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Is unit pricing a thing of the past?

Yesterday, I went to the big fat grocery store and tried to buy some zucchini. The sign gave a "regular" price of something, and then another price of 8 pounds for 10 dollars. I asked an employee how much that was per pound, and if I had to buy 8 pounds to get that price, and she didn't know. She looked it up on the computer at a closed check stand, and after a few false starts we determined that the zucchini was selling for $1.20 a pound to those who had the store card, which I think everyone does (her first guess had been that it was $.80 a pound). I thought that there was some law requiring price per unit - does this comply? (I skipped the zucchini and resorted to the carrots I bought several weeks ago.) Does anyone know how I might approach the mission of persuading grocers to tell us how much they are charging per (single) pound for their produce?

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  1. I carry a calculator when I grocery shop. Too often the dry goods aren't uniformly marked (ie: one will have per ounce while competitor is marked per pound). And, yes, produce isn't labelled for those of us just looking for one or two of something.

    1. my stores all have unit price labels for produce. figuring 8 pounds for $10 is simple division; though it doesn't surprise me the clerk couldn't accomplish that without a computer.

      6 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Except she ended up with $1.20/lb which would be $12 for 10 lbs. Sometimes the "X for $Y" doesn't carry over if you buy less than X, although they really should clearly state that ("Must buy X. Unit cost is $Z each if you buy less than X").

        1. re: jzerocsk

          Wait - isn't $12 for 10 pounds correct, if they are giving you 8 pounds for $10?

          I really, really hate this kind of pricing.

          1. re: Marsha

            $12.50 for 10 lbs.

            yes, the pricing is confusing-- is is deliberate, or is there a reason why?-- like the margin formula grocery stores use for marking up produce?

            1. re: soupkitten

              It seems to me that when produce is priced something like 8 lbs for $10, it is to encourage folks to buy that 8 lbs. They probably have an overabundance of that product and want it to move more quickly.

              1. re: soupkitten

                Yes it is deliberate (across the supermarket). The Club stores are notorious for doing this especially since they will have only 2-3 products competing rather than 20.

                Paper goods: $2 per 100 count vs. $1.23 "per 100 square feet"
                Ounces vs. Pounds,
                Quarts/Pints vs. Pounds.

              2. re: Marsha

                LOL you're right...I saw the 10 dollars in your post and then did 10 pounds in my head!!!

          2. Sounds like Ms Grocer did not get an A in math. Unless specifically marked the 8# for $10 should be $1.25/lb no matter what you buy. In CT there is a famous store, Stew Leonards that gives a better price for more bought, i.e. 2 for $5, $2.79 each. They specifically state the difference.

            If a store has the sign as the OP suggests and charges more per pound for less bought, then I would check with the manager or if really upset call BBB.

            1. when i asked in my post above if the confusing pricing was deliberately deceptive i was referring to potential errors on the part of the store's staff. for example, if the store purchases potatoes from the farmer by the bushel, but then has to "break it down" into pounds for the customer, errors can occur. Marsha didn't say whether the employee she talked to was a produce specialist or not but it sounds like she'd have a problem doing that kind of a conversion, then executing the margin formula.

              4 Replies
              1. re: soupkitten

                Um...didn't the OP also have trouble with the math and the formula? 8 pounds for $10 isn't the most helpful thing going, but all of the information you need is right there once you've determined that you needn't buy 8 pounds to get the price.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  i'm not trying to diss the op's math skills, it's not her job to figure this out, i'm talking about the STAFF
                  let me put it another way--

                  the farmer sells the store 12 bushels of potatoes

                  the produce manager of the store must figure out the price the store paid for the bulk potatoes-- pounds/bushel divided by bulk price= store's price/pound wholesale cost

                  from that price she uses a retail margin formula (the store's margin will equal the gross profit minus the cost of goods sold divided by net sales), retail stores have a margin formula that they use to mark up any product:

                  coming up with the pricing that Marsha and everyone else should pay.

                  Is it possible that there was a human error somewhere along the way in the math department which led to the pricing confusion? or is the pricing deliberately confusing so that Marsha and other shoppers must carry calculators to avoid getting gouged on their cukes?

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    It doesn't sound like there was actually any real error in the pricing itself, it just wasn't listed in the unit the OP was looking for. Price per pound is one possibly unit, price per 1/4 pound (a favorite technique at a cheese shop I frequent) is another as is 2 items for X dollars. Yes, all of it is designed in the hopes that customers will buy the product and, very probably buy more of the product. Ultimately, though, my point is that all of the necessary information is there to figure out how much it will cost to purchase the amount of product you want. 10/8 doesn't really seem to require a calculator.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      -- i'd say the majority of folks responding to this thread might need the calculator-- i'm not sure i "get" what the issue is but it's one of the reasons not to buy produce at a mega-mart. the way the pricing is done seems wack to me, and it has nothing to do with my ability to do math in my head.

              2. Giggle, giggle, giggle.

                Sorry for giggling but Jfood has always giggled when people on these boards say that it's so easy to calculate 15%, 18% and 20% tips and members of the jfood family are challenged in this area. Yet the simple math of 10/8 is creating such a challenge among many.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jfood

                  Doesn't your (everyone, not just jfood) head say to you, "Thats $10 for 8 lbs, same as $5 for 4 lbs or $1.25 per lb"?

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka


                    Actually jfood's head says, "I need 4 potatoes for dinner."

                    1. re: jfood

                      I'm with you in one sense: I never consider price when it comes to fruit and vegetables--even though I calculate comparative cent(avo)s for most everything else.

                2. It seems like the OP is describing a "sale" price for the store discount cardholders. In my experience many of these are posted as 2 for $x or 5 or even 10 for $x. I've never seen that on produce, though. Either way, the sale price has always been honored for a single item. I don't know whether that's by law or store policy, but if it says 2 for $5, I get 1 for $2.50 no problem.

                  This kind of sale tag is entirely separate from the unit pricing. There usually (not always) is still some unit pricing on the regular price tags, but sometimes the sale tags obscure this, and the sale tags typically don't include any unit pricing. The unit pricing may well be by law, but it seems not to apply to temporary markdowns, of which there sometimes can be many and sometimes they are for weeks at a time.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: CrazyOne

                    I have regularly seen melons for sale at Publix where the sign reads 2 melons for $4. So you feel that you ought to buy 2 to get the bargain, whereas in fact 1 is $2. A clever way to make the customer buy more than they need and turn the stock over faster.

                    I saw a sign on a board outside a liquor store in London that read - Great Offer, buy 11 bottle of champagne for the price of 12.

                    1. re: CrazyOne

                      Depends on what jurisdiction you're in.

                      In Metro Toronto the unit of an item and the per-unit quantity price are rarely the same, and the quantity price almost always applies ONLY to whole number multiples of the specified quantity. For example, if an item that has a unit price of 25¢ is on sale at 5 for $1 and you buy 4 of that item, you'll pay $1.00 rather than 80¢.

                    2. Stores didn't start doing it to do anyone any favors and I hadn't noticed a change in state laws, but apparently they must have changed because a lot of places - not just grocery stores - have stopped doing it. I'm not big on arithmetic, but I can come close enough in my head for general purposes, but it sure is a PITA sometimes (fortunately, cell phones haev calculators these days.). And it does always pay to check - "large" (aka family aka economy) sizes aren't always cheaper at all, and sometimes bizarrely enough (like Total yogurt) are more expensive in large containers...

                      On the other hand, I don't necessarily expect a "2 lbs for $1" to get me 1 lb for 50 cents, I think it's reasonable as well as logical enough to want to move extra product at a sale price, not just mark it down on a price-per-pound basis.