Ban the Plan-O-Gram

Posted Oct 18, 2005
Last Updated Nov 8, 2011
ban the plan-o-gram

The first time I encountered the world of Plan-O-Grams was as an associate for a well-known pet store. I had just familiarized myself with where all the items in my department were located when a manager showed up with this piece of paper that had a layout of my department—the fish department.

My merry-go-lucky manager who knew practically nothing about fish and small critters said cheerily, "We got a new Plan-O-Gram today. We’ll be starting it tomorrow.”

Not to be one who appears clueless, I smiled and nodded as if I knew what the heck she was talking about, but honestly I though she was announcing a new type of aquarium or fish health kit. As soon as she was around the corner, I raced to the counter and pulled out the mysterious new piece of paper.

I was mystified. No no… this is all wrong. The fish food is over here, the decorations are here…. Leave it to management to have it all wrong.

Well in 24 hours I found out that I was the one who was wrong. And ever since that day, I have been a devout opponent to Plan-O-Grams.

According to my store manager, the Really Smart People that analyze shoppers studied our store and found that we needed to optimize the shoppers experience and increase our profits by placing the items in a totally new way.

So the fish food moved to the next aisle and the bagged pellets got moved to the middle rather than an end; Siamese Fighting Fish bowls were moved a row over and below them had to be a specific brand of filters had to be below them—and the rest of the filters and accessories had to be moved down to the other end of the aisle they already were on. And the aquarium rocks… well lets just say that their new location could be defined with a friendly metaphor.

I suppose that all the money that our company paid the Really Smart People to come up with the studies for this new plan were worth it… but something in my mind was skeptical. All the customers came in and had panicked looks of confusion. "Where is the Goldfish Food?” or "I can’t believe you stopped carrying Nova Aqua.” Maybe that was the Really Smart People’s plan all along—confuse the customers so much that they don’t care how much they spend. But I personally disliked it because it forced me to interact with customers more.

Well it turned out that I was not cut out for the life of a sales associate. So I moved on to other forms of work. I thought I’d never again have to deal with the Plan-O-Gram ever again. Of course I was young, and naivety seems to be strongly correlated to youth.

I had almost forgotten about the absurd Plan-O-Gram epidemic until one day I walked into a nearby Kroger I’ve been frequenting for nearly a decade. As soon as I entered the building I knew something was wrong. I should have paid heed to the hairs rising on my neck, but I brushed it off as a reaction to the magazines full of front-page breasts and great bedroom advice I just passed.

But no, it was a little more sinister. I turned down the aisle to get my hot buffalo sauce and… no… I must have went down the wrong aisle. I walked to the end, went down the next aisle. Towels and bowls. Nope… the other side… cereal and toys. Nope. Next aisle had candy—My God, wasn’t this where the charcoal was for the last five years!?

Starting to sweat, I stormed the store with wide-eyed paranoia similar to the way I do when one of the kids that is supposed to be at my side is hiding in the remote, free try-out section! I even started to run, hoping that I would either smash into a stocker or at least collide with someone else who was just as lost as me. Luckily, I found one familiar place in the store, and I checked beer off my shopping list. I was tempted to start the night early right there in the store, but refrained and got my bearings.

Using the alcohol section as a point of reference, I slowly worked my way around in exploration. I soon found out that the people who reorganized the store (the aforementioned Really Smart People) were smart enough to keep the booze in the same place, but otherwise were not exactly all that smart. I eventually found my buffalo sauce next to the Little Debbies and bread.

I’m just finally getting used to the new setup, but really I’m still not happy about it. Come on guys! All I want to do is get in, go straight to what I’m there to get, and then get out as fast as possible. Now, I miss half the things I want the first go, and when I get home I am reminded that I did not get spaghetti sauce and noodles—so I pack up and go back and waste more time as I head for the feminine hygiene section to get my Italian supplies. Well that’s pretty close to the beer… so there too.

Which is what those Really Smart People were planning all along with their evil Plan-O-Grams.


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Apr 18, 2010

I have worked in the reail field for 16 years and used to hate the planogram but now I understand their purpse. The whole purpose of the planogram is to break the pattern of the shoppers blind shopping. when you get used to a setup you will not go down specific aisles. when a store is changed it forces you to walk down an aisle tha that you normally would pass up. in hopes that you might purchase something in that section. If your a single guy, the feminine section is not a place you need to be, but perhaps you walk down that aisles and you see hand lotion...."hmmm I need some of that" you purchase it and they have succeeded in pulling you in and buying that one more item that you normally would not have found. That is marketing.

Rob Romesburg

Mar 28, 2009

Wow this makes me rethink all my work, I am a reset specialist for a C-Store chain i travel store to store looking at the departments and making changes to these corporate wide Plan-O-Grams based on my veiws on the stores i love them and have been working with them since i was 14 at my first job. Sorry to hear my work can confuse people and these so called "Smart People" arent always the brightest i agree with that.

Norma Powell

Sep 20, 2007

You hit the nail on the head. These supposidly smart people just don't use their heads either when catagorizing the differnet products available. I find myself going to the store that changes things the least nowadays. I shop at Kroger, Food Town, H.E.B., Walmart-Market & sometimes Walmart Supers & Randall's. I don't mind a store changing stuff around (like when the local Walmart became a Superstore and added Groceries) that is a situation where the store is like a new place altogether. So I almost exclusively shop at the Food Town because they only thing that changes in the store is the bulk (or warehouse style) isle, and that is because they get a lot of one kind of item that they put on sale. What these Smart People don't know is that they loose more business then (a least from me & a lot of my friends) then they will ever make up in products that people buy because they saw something else that they didn't come in for, while walking around wasteing time looking for what they do need. I just get frustraited and leave and go to another more familiar store. I don't have enough time in the day to spend one extra minute in the store than I have too. So not only do I not buy the extra things that the smart people think I may be buying, I am also not buying the things that I came to the store for in the first place. Kroger especially should wise up and fire some of the smart people that really think they know better than the average shopper.

Greg Bennett

May 14, 2007

Hey, the point is not to get in and get out (that is my point of shopping, but not the retailers). The longer you stay (looking for your speciality), the more you buy. You like a certain fish food, well, I guess you will stay to search for it! By the way, don't bother to notice the new bio-filter we have that you didn't know you needed....

Love and Kisses,


P.S. Great comments you have!

clint monnier

Jan 14, 2007

haha I work through a vendor company at Home Depot and I deal with plan o grams everyday. Store gets so mad when i have to move product to new locations.

jim thomas

Oct 30, 2006

i was working in a deli and one of these really smart people starting talking to me... do you know the planogram for these turkeys... so i say yes. i was going to call them out cause i was pretty sure it wasnt a real word. they shouldnt f*ck with me cause i can make up words all day. at least i know im not alone

Lee Evans

Jul 25, 2006

Gosh, we must be twins! I'm so accustomed to the layout of my local HEB that when they went to a new Plan-O-Gram design, I stayed with the old one. So on my shopping list was Laundry Detergent, Soy Milk (I'm a vegetarian), Paper Towels and facial tissue, cat food and cat litter, and avocados. Since I usually shop with only one brain cell concentrating on what I'm doing, at the end of my shopping experience, because nothing was in the usual place I found that my cart contained a one gallon jar of pickles to put into my washer, a half gallon of Purple Slurple for my breakfast cereal, Depends to wipe up spills and a stack of paper plates to blot my lipstick on. The cats got two sacks of flour for their litter box and 20 cans of car wax to eat. Obviously, these days when I shop, I turn on all my brain cells in order to make sure that the scheme of the store is correct. No more running in, grabbing what I need off the shelf and checking out in less then 15 minutes. Thanks for a good read.

Debbie Pankey

Mar 26, 2009

I hate the real smart people, they drive me crazy. Especially at Wal-Mart, they constantly change things and all I want to do is get in there and get out, it's not like they are putting really cool stuff in there anyway, so they need to quit this stuff and be more customer friendly, their a bunch of dumb dumbs


Oct 9, 2009

Good guys, One thing I found in all the people was resistance to change and I can see in all the mails.

But see every one do the job for the convenience of the customers and make some more profit.

If you fill that you can not shop tell the store to home deliver the products and give them your shopping list the product will be delivered to you and you will save a lot of time.

Guys one thing is constant That is change.


Mar 18, 2011

Sounds like you just hate change.. I'm also not sure how so many people have trouble finding things in a store. What do you do if you go into a new store? Have a panic attack?

James Tenser

Apr 9, 2011

I'm afraid this post confuses two very basic concepts in retailing - the planogram and store layout. Planograms are micro-detailed guides for arranging items on shelves within categories. Store layouts - including departmental adjacencies and the arrangement of categories within the store - look at the bigger picture.

Both merchandising activities ultimately are influenced by the retailer's desire to carry the products their shoppers want and make them fit into the available total space. The assortments change for a variety of reasons, but a primary one is that shoppers buy some items very much more frequently than others. Space allocations for categories change for similar reasons.

When these changes occur, retailers are obligated to make adjustments in the store layouts. Sometimes this means rearranging departments within the stores. Yes, this can be temporarily confusing to shoppers, but there is no sinister intent. Confusion usually hurts - not helps - sales.

The "very ironically smart" people at headquarters who labor to keep up with this work, are not really as ironically stupid as you imply. Ultimately they are just trying to give the shoppers what they want.
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