Then they lost the sale


Was out shopping with the wife the other day.

Nothing too special. Milk, juice, bread, and the impulse buy or two. Ended up in one aisle, and she reached for a bag of chips.

“Any idea how much these are?” she asked while scanning the shelf for a sticker or marking of any kind.

I found a display set up a few feet away, and the answer surprised her.

“You’re kidding,” she replied to the amount I had offered. “And that’s the sale price?”

Sure enough, I looked more closely at the sign, double-checked it, and arrived at the same result.

Every so often, our shopping-sense alarm goes off. My guess is that we aren’t alone. Not specifically because of the cost of a particular brand of potato chips. And not because other brands in the same aisle are on sale for a third of the cost. Instead it’s when something immediately and convincingly seems wrong, and there doesn’t appear to be any way to reconcile the information despite what you do know (and possibly do not).

This isn’t about a deep and detailed comparison of shopping that involves looking at sources and production and quality. It’s not like categorizing all vehicles as automobiles, then being stunned when supercars cost more than SUVs which in turn cost more than base-model compacts.

This is about the basics. And how often the costs both do and don’t stun us, even when they probably should and shouldn’t.

Consider soda.

Right now, we can all think of places where containers of differing sizes cost the same amount. At this very moment, we could walk into the right small convenience store and find a two-liter bottle actually costs less than a twenty-ounce bottle. Same manufacturer. Same product.

In many ways, those impulse buys are the funniest examples. It’s a supply and demand issue, where we aren’t talking about product availability as much as situational desires. Paying the same amount for a snack and something to drink in one quick-mart-store as I would for the larger family-size packages of the same items in a grocery store isn’t true comparison shopping, is it?

Still, every so often, the realities strike us.

Years ago, I learned how difficult shopping for things like appliances and other home goods could be. Same products… same manufacturers… and yet different labels and models and names would be attached. The Premium Star line of washers at one store may become the Golden Elite line at another, even though both were made by the Industry Leader Company. Same with bedding, where the same materials and processes were used by the same company, but two different department stores claimed to be the exclusive suppliers… which you couldn’t argue since the names on the tags were different than any other store, even if the fabric and threads and box springs truly weren’t.

Ever checked out your lawn mower or snow blower? All of these major companies putting their name brand logos prominently on the product. Lift the hood and discover they all have the same place supplying the engine.

Let’s get back on track here.

The point is, we’re not looking to compare a Hydrox to an Oreo. Instead, just a bit of sticker shock. Times when pricing doesn’t catch us by surprise and times when it most certainly does.

The bag of chips was returned to the shelf. The impulse wasn’t that strong. Maybe another day. (And for now, we aren’t going to get started on the price of milk.)


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