or finishing touches, such as colored icing, glazing, or toppings, are assembled here.

Crates of Waste

Everyone knows that grocery stores throw out plenty of fresh food just because it’s nearing its expiration date. Many of these products are perfectly good to eat and still delicious, but because no one buys them, they all get thrown in the can to rot.

 

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Composting food scraps is one way to reduce food waste, but preventing excess food in the first place is better, says the EPA.

Sometimes food warrants being thrown out—but only because of poor storage conditions. For example, one grocery store threw out $100,000 worth of meat—all in one go—because it was being stored at the wrong temperature. Holy cow, that’s a lot of beef!

Mind Games

The grocery store isn’t just a place to pick up your weekly shop—it’s a battleground for psychic warfare. Ever notice how your shopping cart has grown in size over the years? It’s not accidental. See that middle shelf space? It’s the first thing to meet your line of sight, and businesses fight over that spot.

 

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According to one employee, managers are prone to informal lobbying (bribes) when it comes to grabbing more shelf real estate. And the music in any given store isn’t just something nice to listen to in the background—it’s designed to make you feel nostalgic and crave familiar comforts, such as snack foods or guilty pleasures.

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No Crying Over Spilled Milk

Clean up in aisle three! If a liquid gets knocked on a grocery store floor, an attendant will be dispatched to clean up the mess. Most stores use expensive powder—$40 per spill at least— to get the job done.

 

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This may sound expensive, but it’s probably less expensive than a lawsuit. If even a little liquid were left over, anyone could slip, and with a good lawyer, they might extract a hefty compensation. In the world of supermarkets, “crying over spilled milk” is taken very seriously.

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A Fresh-Faced Lie

Yesterday’s skin-on chicken pieces are often today’s skinless chicken pieces. Many supermarkets recycle their wings or chicken breasts, but only because the skin quickly turns green if left too long—and because they can get away with it. At least the meat isn’t completely going to waste.

 

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However, you might be surprised to learn that some chicken doesn’t get thrown out at all, even after a week or so. The chicken in chicken salad bars, as well as the sauces, vegetables, and condiments, are frequently passed off as fresh. In fact, it’s something managers often tell their staff to do.

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Sorting Systems

Most grocery stores will have waste bins in the parking lot or in the vicinity. The environmentally conscious among you will know that there are bins for recyclable waste, such as plastic bottles and plastic bags, and bins for non-recyclable waste. 

 

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The sad truth of the matter is that if one of the bins gets contaminated, a store will just throw everything in the same dumpster. Your bottles aren’t getting melted down and reused; they’re just being added to the landfill.

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Less-Than-Clean Cuts

This doesn’t go for every grocery store deli, of course, but it’s something to watch out for if you’re a pork or beef fan. According to one employee, their co-workers rarely change gloves all day or even wear gloves at all. Many don’t even wash their hands before handling cuts!

 

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Well, that’s fine, you might be telling yourself—I don’t eat or buy meat from my grocery store. That’s nice. Have you ever wondered when a store takes the time to wipe down the conveyor belts used to check out all those other items? The answer is never, of course.

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Checking The Back 

Some grocery stores are so big these days that it can feel like you’re lost in an unknown city. Thankfully, the store’s assistants are there to give a helping hand and to find the item you need. If your desired item is out of stock on the shelf, most people will ask the staff if there’s any left in the back.

 

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Ever ready to help as best they can, the diligent assistant will disappear into the backrooms of the store. But one employee confirmed what we were all wondering—most of the time, a store assistant will walk around and wait a while before walking out to deliver the classic “Sorry, we’re just all out.”

 

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