Price Blindness

So yesterday while I was doing the dishes, my husband went to the local grocery store. When he came home, he had an interesting story.

While standing in the beverage aisle, a couple nearby were discussing the merits of buying soda in the new package style (8 – 7.5 ounce cans) vs. the traditional 6 pack of 12 ounce cans. After hearing this story (there was much more to it but not relevant to this post), I looked at my husband and said, “You’re kidding me, right?”

I don’t care how much money you have, it does not make sense to spend 4 times the cost for the same product where the only difference is the packaging.

So faced with the choice of buying 6 – 12 ounce cans (72 ounces) of soda for $1.25 or 8 – 7.5 ounce cans (60 ounces) of soda for $4.89, which one would you buy? I hope you didn’t say the more expensive, lower volume item. The math works like this: $1.25/72 = .02; $4.89/60 = .08. So I ask again, why would you pay four times the cost for 2/3 of the product?

The answer is because some of us have been blinded by the fancy packaging and subsequent exorbitant pricing and don’t consider the actual product inside.

The same goes for many other items:

  • Why would you buy a bag of lettuce for $4.00 when you can buy 3 heads of lettuce for $3.00 and make 10 times the salad?
  • Or, why would you buy 27% fat hamburger for $2.99/lb when you can buy virtually fat free sirloin for $2.49/lb? All you have to do is grind it yourself.

    I see it in the checkout all the time…someone buying generic butter and milk alongside the really expensive name brand bread. It doesn’t make good “cents”. Pay attention to what you’re buying. You’re looking for quality and value. And a name brand rarely adds quality or value.

    Here is something to think about…there is a certain level of appearance that has to be maintained for the name brands. When the product doesn’t meet those standards, rather than throwing it out, it’s moved to the generic brand. For example, at the grocery store you can purchase perfect cherries for $8.99/lb. However, I can go to the independent fruit vendor and purchase imperfect cherries (we affectionately refer to them as “butt cheek” cherries) for $2.99/lb.

    Typically these rejected and imperfect products are referred to as irregulars or 2nds. The cherries we purchased on the corner came from the same tree as the perfect ones, but since they are not “perfect”, the grocery stores don’t want them. They still taste the same, so what is the big deal? Packaging…again.

    Name brands are expensive, but most of the time, the store or generic brands are sourced and packaged by the same company that produces the name brands. The only difference is just a slightly different package and label. The best part…buying generic or name brand may save you substantial money over the course of the year.

    A brief word about “organic”:

    So we decided to grow tomatoes again this year. We’ve planted three plants in our wine barrel. We have not sprayed them with any chemicals and the only thing we have used is cow manure. We’re not certified organic, so “Riddle me this, Batman?” What gives stores (and independent farmers at the farmer’s market) the right to charge 10 times as much for the same product. The only thing we can think of is the fact that the cost is higher because not using pesticides means they have a lower crop yield.

    Therefore, I can produce 5000 lbs per acre by spraying to keep the tomato worm from eating my crop. If I don’t spray, I get only 2000 lbs per acre. Obviously I need more acres to produce the same yield as the sprayed tomatoes. But, if the spray is only applied to the plant prior to fruiting to destroy the worms, and there is no detectable trace of the pesticide in the fruit, then where is the added value of buying “organic”. It doesn’t have any difference in nutritional value and generally has no detectable difference in flavor.

    Note: My tomatoes taste completely different than what I buy in the store. The difference is that the store bought tomatoes are a difference variety and they have to be picked green in order to get them to the store before they spoil.

    So I ask myself why does a pint of cherry tomatoes purchased from the grocery store cost $4.00? Is it because we “cared enough to serve the very best”? Actually, I think it’s because we were was too lazy to grow our own.

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    • Yes, it certainly is hard to comprehend the pricing of groceries these days and the shopping habits of many. It really doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And, it is a real project these days to shop for food that is nutritious and economical for the household budget!

      It takes time to plan the menus to suit the tastes of the household, availability and the cost of the food to match what you have to spend. All the time, you have to check the pricing and evaluate the sales at various markets to get the best deals for the money you have to spend. Enjoyed your posts, Susan.