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supermarket pricing

I went to Albertsons last night and the checkout lines were long so I went to the self checkout line. The computer tells you the price as you put it through the scanner, which is when I realized that everything ended in 9c. $1.99, 1.19, 2.49, 5.39, 2.79 etc etc.

Just don't understand how they can justify EVERYTHING ending in 9. Surely some items can end in a 7 or an 8 or even a 5. Price gouging or what?

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  1. Even the produce per pound? Med vs large eggs? 1/2 vs 1 gallon milk? Wow, weird.

    1 Reply
    1. re: enbell

      yep, milk was 1.99 for the half and half, the meat was 3.99 a lb for ground, the eggs are 2.79 a dozen grain fed free range. Bananas 59c a lb. Too weird.

    2. Always has been the case. Have you ever been to a restaurant? Most menu items end in .99. It's a psychological trick- when something is priced $2.99, you'll think "It's $2", but add a penny, and you add a mental dollar. The fact that you see such gradations indicates the lack of price gouging, imho.

      5 Replies
      1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

        I understand it more so in a restaurant but a supermarket with thousands of items?

        1. re: smartie

          ever notice that in walmart most things end in a 7?

          1. re: karmalaw

            Many moons ago, when I worked in retail (not food-related), there was a pricing system whereby if a price ended in something other than a 9, it indicated a certain sale scheme (i.e., it was marked down for clearance or some other such category). I think that's kind of what Wal-Mart does - uses an ending number other than 9 to indicate sort of a special sale.

            1. re: lisavf

              yes, doesn't kohl's do that?

              as for the "99" business, it is purely psychological, as caviar and chitlins says.

              1. re: alkapal

                Costco does that.

                I believe (and correct me if I am wrong) but any item that ends in a "7" means that it is no longer being restocked.

      2. There are sale items that do not end in a "9".

        For example 2 for $5, or the "10 for $10" specials.

        1. They taught us in Marketing 101 that customers don't usually notice the cents part (until you use self checkout! or maybe at BJs when it says the price out loud). Actually there was something about people psychologically liking round shaped numbers too, so you shouldn't use 1 or 7 or whatever, guess Walmart is using reverse psychology.

          1. Article in Sunday's NY Times on the marketing psychology behind this practice.


            1. The .99 price thing has bugged me for years. Leads me to wonder if the majority of sheeple really don't get it?

              Ever notice when buying gasoline, the price ends not with .?9 but 9/10ths, when I was younger, the price of gas change by tenths of a cent.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Demented

                what bugs me is that everything cannot end in 9c. They have a mark up in percentage terms based on cost and turnover so surely some things would end in other numbers. Seems to be they round everything up to 9c to make extra profit. This is not the same psychology as rounding down from .00.

                1. re: smartie

                  only one question remains. Why do you care? I mean, its a business, in the business of selling goods and services at a price people are willing to pay. If for some reason you feel like you are getting an unfair price, god knows you have options. This is not even close to all of the psychological games that grocery stores(and all retail environments for that matter) play on you! store layout, end-isle displays, piping bakery scent into the entrance(my personal favorite manipulation!!), putting the dip right next to the chips(the highest profit margin dip, mind you), etc......

                  also, I would assume there are a more then a few items that get rounded down so that they can be priced at .99.

                  1. re: nkeane

                    I couldn't agree with you more. This is an odd thing to get worked up about. Retail stores, including groceries, set their prices more or less as high as they can and still sell the items. If they're not making money on it, they stop selling it at all.

                    There's not some Aristotelian objective price for each item in the world. So there isn't some total that your grocery cart would be which they're somehow making you pay more than.

                  2. re: smartie


                    Just out of curiosity, does your restaurant's menu have all items end in the same number?

                2. Yeah, I've been at the store with people and when something is priced $3.99 I hear, "Oh, it's only three dollars!" Umm....

                  I guess a lot of people do get fooled. I think the .99 thing is very common in the US where sales tax is not included in the listed price. Doesn't bother me because I'm used to it, but I can see coming from a place where things are done differently it could be annoying. Except in the case of some promotional sales, products are always marked up above cost. It seems rational from a marketing standpoint that retailers would choose to settle on a number that generates more sales. I'm not worried that retailers are making "extra profit", because I imagine in many cases they actually round down to the 9 from whatever percentage markup they began with.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Agent Orange

                    Not to mention when something is priced, clearly and openly at, say, $1.25 each or 3 for $3.99 and the majority of buyers go for the $3.99 "bargain". I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself - again and again. Yikes...

                    1. re: embee

                      great memories of high school pranks jfood pulled. sold glasses of soda at a track meet in extreme heat, 25-cents each, 3 for a dollar. Yes people did buy the 3-pack. Depending on their size, sometimes jfood had to give them back a quarter in a few minutes.

                      1. re: jfood

                        We sold beer at college parties 2 for $1. Nobody ever asked for just one beer...

                  2. All I care about is the bottom line or the exceptional deals (keeping dates/shelf life in mind). I either buy it at my price or it succumbs to shelf rot.

                    1. Not to digress, but has anyone noticed the "new " pricing technique that requires some quick computational ability? For instance, some stores now market products 3 for $5. It's like a pop math quiz while you shop. Can't wait till we get 4/$18 and 3/$8 brainteasers too.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Cheese Boy

                        That's true, luckily I always have a calculator with me, and use it.
                        What gets me is buy one, get one free, and then in small print they say "Save $4.99/lb" when the price is usually $2.50 anyway (this is in the meat dept usually). But as long as you're aware, I don't have a problem with the store charging whatever they can get people to pay, it's not a non-profit institution is it?

                        1. re: coll

                          Coll, in regards to what you're saying about BOGO, yes, you *always* have to read the fine print. Always. And, never let your guard down.

                          There's a supermarket by me that has this deal with meats that turns out to be pretty good. The butcher there takes meats and packages it in packs in the $4.50 to $7.00 range. It's all in separate packs and exactly as you usually see it at the meat counter. [Chicken, pork, beef, no fish though]. You can pick *any* FIVE packs and pay just $19.99. Pick boneless pork chops, chicken cutlets, ground beef, beef cubes, chicken legs, chicken thighs, etc. Any FIVE for $19.99. They don't have this sale often, but it seems to be catching on because people do buy up a lot of meat this way. Those who pick out packs close to the $7 range really make out like a bandits.

                          1. re: Cheese Boy

                            I'd be right there behind you! That's my kind of sale.

                          2. re: coll

                            i love BOGO sales at harris teeter stores -- you don't have to buy two to get the good price. everything that is BOGO just rings up half-price -- including meats!

                          3. re: Cheese Boy

                            Most of the stores I go to list the unit price under the 4/$18 scheme and the total amount saved per item since you don't actually have to buy 4 to get the deal.

                            1. re: Cheese Boy

                              >>""...some stores now market products 3 for $5. It's like a pop math quiz while you shop. Can't wait till we get 4/$18 and 3/$8 brainteasers too.""

                              Geez, where have you been? Is the 1960's or 1970's pricing schemes- considered new today?

                                1. re: RShea78

                                  i've always seen that pricing technique; it gets you to buy the "suggested" number.

                                2. re: Cheese Boy

                                  That's so true about having to use your math skills. When my daughters were young and groaning about math, saying they would never use any of these skills when they grew up, I told them "Just wait until you have to do the grocery shopping!" Now that they are grown women they understand.

                                3. My favorite example of the magic 9 pricing gimmick is gas stations that charge $X.XX and 9/10 of a cent per gallon.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mordacity

                                    That'd be, in my experience, all of them.

                                  2. jfood does not like the "save $1.25 on ice cream but an additional $25.00 purchase required."

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I feel sorry for Stop and Shop by me because they don't require a minimum purchase, so I mostly go in and just buy their loss leaders and nothing else (I find them to be a little expensive otherwise). But I mean I don't feel sorry enough not to go and take advantage.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        Some stores in my neck of the woods require that the customer purchase of the "full deal" for the price to be observed. Example 10 for $10 requires all 10 items to be purchased at once, or they hit the customer for full price if they try to purchase less than the 10 items.

                                        1. re: RShea78

                                          That's generally the case at many "ethnic" stores. T&T and Nasr have always done this across the board. For example, T&T has recently priced organic grape tomatoes at 2 for $1.99 or 1 for $1.49.

                                          I suspect it won't be long before the mainstream chains do this also. I've seen this practice recently at Metro,

                                          1. re: RShea78

                                            I've rarely seen this at our local supermarkets. If they have something marked 10 for $10 you can always buy 1 for $1. And they never object to me pulling just the amount of asparagus I want out of those rubber-band-wrapped bundles. In clothing stores it's another matter - 2 for $20 may mean 1 for $15.

                                      2. It's all a mental game but, I haven't noticed prices, ending in 9's or not, going down much since the price of gas has come down.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cstr

                                          cstr, as i'm sure you know, fuel prices are not the only component of prices with inherent variability. while fuel may've gone down, businesses that suffered losses during the huge jumps in fuel costs are understandably recouping those losses, and thus they haven't reduced their prices to transport goods, inputs, etc. plus business is slower now, due to the economy, and with reduced demand, a business might be reluctant to cut prices in an effort to make ends meet (a bit of irony, but owners have to think of staying afloat / meeting payroll / not laying off employees through the slow periods so as to emerge on the "other side" of the economic slowdown). thus, the downward "stickiness" of prices is well-recognized in economics. furthermore, other manufacturers' costs have continued to increase, namely commodities prices, taxes, regulatory compliance expenses, employee health insurance coverage.....

                                        2. This isn't just groceries and stuff at discount stores.
                                          Check out the ads for high priced real estate.
                                          An estate priced at $2,999,500. Why not just say $3 million? Like that $500 makes a difference? It actually does in some folks' minds....

                                          1. Also works on the opposite of that $.99 line, usually if any item crests the $1.00 line the retailer will not go to $1.09...it will usually go up to $1.19.
                                            Buying trends, analysis, and history says if you're gonna go up to $4.09 might as well
                                            go to $4.19.
                                            Next time see how many items have an . $09 ending!!!!
                                            Many "warehouse" "low end providers" try to create a low cost image by using $.03's and $ .08's

                                            1. Just the 9 cent thing? How about the "instanty no clip coupon" thing? Carry another plastic card and your price goes down.

                                              Then there's the double coupon scam when it can't be doubled if the manufacturer prints "Do Not Double" on it. You want to bet the store itself isn't the one paying for the doublings?

                                              Now I'm seeing the "Buy $20 of this manufacturer's products and get a coupon for $5 off your next purchase" deals.

                                              Well, last week the local supermarket zapped themselves when I combined them all: The ice cream rang up for $5.39, the instant coupon got it down to $1.99, the coupons I turned in got it down to $0.99, and since I took four, the original price broke $20 so I walked out of the store with four ice creams and a coupon for $5 on any future purchase and spent $3.96. Somebody was paying me a buck to take home ice cream!

                                              And I really didn't care that the price ended in 9.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                                I did almost the same thing with Coca-Cola products just before the Superbowl!. Local safeways were having a 4for$7.98 sale on 12-packs. I found an online coupon for $1 off 1 12-pack and in the instore circular had a 4 coupon doublers in the back of each one. Now it took several trips and some coupon clipping of the instore circular, but I basicly bought a years supply of Coke for nothing! I have a hall closet that now is refered to as "the Coke vault".