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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stupidly Good Prices



I just got back from a shopping trip, and I need to vent this little gripe of mine.

Before I get started, I need to explain that I am a fat man. Obviously, I enjoy food and drink in mass quantities, so I'm prone to buying in bulk. I'm also a firm believer in the free market and that businesses should be able to run themselves however they see fit. For example, I am completely against the smoking ban in restaurants. If a restaurant owner wants to serve clientele that smoke, that owner should have every right to be a smoking establishment or have a smoking section and a non-smoking section. Certain people would refuse to remain customers, but certain people would become regular customers. The idea is that it's up to the business owner of who should feel ostracized.

But I digress, this is not a smoking rant. This rant is about stupid food prices.

Before I go any further, please keep in mind that I'm not complaining, really. I just find it to be stupid and I need to vent about things that I find to be stupid - whether that stupidity creates benefits or burdens for me.

Now I am a math person, and I rather enjoy working my brain when I'm in a supermarket, comparing prices per unit and figuring out where the best deal would be between brands or between package sizes. I understand the marketing behind the bulk savings, where the more you buy of a product, the lower the price per unit. Get a single unit of yogurt for a dollar, or get a six-pack of that yogurt for four dollars. It's cheaper than buying six individual units, so you have to decide how much yogurt you want and how much you're willing to pay for it without getting screwed over.

And then there are times when I come across some pricing that just makes me want to go crazy.

I will take one example that I find most often: milk. Milk almost always comes in two container sizes: a half-gallon and a full gallon. One is obviously twice the size of the other, so I could understand if the smaller size were $2.69 and the larger size were $2.99 - you only pay 30 cents more and you get double the amount of milk. That's a good deal. That's a sane and rational pricing model to convince people to buy the larger size and sell more product.

But unfortunately, that is NOT the pricing model I often find. I often find them selling the half-gallon size for $2.99 and the full-gallon size for $2.69. And I want to punch someone. After I've grabbed the large container and put it in my cart, of course.

What is the logic? Where is the sane and rational thought in this pricing model?

I stare at the numbers and the following scene plays out in my head.

The customer picks up a half-gallon of milk and says, "I think I'll buy this much milk today."
Then the supermarket attendant rushes up and says, "But why buy only a half-gallon? It's even cheaper to get a full gallon of milk for 30 cents less!"
The customer replies, "But I only want a half-gallon of milk - I don't think I'd be able to drink that much milk before it goes bad."
That's when the supermarket attendant grabs the full gallon of milk and shouts, "Let's make everyone happy then! You want to pay $2.99 for a half-gallon of milk, so I'll pay you 30 cents back and I'll just pour half of this gallon of milk onto my head! Then you get your half-gallon of milk at a lower price and I get a lovely milk shower!"

And then the milk starts getting poured everywhere and eventually I realize I've been staring at the milk case for 10 minutes and I really wish some old lady would pick up one of those half-gallon bottles just so I could see if it would really happen.

But that's basically what the supermarket is doing. They'd rather you pay less money to waste half a gallon of milk. And it's not just milk. My other favorite instance of this faulty logic is at McDonald's. The McDouble sandwich is a burger with two meat patties and one slice of cheese, and it costs one dollar. Guess what costs MORE than a dollar? A cheeseburger! One meat patty and one slice of cheese and it costs on average ten cents MORE than a McDouble. If you want to buy a cheeseburger, McDonald's will pay you back 10 cents to eat an extra burger patty.

This one I HAVE actually acted on. I saw this little old lady ahead of me in line order one cheeseburger. I had to stop her. I leaned in and said, "you know, it's actually cheaper to get the McDouble and it comes with an extra burger patty." She gave me the classic "well I don't know if I'm hungry enough to eat that much" excuse and I flat-out responded that she could throw away that extra patty and she'd still be saving herself money in the end. The cashier looked at me and made this half-shrug, half-smirk as if to say "he's not wrong."

AND SHE DID. She bought a cheaper burger that offered more food and she threw away the extra food. McDonald's paid her 10 cents to throw away a meat patty. Of course, one can also debate that McDonald's standard burger patties aren't even worth 10 cents each, but that's not what I'm getting at.

What I'm getting at is that it's an incredibly stupid thing for a business to do. But that business has every right to do it. And we as customers have every right to take advantage of it.

And now I'm off to enjoy half a gallon of milk that the supermarket paid me 30 cents to purchase.

Because I'm fat and I know a stupidly-good deal when I see one.

Please Digg this article if you also find it weird that it's always little old ladies in these scenarios.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

What exactly would you like to tell?

PezChicago said...

Aaron, are you still planning a run for alderman?

PezChicago said...

Aaron, are you still planning a run for alderman?