Monday, May 9, 2011

Your mission, Mr. Phelps: Vanquish the Supermarket

Avocados: $1.99 ea 2/$3.00 $1.49 ea

People look at me strangely when I shop at the supermarket. I stand, basket in hand, staring at the offerings. So many words! Price drop, Super Saver, Ad Special, Special Purchase, Compare with, Two for... Yet, the prices don't seem to reflect anything special. The price drop item could be more expensive than it was two weeks ago. The Super Saver might be a brand that's much more than the item next to it - and the next week the situation could be reversed.

We live in difficult times. The government works for money, big industries and special interests. The same companies that control what you eat, what you watch, how much it will cost to see your aunt Tilly in Livermore. Supermarkets, especially large chains, like virtually every other company, prey on their customers. Instead of clear, honest offers and simple pricing they resort to every ploy available to wage psychological warfare on their prey. There is one chain that seems reasonably clear and straightforward, but they're not located near where I live, so I'm stuck playing stupid mind games dreamed up by evil corporate bean counters.

You've spent enough to save at the market's gas station... seven miles away. That's fourteen miles, almost three quarters of a gallon for a round trip, just to save a few cents per gallon. If their price isn't already higher than more local gas station.

Hot special this week! Avocados, two for $3.00. Formerly $1.49 each. Buy now and save!

Paper towels: compare these: $1.23 per roll,  $0.17 per square foot, total square feet in package (three rolls): 16. Exactly how does this help me in my efforts to get the best price? Ah, but if I buy two rolls of Brand A, I'll get a 1/2 off coupon for Brand B, which happens to be twice as much as Brand A.

I put the special meat at the end of the refrigerator in my cart. It looked like a good deal, but... I decided to check the regular meat section in the middle of the aisle, against the wall. Hey! This is a roast of the same exact thing as the "special" but it's $1.20 per pound less. Yet all I have to do is slice it into pieces the same size as the "special" to get... the same thing as the special.

How about the sale where there's a boneless pork roast on sale, next to the bone-in version? If you buy the bone-in version, congratulations! You just paid the meat price for the bones!

How about some orange juice? Two for $5.00, so I have to buy two for this price, right? Scan at checkout: ORANGE JUICE: $2.50 each. Huh? I could buy one for the same price, despite the implication that two gets me a deal and one leaves me poorer.

Where exactly does that pre-marinated fish come from, and why did it need to be marinated? Now it smells of Thai lemon grass and kaffir lime... but what odors would I detect if it were bare, sans added fragrances?

Why does tilapia fluctuate from around $9.00 per pound down to around four? It's farmed in ponds, in places that don't really have seasons. Do they feed it something special to justify the higher price? Marinated salmon perhaps?

Why does whole chicken normally cost around $1.40 per pound, then suddenly plummet to under $1.00 per pound for a short time, often without even a sale notice? How can boneless chicken be cheaper than whole chickens?

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