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Prices of food items sold by weight

  • Monica Sep 18, 2013 10:06 AM
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Maybe it's just me but I get very annoyed by stores who post prices by quarter pound or half pound. I understand that prices for certain items are high..which might deter buyers from actually purchasing it after the sticker shock but as a consumer, it annoyes me and it's confusing especially if one store has different ways of displaying prices. For example, at some smoke fish houses, they post their prices like $14.99 and underneath it, in a tiny print, says, 1/4 lb. At a local lunch buffet, price says $7.75 and it has tiny print that says, 1/2 lb.
I wish they'd all post prices by one pound.

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  1. It's a total and obvious marketing ploy that apparently works. Posting Lox at $39.99 a pound is a real reality check.
    Ever look at the price per pound for spices at the supermarket? Some of them push $100.
    You won't see 2014 Honda Accord $30,000 either. $29,999 sounds sooooo much cheaper.
    Actually, for cars you will see the cost per month: "Only $239 per month" with the actual cost of the car in tiny print.
    The psychology of selling!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Motosport

      Totally agree, and the practice (as Motosport noted) is everywhere, whether it be in drugstores where a product is 50% off (but in fine print, you must buy two), or at home improvement chains where the prices on paints by the gallon/quart are not always clear.

      1. re: Motosport

        I was recently working for a friend for a few days, at a job where we were selling games/playing time. I had this great discussion/lesson with this smart ten-year-old who asked me why three games were only $10 while one game was $5. I gave him a little lesson on marketing. Then he asked me about the opposite way (i.e., the customer bargaining), and THEN he brought up liabilility insurance.... maybe his parents are lawyers...? Anyway, it was actually kind of fun to think of ways to explain the whole pricing strategy to him.

      2. Wow, I've never had a problem with this but it sounds quite awful particularly as they are usually higher price items. The buffet for $15.50/lb better be the best darn buffet ever.

        1. Having been on both sides of this I can sympathize, but don't necessarily find an issue so long as the retailer posts tfe specific measure in an obvious way.

          I find this most often with quality cheeses that can be $30+ per pound. When we owned our wine/food shop we posted all cheese prices in 1/4 pound format for three reasons: 1) sticker shock with. pound price; 2) hardly anyone bought a full pound of this quality cheese; and 3) all our competitors did the same. Most people who enjoy high quality artisanal cheese understand that it's pricey and are aware enough of the math to not be put off. We DID have an occasional customer complain, but not about the 1/4 pound pricing ...... about the price in general. Interesting because our prices were very competitive with the few alternatives in our area.

          1. Yah, it's a marketing gimmick, trying to fool us by posting prices by the ounce or 1/4 and 1/2 pound etc. When possible, I look for the unit price.

            13 Replies
            1. re: treb

              I always shop by unit price, makes it easier although it's not listed on everything like cheese for example

              1. re: treb

                Umm....... I obviously don't agree that words like "ploy" and "gimmick" universally appropriate here. They assume a devious intent and not a simple pricing strategy. I'd agree if the unit of measure is not easily visible, but otherwise think it's kindof unfair to characterize it that way.

                1. re: Midlife

                  Isn't "pricing strategy" just a euphemism for a "gimmick" after all????

                  1. re: MGZ

                    Like so many other things, I think it depends........ To me 'gimmick' and 'ploy' imply something devious. 'Strategy' could cover both, but has a much more benign connotation in general. IMHO anyway.

                    1. re: MGZ

                      No

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Wordy response, eh Ipse?

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Leaving aside the clearly rhetorical nature of the question, I simply submit, that when "pricing" involves a "strategy", it becomes a "gimmick". But, then again, by nature, I'd rather provide advantage than take advantage.

                          1. re: MGZ

                            A pricing strategy -- like movie matinees or happy hour prices -- is identifying a market inefficiency and taking advantage of it.

                            That's not a gimmick.

                            A gimmick is like selling a donut made with pastry dough, giving it an agglutinated name like "cronut," making it in limited quantities, and then charging a Starbucks cappuccino and a half for them.

                            That's a gimmick. But if you can pull it off, more power to you.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I'm way beyond the point of seeking power. I'd rather fight it or bestow it.

                              Moreover, "taking advantage" is a thing of the past for me.

                        2. re: MGZ

                          No, it isn't. "Gimmick" is pejorative.

                          1. re: GH1618

                            That was my point.

                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio...

                            1. re: MGZ

                              MGZ, It certainly sounds as if you've somehow developed a very cynical view of what business is about. I really doubt that you'd find any biz school profs who'd agree that strategy and gimmick are the same thing. But I guess that's just me. A gimmick can certainly be a strategy, and a strategy can be a gimmick, but a strategy is certainly not ALWAYS a gimmick.

                              1. re: Midlife

                                Exactly. A business without a strategy is probably a failing business.

                    2. Saffron, for example, is about $1000 a pound.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Motosport

                        That would be a real bargain! Your post led me to do some research. The going price for high quality saffron seems to be about $10-12/gram. At 454 grams to the pound, this adds up to ~ $4,500-5,500/pound. I'd bet if you were in the market for a pound of saffron you could probably work out a deal for $3,000 or so! I think you could make paella 3x/day for the rest of your life and still have considerable left over if you bought a pound!

                        1. re: josephnl

                          A few years back, I bought an ounce of Spanish saffron threads for $75 wholesale. At the time, I rationalized it as I would be taking it to the grave with me: Luckily I don't use it 3Xday.

                          1. re: coll

                            That was indeed a bargain. Out of curiosity, does saffron deteriorate over time as do most spices? Hmmm...another question, is saffron an herb, a spice (I don't think so), or something else?

                            1. re: josephnl

                              Not very quickly. I noticed the date on my tin says it expires in 2019. It's the pistons from a flower, that's all I know.

                              OK I looked it up, they call it a spice but not sure it's technically correct.

                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffron

                              1. re: coll

                                I think that saffron is made from the stigmas (the female part)s) of the saffron crocus. It is apparently quite easy to grow.

                                1. re: josephnl

                                  I know regular crocus are (croci?) so I would think so. But me, I'm stocked up for the rest of my life!

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    easy to grow, but the dickens to pick.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Just finished up cleaning a batch of rose hips for jam, so I know what you mean right now.

                        2. There is a small French gourmet store near my work where they sell housemade pate, etc. They sell everything by pound so their prices are like $39.99 per pound or $49.99 per pound for duck pate, etc...but as I already know these are expensive items, it didn't bother me a bit to see high prices...but from seller's point, I understand why they are posting prices by smaller unit.

                          1. I wish I could get paid by the pound.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jrvedivici

                              Move to the UK!

                            2. It depends on what I am buying. Fish? I want it by the pound. Food bar? By the pound. Pate? by the ounce. Caviar? By the ounce. Certain seasonings (Madagascar Vanilla Beans, Cardamom, and ESPECIALLY Saffron) by the gram.

                              What really ticks me off is that the majority of the time there is no scale anywhere near items sold by weight, especially when they are self serve.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                I see your point, but I think the most important thing for a consumer is that things are sold in units that are consistent from store to store. Whether that price looks really high because it's by the pound, or not, it's all the same in reality, and just made more simple if shops do it the same way (though I can certainly see the reasons why they may not). I'm still working on getting my SO to look at the unit price at all, though I think he's been making a turnaround this week....

                                1. re: juster

                                  This is an interesting point, but I don't know that I really agree. I feel like a pound of saffron is categorically different than a pound of chicken. I mean, there's no way you could think those would go into an equal number of meals, right? I do think that an individual store should have the same types of things priced similarly-i.e if you price chicken, pork, and beef by the pound, then fish should be likewise. I have not encountered a situation where this was not the case, but it sounds like other people have. I have definitely not found anything priced by the half- or quarter-pound. It's usually a pound vs. ounce issue, which I find legit. I'm sure it's different in different places.

                              2. Sure, it's marketing but it doesn't really irk me all that much.

                                If the unit of measurement is listed somewhere, no matter how small or inconspicuous, then if I can't take 2 seconds of my life away from my Chowhound-posting quota for the day to read it, then it really is a "me problem".

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  In supermarkets I frequent, I often see shelf labels, for similar items, that negate the purpose of unit pricing. Tea, for example, lists per pound price for one brand, per ounce for another, and per 100 count (tea bags rather than loose). I don't see people breaking out the calculator to determine the best price. Just recently I noticed the flyer advertising potato salad and coleslaw prices per HALF pound. A first, and not a good one.

                                2. I don't mind if the smaller unit they are posting is something more or less equivalent to what one would typically buy. For example, prosciutto and lox are commonly posted by the quarter pound, but that's a "typical" amount to buy at any one time. I *was* however a bit taken aback by the posted price of $8/half pound for fresh ginger at the farmer's market. Each piece was attached to its full leafyness, so each piece was more or less one pound (thus very expensive!). I put it back once she told me how much it was going to be. The unit price shouldn't be something that you can't even buy, IMHO.

                                  1. Curious as to where you are located and what type of stores you shop in that you find this odd pricing. Our grocery stores sell non-packaged fish, chicken, peppers, lettuce, onions, salad bar etc. by the pound. Period. I agree it would annoy me if stores or the cafeteria did something dumb like pricing by the half pound or less.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: gourmanda

                                      I work in Manhattan and live in NJ. Some delis(usually higher end) here charge their buffet by half pound and some delis charge by pound so it can be a bit confusing. There are a lot of gourmet shops that sell cheeses and meats by quarter lbs where I am in NY and NJ. A lot of bagel shops and deli, including popular Russ and Daughter chages their smoked fish by quarter lb...and some other 'cheaper' items by half lbs...so depending on what item you are buying, you have to keep that in your mind. Even my local supermarket in NJ sells certain things like potato salad by half lb.
                                      Most of these items are obviously gourmet products and not chicken or peppers.

                                      1. re: Monica

                                        Yes, gourmet items are the key to this practice. Maybe they're just hinting that you can buy just a little bit, rather than a whole lb, in case you get sticker shock.

                                        1. re: Monica

                                          Not sure what is so gourmet about potato salad...nevertheless deli items are by the pound. Another reason I'm glad I don't live in NY or NJ!

                                      2. At Milo's in Manhattan and in Southern Europe we have encountered restaurants that sell your fresh fish entrée by weight.
                                        At La Rosetta in Roma the fresh fish prices seemed very reasonable. I ordered a fish for lunch and the waiter brought out a tray with three still live fish and asked which one I wanted. Since they were all different sizes I realized I was paying by weight which is the custom. It was still a fabulous meal at a reasonable price.
                                        Milo'$$$$$$$$$$$$$ on the other hand.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Motosport

                                          Chinese restaurants do that with live seafood.

                                          The kicker is more often than not they don't tell you how much the darn thing weighs, only the price/pound. Unless you ask, of course.

                                        2. Jewel, one of the major grocery stores here, started doing that in their deli years ago to make it seem as though they were competitive with the local, independent markets - the Polish and Mexican markets, mainly. The deli prices at the indies per pound are almost exactly what Jewel charges per half pound.

                                          At first glance, of course, you'd think it was the same price.

                                          As always, the fine print is what gets ya.

                                          1. When vacationing in Canada, I have to adjust to deli prices $/100g.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: paulj

                                              That's what I'm used to, and I find that the 100g unit makes more sense for deli items than the kg.

                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                I agree. On the other hand, a few grocers I go to list their price for apples "per 100g" (in smaller text than the price itself, of course). I find that annoying and very hard to get used to, because even one apple is already 300 to 400 g, and I usually find myself standing there and mentally doing the conversion back to price/lb to figure out if it is a good deal.

                                              2. re: paulj

                                                The annoying thing here is that when meats and cheeses from deli are pre wrapped and you want to see how much the cheese costs per x (not just the price indicated for the amount you are buying) then half the time the price is expressed as per pound and half the time it is per hundred grams so you have to do some math.

                                              3. I'm with those who think it's only a problem if the unit is written too small. At the buffet, they probably think 1/2 lb. is a typical serving. "Per oz." would probably be better, or "97 cts/oz ($7.75/lb)".

                                                I've never seen a price marking that I thought deceptive, that I can remember, and I just recently bought a lot of smoked fish. It must be where you shop.

                                                1. I don't encounter stuff sold by the half or quarter pound too often, so that doesn't bother me much. However, there is a poultry producer up the road and their chicken is sold by the package with odd sizes of weight. I don't want to buy a 3-1/2 pound package of chicken and do the math in my head to figure out how much it is per pound. I just don't buy their chicken.

                                                  1. An especially underhanded trick I see at one so-called "price cutting" supermarket around here is that they sometimes charge a higher unit price for the large economy size packages than for smaller ones.

                                                    They figure (and rightly so, I guess) that many shoppers don't check unit prices, simply assuming the larger packages will be the better deal.

                                                    This is a company which gives generously to local charities. But apparently they have no problem overcharging those customers who need the savings wost of all..

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                      But it's not overcharging if the price is written on the package. Buyer beware! I consider food shopping as a sport.

                                                      1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                        It isn't underhanded if the correct weight and price are indicated. If they have unit pricing, which is mandated in many places, comparison is easy. They may have a good reason for reducing the price on a smaller package, such as needing to clear out the inventory.

                                                        1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                          Yeah on that one I don't think it's really underhanded; it's more likely that the smaller thing is on sale that week for some reason or another.

                                                          1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                            The difficulty I experience is when a supermarket prices one product as a unit price, whilst another similar product is priced per kilo. For example, my normal supermarket currently has bags of satsumas at X per bag and loose satsumas at Y per kilo. Your guess is as good as mine which is the better value.

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              They can't very well price the loose ones 'per bag'!

                                                              My guess is that the bags are cheaper, but you could try weighing a bag.

                                                              Usually if produce like that is in a bag (especially if it is a brand name) it came that way from the packer. The loose ones might have been poured from the same bags. They are meant for customers who don't need so many at a time.

                                                              In general a cost-cutting store will try to minimize in store handling costs, while an upscale market will spend more on arranging the produce in attractive displays.

                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                For what it's worth, tomorrow, when you're alone in bed, as the sun rises, you know, just coming to, think about this idea:

                                                                I am finite,
                                                                Like the Earth,
                                                                I am finite,
                                                                Like the Sun,
                                                                I am finite,
                                                                Like the Moon,
                                                                I am finite,
                                                                Like the stars,
                                                                I am finite.

                                                                Take a breath or two and then remember:

                                                                Like money,
                                                                I am finite.
                                                                Like greed,
                                                                I am finite.

                                                                If that is too cryptic, I'll elucidate.

                                                                Who cares about respecting how markets approach maximizing their profits? We just want them to maximize the fullness of our bellies.

                                                                Folks can justify anything. It's easy. Read the Nuremberg transcripts.

                                                                Why not accept what Harters has noted about the fact that pricing food to primarily benefit the shareholders is confusing and dirty? Or better, explain why exploiting the basic needs of consumers - things like food, health care, water, etc., for massive profits - is human, healthy, or fair?

                                                                Remember:

                                                                I am finite!

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  "They can't very well price the loose ones 'per bag'!"

                                                                  Self evidently. But they could price a bag per kilo.

                                                                  They manage to have common comparative pricing for many other products they sell - for example a price per 100 sheets of toilet paper or a price per 100g of peanut butter.

                                                                  And, yes, self-evidently that it if it is in a bag it has come that way from the packer - on the specification of the retailer.

                                                            2. Slightly related....Haagen Dazs ice cream is 14 oz...which is pretty smart because most people only think about the price of each container and not the oz so much.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Monica

                                                                Ben and Jerry's says: "Still a pint" on their pints.