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Mar 11, 2011 09:13 AM

Your produce - sold by unit, or weight? (post started 3/11/2011)

I live near Boston, where there have been changed recently in how supermarket produce is sold. Heads of things like lettuce and broccoli used to be sold by the unit, but are now sold by the pound, as is most produce. At Trader Joe's, onions, bananas, and other things supermarkets sell by weight are sold by unit. I am still working on a 7" diameter sweet onion bought at Christmas for 79 cents, the unit price. (The clerk and several shoppers marvelled at it.)

I can understand unit pricing at farmers' markets and stands, where the vendors don't necessarily have scales with them, but it's odd to me that pricing produce by weight is not universal practice in other venues.

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  1. I find it obnoxious to charge by the piece when the pieces are not uniform in size and the tradition has been by weight: Peppers, onions, potatoes, etc. I always feel I have been left the small ones, especially at the end of the day or end of the week. (I, too, give farmers' markets a pass.) And, if you weigh a piece and do the math, you'll find the price per pound has gone way up.

    Charging by weight on traditional by the piece items has popped up, too. Usually, the "lb" is about 100 times smaller than the "$1.00" on the sign, and I am sure it is a way to charge more without seeming to raise the price, like the 14 oz pint of ice cream.

    The Sons of Business are at it again!

    11 Replies
    1. re: therealdoctorlew

      why do you give farmers' markets a pass?

      1. re: sunshine842

        Because if we make it harder to sell with nitpicking rules, some of the farmers won't come anymore. Anyway, we know their stuff is more expensive than supermarket picked unripe plastic wrapped sprayed pseudofood, so what does it matter?

        1. re: therealdoctorlew

          because it's real food, grown locally, and a good portion of the time it IS cheaper?

          (which it IS, on all accounts)

          1. re: sunshine842

            Point taken about quality, but around here (Long Island), the farmers' markets are more expensive than the fruit and vegetable stores and bakeries, but maybe not more than the non-sale prices at the supermarkets.

            1. re: therealdoctorlew

              Doesn't quality and variety matter to you?

          2. re: sunshine842

            RE farmers' markets- for the most part around here is NOT farm land, and half the stuf they sell at the so-called farmers' market is from the same place your grocery's produce comes from. If we're lucky we get produce from Willcox (not counting Eurofresh, which has miles and miles of sealed greenhouses surrounded by eight-foot chain link fence with razor wire on top of it! The tomatoes and sometimes the cucumbers are still better than most, most times of the year, though. But i'm not going to pay more for them at a farmers' market.

          3. re: therealdoctorlew

            >>"I, too, give farmers' markets a pass."<<

            You may want to clarify that statement. It seems abundantly clear to me that you're saying that you won't begrudge unit pricing at farmers' markets because the vendors are small business people who deliver high-quality food. But others appear to be reading your post to say that you refuse to shop at farmers' markets because prices are high there.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              Glad you posted that, Alan, because I did indeed read it to mean "I refuse to shop at farmers' markets because the prices are high and it's the same stuff anyway".

              Hadn't read it at all as "I'll give them a freebie to not price this way because it's already hard enough for them"

              Interested to hear which one the doctorlew means.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Of COURSE I meant that I shop at farmers' markets and I don't mind the pricing method because they have great stuff. I didn't realize I had been oppositely interpreted! I thought you guys were weird.

                I do object to the deceptive changes in pricing and packaging sizes in the general commerce, but I do not consider farmers' markets in the criticism as I value their goods too much to do anything regulatory that would discourage a supplier from showing up.

                I trust we are now all clear.

                1. re: therealdoctorlew

                  Yep...I couldn't figure out why you'd be so disparaging....sorry!

                  (Yep...blonde since birth)

          4. Traders does not have scales, does it? So everything is sold by the unit, even if it is packed in bags or clam shells.

            Fennel has always been inconsistent - some places and times by the units, others by weight.

            With the recent jump in prices due to the Mexico freeze, bell peppers (at one store) jumped from $1/lb to $1 each - which translates to about $4/lb. The change in measurement method softens/hides the cost increase.

            You could go to Canada and adjust to buy things by the kilo or 100g, not to speak of liters of gas :)

            4 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              Canadian stores have to list the price in metric, but most, if not all where I am also list them by the pound. The flyer I was reading this morning actually had the per pound price first. We're only kind of metric up here.

              When my Italian friend first moved to Canada about 10 years ago, she went into the deli and asked for a hectogram (100 g) of meat and the staff had no idea what she meant.

              1. re: Sooeygun

                I've never heard the word Hectogram used anywhere I've ever bought food in France,Germany, or Italy....I'm sure someone uses it somewhere, but I think you'd get blank stares in a lot of places in Europe for asking for a hectogram of something. (you just ask for 100g)

              2. re: paulj

                And that is a real quagmire because the US Gallon is Different than the CND Gallon. Just like our Million is differs. Why I do not know.

                1. re: 02putt

                  Canadians don't actually use gallons's just litres.

              3. Boston hound here. This has always driven me nuts. Why does everyone sell cucumbers by the piece and zucchini by the pound? They even look alike! There oughta be a law (I'm surprised there isn't something on Blue Laws). How did the Commonwealth of Massachusetts miss this?

                2 Replies
                1. re: Berheenia

                  The larger plastic wrapped cucumbers are usually by piece - and tend to be uniform in size. Small Persian cucumbers are usually by weight. I haven't paid much attention to common thick skin ones.

                  But does this need to be regulated?

                  1. re: paulj

                    I was joking - we still have laws from the Puritans here in Boston that you wouldn't believe - especially where alchohol is involved- so why not veggies?

                2. Stores around me do both. Most things by the pound but broccoli and cauliflower as an example are sold per unit.

                  1. If the changes in produce pricing are very recent they could be due to the problems the produce industry has experienced this winter. Lettuce and some winter vegetables were seriously affected by the December rains in California. The freeze that hit around the Super Bowl also affected the Yuma growing area and just about wiped out the Mexican winter crops. The South has been through several hard freezes as well this year.

                    The case price to grocers on a wide range of items has doubled and in the case of cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplants, some lettuces, zucchini and tomatoes, the price has tripled or more. The run up in prices may have changed the profit margins enough that it's become more profitable to sell items by the pound than by the each, or vice versa.

                    FWIW, at the local farmer's markets I frequent here in San Diego, most of the produce vendors sell their produce by the pound, not the each.