Friday 12 December 2014

Tight Fist Tip #52: The Supermarket Bulk Produce Scam

Walking into the produce section of a supermarket, you have a lot of options. But usually the choices are pretty straighforward: should I buy broccoli or cucumber? Do these nectarines look good. Etc? But there is one scam that you need to watch out for: the old "prepackage mark-up". For instance, say you wanted to buy some carrots. Well, mere feet away you'd be presented with two options:

Putting Things into a Bag is Soooo Hard

Which one should you get? (Note that these are both store brand, so probably literally came out of the same field.) Well, without looking at the prices, any reasonable person would probably think that if you want to eat a lot of carrots, you should buy the bagged one, since buying in bulk is generally cheaper (my last post not withstanding). And if you don't want a lot, it's probably better to buy the loose ones, so you don't waste money on spoiled carrots. But let's take a look at the prices: the loose carrots cost $.79/lb, and the bag of carrots costs $1.69 for a bag. And the bag weighs...1 pound.

This is where minds should start exploding. That's right, the same goddamn carrots sit two feet apart in the supermarket, with one option MORE THAN TWICE AS EXPENSIVE as the other. And not to mention not only is the loose option cheaper, but it allows more choice as the buyer can buy exactly the amount that they need. How the hell do those bagged carrots survive as a product?? Well, we all know that normal shoppers are idiots, but the fine readers of this blog do not have to fall this trap.

Now let's look at an example that is even more mind-boggling. In the potato display below, they literally sat the packaged potatoes in the middle of the loose ones. It isn't so clear from the picture, but the packaged potatoes cost $2.99 for 2 lb, while the loose ones cost $.99/lb. Ok math geniuses, which one is cheaper? Yes once again, the incredible strain of having to choose how many potatoes to buy allows you to buy potatoes at 2/3 the price of the packaged ones.

Although it's not shown in the picture, the potato situation was even worse. Just out of range, are little bags with 4 of the loose potatoes, simply pre-bagged for your convenience. So even if for some reason you are too brain-dead to choose a number of potatoes on your own, you can still take the cheaper option.

Proof that Supermarkets Think Their Customers are Idiots.

And OK, just to belabor the point, here is one more example:

Ewww! Dirty Shroom Slime on My Fingers!

The packaged mushrooms are $6/lb, while the loose ones are $4/lb. And just in case you think that the X-ed out "normal" price of $8.99/lb on loose mushrooms means these are on sale, that's just laughable. Crossing out fake high prices is another favorite trick of supermarkets. 

Now, this is a rule of thumb and is not true 100% of the time- it's always good to check the prices. Specifically, the big bulk bags of apples or onions are generally cheaper on a per-pound basis than the loose ones. But mushrooms almost never are. Happy shopping, Tight Fisters!

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