It’s harder than ever these days to make a quick run to the store, no thanks to grocers’ marketing secrets.
Constant (and seemingly unnecessary) remodeling forces us to re-learn where the tortillas have been moved. Kids beg for the sugar-shot cereal at their eye level. We read labels and expiration dates, and still wind up with items we don’t want — like the salt-free tomatoes, or the new garlic-jalapeño flavor dental floss. Once, while trying to concentrate on these details, I nearly tripped over an optical illusion that was really a large ad plastered to the floor.
Increasingly, even learning the price of a single item can be a brain teaser.
At the Abrams and Skillman SuperTarget, I ran into a common way merchants obscure the price — by hiding it behind some multiple. Campbell’s chicken noodle soup was on sale, five cans for $3. Quickly, in your head, do you divide or multiply to get the price per can? Answer: 30 divided by five equals six, so now you only need to intuit the zeros. Sixty cents per can. Kudos to Target for printing this breakdown on the display tag (although the print is small). At Target, it was also easy to compare the sale price to the regular price; in this case, 64 cents. Save 20 cents on five cans, or simply buy one and save a whopping 4 cents.
(I had more stores to visit, but before I left, I stocked up on Target’s store brand paper towels, due to the excellent price per square foot.)
Across the street at Tom Thumb, the sale prices quickly became more confusing. A large red sign declared that all 15-ounce containers of deli soup were two for $7. Behind the sign, on the shelf, the same soup was labeled two for $8. A few inches to the right, the 24-ounce size was on sale at two for $9. In order to get the best buy, you would pick the lowest price per ounce, right? Unfortunately, the price per ounce was not calculated on the display tags. Be prepared to do the math in your head, or bring a calculator.
The situation with eggs was stranger yet. Store brand 18-pack cartons of large eggs were on special — “buy one get one free”. After a short comparison at price per dozen, I learned that the “special”, (36 eggs at $1.57 per dozen) was only 2 cents less than the regular price of a dozen. Translation: There is virtually no price-break when you “buy one get one free”, but for your trouble, you can figure out where to store 36 eggs.
(I didn’t buy any eggs or soup, but I left with a loaf of French bread, fresh from the bakery.)
Over at the Greenville and Forest Kroger, the greatest confusion related to red display tags throughout the store that seemed to shout “SPECIAL”, but upon close examination of the small print, were really the “everyday low price”. In other words, this item is not on sale.
Luckily, at Kroger I managed to snag my special brand of health food bread. I don’t remember the price, all I know is I can’t find it anywhere else in Lake Highlands.
Finally, I visited the new Walmart on Forest Lane. After my eyes had adjusted to the brand new sparkle of the place, I got down to business. Aisle after aisle, with a minimum of clutter, I saw prices listed clearly on display tags. I could read the tags, and I understood them first try. Specials were marked “rollback”. No price required a calculator.
(Best of all, I could not resist the price on imported Greek olives.)
Perhaps it’s surprising, but the place I shop most often is not the least expensive. It’s the one where I can find most of the items I need in one place. Often, saving time means just as much to me as saving money.
Grocers, take heed — the store that makes shopping a pleasant, quick and honest experience is the one that will get my business.