Buy, buy, buy!

A comment on a very funny Scott Adams’ post about a Las Vegas casino sucking money out of his wallet led me to this fascinating post about casino design. In turn, some of the comments there are very interesting too.

It reminds me a bit of supermarket design. How things like milk (that you might come in for regularly) are always at the back, so you have to walk past everything else to get to them… and keep looking elsewhere to find eggs and bread.

Weetbix: Coles vs Woolworths (2007)

Safeway have 1.2 Kg “Only at Woolworths/Safeway” bulk packs of Weetbix… a great deal, sure to get you going back to them. What they don’t tell you is that Coles stocks 1.3 Kg boxes.

All part of the way that businessmen design the world to help us consumers part with our money.

That said, I try to resist all the impulse buys while grocery shopping. I tend to stick to a fairly well-defined list. I stock up on things that are on sale (including switching brands, within reason, and buying two-at-a-discount knowing one will go in the freezer), but only if I know I’ll need them.

PS. Speaking of consumption, I’ve got hold of a thing which measures electricity consumption for individual appliances. I’m going to try it soon, and see how much juice the computers/TV/microwave/etc are each burning up.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

16 replies on “Buy, buy, buy!”

We actually have a list of things we look for when we go to the supermarket. We always check kitty litter and cordial.

Good trick on the weetbix though!

how true about supermarket design. It annoys me that most supermarkets now-a-days only allow you to go through one entrance – so to get to the checkouts you need to walk thru’ the entire store (sounds like Ikea, actually?)

Like you, I stock up on sales etc too, only when they are regular buys and I know they will be used in time. I have a master list that I have on my PC and use that when shopping – it’s listed in order of the store layout and if we don’t need it, it’s deleted from the list for that week. Makes it so much easier to avoid the impulse buys when you have a list. It even includes space for the week’s menu, so I can then shop for those meals.

I am saved from impulse buying temptation on many things by the fact that I am a Coeliac – I can’t safely eat aboit 80% of all packaged food, so I don’t even look at it anymore. I also shop from a list which includes the week’s menu plan (like Rae) – much less gets wasted that way. Items like laundry detergent, toilet paper, frozen peas etc (which we use all the time) are the only things I will buy extra of if they are on special. (But I don’t generally switch brands … I’m a creature of habit!)

When our family shops we always work to a specific list – not that uncommon. What we also do is work out each week what we will eat and buy to that menu – this seems to be less common. It means we waste less food, can do a single shop each week, and it makes getting dinner ready less stressful in amongst a busy family life. And before you ask, we choose from hundreds of recipes covering the whole range of cuisines so we’re never bored.

We also shop separately for groceries (at Coles because it’s close), meat (at a real butcher) and fruit & veg (at a local growers market). What is nice is that every Saturday I take my three year old daughter on shopping trips (butcher and markets) and finish with a coffee and cake – it is a wonderful experience.

I think I’m the only geek I know who HASN’T got one of those power meters. A trip to jaycar may be in order.

As for getting people in, Big W at QV must be the worst with its one-way escalator.

And yesterday pm even the entrance onto Swanston was blocked by security guards hence requiring a further deviation via Lonsdale.

As it happens, I have lately been on a spending/modernisation binge, but not one cent has been spent there!

I bought one of those power meters earlier in the year and tried it on various appliances. I found out useful things like our tv uses hardly any electricity on standby, and using the washing machine at 30c instead of 40c didn’t reduce the electricity demand by much. I meant to test other things around the house but when my computer died while plugged into it (probably a coincidence but i’m not sure), I lost interest in using it.

A list IS the best way to remind yourself why you stepped into the grocery in the first place. You can also add a big, “DON’T BE TEMPTED BY YOUR IMPULSES!”

By the way, did you buy both boxes so you can take a photo of them?

The results may be interesting, but you won’t get much meaningfull info on the the biggest power consumers in your house – hot water and electric heating. You can’t unplug the hot water so you won’t be able to measure that at all. And for both, they have thermostats that regularly switch them off and on, so you won’t get a meaningful number unless the meter can accumulate over a full day.
I would be very surprired if standby power represented over 5% of your power usage, or if standby power and lighting combined repsesneted over 10%.
If you do get any sort of meaningful figures, I’m sure you will share them which I look forward to.

This reminds me of the carbon cops series. For similar reasons it is not clear whether they did much useful, nor was much usefull information provided by the show (saving 30 tonnes of CO2 per year is completely meaningless to me). Analyzing energy comsumption requires some sort of scientific ability, even more so for trying to reduce it significantly. I don’t know if the cops had any sort of qualification. I am simirarly very suspicious of the star ratings calculated for houses.

I have one of those Jaycar power meters and I was surprised to find that my washing machine uses about 20 watts when it’s off. So now we turn it off at the power point after use. Happily, it only peaks at 300 watts when doing a 1000 rpm spin. Most of the time it uses very little.

Our 34 cm TV uses 21 watts when off. Our computer monitor guzzles more than 15 when off. Our Mac mini’s power supply uses 7 watts when the computer is off. The computer adds 2 watts to that when sleeping. If we could get an Energy Star compliant power supply, that would be nice.

Hot water power usage can be worked out by viewing the mains power meter at the end of the day and again in the morning. The change in power used is how much the unit used overnight. But from October to March ours uses nothing other than about 9 watts to move water to and from the solar panels.

I was surprised to see that our microwave oven uses less than 1 watt when idle. It certainly hums a lot and I thought it must have been doing something hungry. But it’s not. Our DVD player gulps 14 watts on standby but my CD player uses 2 watts when running. Very odd, and probably indicative of the attention paid to careful design by Teac and NAD respectively.

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