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Mar 24, 2014 01:46 PM

Pesach Price Gouging

We have barely passed Purim, and already the Kosher Supermarkets and Butchershops, etc. in Toronto have begun their annual Pesach rip-off of the Kosher consumer. I'm sure this dispicable practice is wide-spread.
Can anything be done to stop this or must we accept being price gouged in meek silence?

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    1. re: avitrek

      I tend to think that charging any price for carp is overcharging.

    2. In recent years I've found the opposite to be true, Pesach prices are at or below the rest of the year. Maybe its the competition in my market (Chicago), but there's a good amount of sale pricing on essentials (meat/chicken/fish, matzah, matzah meal, etc). Even Costco's in on the action. They have large packages of cheese, chicken and prepared foods at very competitive prices. Still costs and arm and a leg to check out, but I don't feel I'm overpaying on a per-item basis.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        I also don't think I'm overpaying. In Brooklyn, many of the kosher groceries have fantastic prices on Passover staples and meat. Sure, it's not going to be cheap when you're buying everything necessary to cook for 8 days, but it's not so bad.

        1. re: cheesecake17

          I can find very good deals on plasticware. wine and year-round staples, but Pesach specialty items like Shmura Matza or Pesachdik cookies are hideously expensive.

          1. re: follick

            Shmura matzah is watched/guarded from the time it is harvested. It has to be rolled out and baked and the machinery and other equipment cleaned every 18 minutes when it's being made. There's a cost to that which goes far beyond the flour and water used to make it.

            As for Pesachdik cookies . . . are they any more expensive than the gluten-free ones everyone and their brother seems to be buying these days? There are costs associated with cleaning a plant for Pesach and having the necessary rabbinical oversight for the hashgachot people are comfortable buying. And if they are too expensive for your tastes, there's a simple fix: don't buy them. Things are only worth what you're willing to pay for them.

            If you can do without a lot of the processed food, most of the other stuff is not really much more expensive than it ever is. Meat, vegetables, dairy products are not much more expensive than the rest of the year, certainly not in large cities where there is competition. In smaller places . . . well, unfortunately, that's the cost of living in a smaller Jewish community. I guess those who do it have decided that the advantages they get from living in those places outweigh the disadvantages, like the higher prices of having to have specialty kosher food shipped in from larger places. On the other hand, I have heard housing costs in the smaller frum communities are far less than in the NY area. When I visited friends in Memphis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, I was told that some houses in these places cost half of what mine cost. Still, I choose to live in NY because of what it offers me; if I wanted to move, I would. We all make calculations about what is worth the costs. If Pesachdik cookies are worth it to you, then buy them; if not, then don't.

            1. re: follick

              Shmura matza is expensive. That's the way it is! You're paying for the labor more than for the flour/water. I don't buy so much, maybe one box, so for me it's not a crazy expense.
              And re the cookies... We're not cookie people. They're just not good, IMO. I buy one box of whatever's cheapest or on sale for my daughter. Sometimes I'll buy a boxed mix if it's on sale.
              The only thing that's a bit more expensive is some of the dairy products. Yogurt and ricotta cheese are the two that come to mind. (During the year I buy a 3lb container of pollyO for $4-5, but on pesach I buy the CY brand that's much more expensive)

              1. re: cheesecake17

                So which supermarket do you think is best to shop at for KLP stuff other than Meat/Wine/Matza?

                1. re: follick

                  I do most of my shopping at Moisha's in Brooklyn. They had some fantastic sales this week, so I stocked up for Passover (and some things for all year). The only thing is to get the sale prices, you have to spend $10 on reg price items, which isn't a big deal. I bought choc chips, matzah meal, cake meal, and matza ball mix to spend $10.

                  I find other stores in the area do not have such low prices.

          2. re: ferret

            Not only is Costco in on the action, their being in has caused prices in other stores to drop. When a local Costco is stocking matzoh for a reasonable price, the truly outrageous prices at the local stores ($25 for a box of ordinary matzoh--I'm assuming that's a five-pound box--in Phoenix) suddenly seem to drop to more competitive levels.

          3. It is too late. We jews have a law that states "Minhag Yisrael kedin hu", the practice of overcharging and ripping off fellow jews has been going on unchallenged by the leaders at large for long enough so that the vendors now must overcharge lest they violate the law that now stands that one MUST overcharge for pesach and the consumers are obligated to pay higher prices lekavod yom tov.

            The ultimate adherence to this practice and tradition of enriching the coffers of the suppliers of foods and for those who want to follow this tradition of being ripped off to the highest level of observance is of course to go to an uber expensive ultra luxurious hotel for pesach :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: MartyB

              Agreed. You raise the related subject of Pesach spent (and I do mean spent!) at a lavish Hotel or Resort.
              I cannot imagine a more stultifying experience except possibly imprisonment.
              The prime purpose of this type Yom Tov experience is to mingle and mix with the families of like-minded big shots and machers who enjoy showing off their wealth of money and poverty of humility. One of the ultimate but unspoken goals of the Hotel Pesach or Succot experience is to get lucky and make a shidduch for one of your spoiled children or grandchildren with the offspring of another equally ostentatious family. Truly Gan Eden!
              This comment will almost certainly be censored but I couldn't hold back.

              1. re: Doctormhl1

                It certainly doesn't have to be that way.

                My sister-in-law and her husband have done pesach for many years at the same place she and my husband went to summer camp. They both work within the program during chol chamoed to get a big discount, otherwise it would also be quite pricey. However, the atmosphere is very different from what you've described.

            2. It really depends on the community - my parents live in Memphis and comparing the prices between Chicago and Memphis is outrageous - It is at the level that it is almost worth going to Jewel in Evanston stocking up and doing a run to Memphis selling what my stash at a 50% markup and it will still be cheaper than Memphis regular prices.

              6 Replies
              1. re: weinstein5

                Yes, where you are matters. Here in the 5 Towns I find the prices fair, especially Brachs. I imagine with the rebirth of Seasons I expect this year to have healthy competition between Brachs, Gourmet Glatt and Seasons will yield some nice prices.

                That being said, I will be going down again to Florida, Boca Raton and expect to be "serviced" one again by Kosher Marketplace. Their prices shot up so high, lekavod yom tom, to make me turn to home cooking everything! All their sides, regardless of ingredients or difficulty of preparation was all priced at the same budget busting level. What chased me out of the store was when I saw mashed potatoes for over $10/lb! Mashed potatoes for goodness sake! Maybe, just maybe, with the opening of the kosher section in Winn Dixie things may be better.

                1. re: MartyB

                  Yup, same here.I was visiting the MIL in Delray/Boca and tried to do some holiday shopping. It's always been so much less expensive there than in NC. Big surprise - the prices were so $#*%&!-ing high that it made no sense for me to schlep stuff back. The only things I bought were a few odds and ends we can't find here.

                  And just to show me, the main thing we bought was a ton of Pesachdik chewing gum. So guess what? The kid is getting braces tomorrow and won't be able to chew gum by Pesach. She's finishing up the last of it today.

                  Oh, and the kosher section of the Winn Dixie wasn't as impressive as I'd hoped. The Publix in the Jewish areas of Atlanta are much, much better.

                  1. re: rockycat

                    I was at a Publix in Birmingham AL at the beginning of March and they'd already started putting out pesach stuff. It was impressive. If I'd brought a bigger suitcase, I would have stocked up there.

                  2. re: MartyB

                    Have you gone to Amazing Savings? They're quite good about not ripping off their fellow Jews (their paper goods and foil pans are generally very well priced too, although the shipping can make Florida pretty expensive in general). Winn Dixie has pretty high prices on kosher food, although I think their prepared food is better than Kosher Market's (which I'm not a fan of at all).

                    1. re: celesul

                      I am leaving to Florida on Tuesday. Since I am set up in my Florida condo and being that I am flying with Jetblue I decided I will devote one suitcase to pesach items. I must say Brachs of Lawrence has wonderful prices, clearly the price leader in the 5 towns. I therefore bought items like Sweete, Matzo Meal, strawberry preserves, cake mixes, ground walnuts, spices, tuna, etc, light small items. Seasons did not have much of a selection, they are still very much in chometz mode. Tomorrow I will do one more Brachs pass with a pass through Gourmet Glatt. I will soon turn on my mantra of "it's only one week" and live on mostly chicken cutlets (whole and ground), matzoh, butter, cottage cheese, eggs, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. If I buy too much I will simply have to throw it away since I come back to NY after yom tov. I will probably allow myself to be ripped off with soups however since Kosher Marketplace usually has a nice selection and I don't want to patchka. Don't know if they will have buy 3 get one free that they usually have since it will violate the holiday tradition of getting ripped off :)

                      1. re: MartyB

                        Went to Kosher Marketplace, the price gouging is in full force, rotisserie chicken $16, soups $10 no buy 3 get one free. Went to Winn Dixie, rotisserie chicken $10, soups $6 so it looks like I will buy my raw meats from Kosher Marketplace sine the gouging did not extend to the raw meats and will do the rest at Winn Dixie. Winn Dixie also had a wonderful kosher bakery section and I plan on buying my shabbos challah and cakes there instead of buying one of the packaged ones at Kosher Marketplace.

                2. You can try to avoid shopping at these places as much as possible. I try to approach pesach cooking as a time to commit to more healthful eating and limiting my consumption of processed foods. It definitely helps that I have dairy KLP kitchenware because nearly all of my usual dairy brands are KLP and things like eggs, vegetables and fruits don't need certification when sold whole. This definitely takes more time and I have run out and bought KLP mayo after telling myself that this is the year I finally make it from scratch. It also helps that I'm basically shopping for my husband and myself. Other than meals out, his meals in pesach are mostly: matzoh with cream cheese, matzoh pizza, matzoh brei and matzoh with tuna salad.

                  It helps to be Sephardi and only hosting one large meal because I can buy normal rice, lentils, and dried beans but the quantities are small enough that checking them isn't much of a burden. (Ok, it often feels like a burden because in all my years of checking, I have never found anything beyond a few tiny rocks and two rice husks.)

                  It's not an approach that will work well for everyone, but it's certainly an option.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: CloggieGirl

                    I think it varies where you are and what you are getting. I'm in NJ, but close enough to get to Queens, Brooklyn

                    WIne - This is the cheapest time of year to buy. Huge selection and the lowest prices all year at all price points.

                    Meat - Look at the prices at Seasons, Arons in Queens, and KRM Kollerl in Brooklyn. Just loaded up on 2nd cut brisket at seasons for $3.99 a pound for smoking later in the year. Boneless rib eye at $7.49 and 1st cut brisket at $6.49.

                    Matzah - All prices for shmurah from 9.99 up to $30.

                    In general I try to do very little in NJ, and go to Queens or Brooklyn and pick up 80%. You need to know your prices. Shoprite Tuna is 99 cents and I plan on buying for the whole year as it is the only time you can find it without soy, and its much less than the kirkland brand which is available all year without soy.

                    Monsey and Teaneck I find are still expensive

                    1. re: njkosher

                      >> Just loaded up on 2nd cut brisket at seasons for $3.99 a pound

                      I hope the Seasons in Lawrence has the same price. I notice, as an example, Gourmet Glatt of Brooklyn has vastly different (as in cheaper) prices than the one in Cedarhurst. I wonder why?

                      1. re: MartyB

                        Local competition. If someone else in Brooklyn has a cheaper price they have to compete. But they don't need to lower prices in Cedarhurst all the way because people in Cedarhurst will pay a premium to not have to drive to Brooklyn.

                        1. re: avitrek

                          Competition sometimes works, depends on the community. The 5 Towns has plenty of options. Brachs, Gourmet Glatt, Seasons, Costco, Stop Shop, Key Foods. what happens with many shoppers is that price is not a consideration to a point. So if I would tell a well healed individual, of which the 5 towns has many, shopping for example at Gourmet Glatt,hey, if you go to Brachs you can get the same item for $.50/lb cheaper they would brush it off since price is not an issue. With a clientiele like that, what is the incentive to lower prices? Many items, especially at the take out doesn't even have prices on them yet people buy without even asking how much it costs.

                          I think back to when I moved here, in 1995, not far from me was a fruit store, I think it was called Allan's Drive In, who was selling watermelon for $.99/lb, at that time watermelon was going for $.19/lb, yet they still had people who went to them, incredible!

                          1. re: MartyB

                            Marty, you have made it clear, in hundreds of different posts here, that, to you, it's all--and only--about money. Other people have other concerns: time, convenience, locality, health, taste, etc. The fact that people buy some things that are more expensive than others doesn't mean competition is not a factor. You just don't know what they value. Here's an analogy: someone in Key Food might see you pay more for an Empire chicken and be thinking, "why is that guy paying so much for a chicken, when Purdue is so much cheaper?" If a person makes a 50 -- 100 dollars an hour (not uncommon for lawyers, doctors, many other professionals), it may be worth far more to them to go shop at one place, overpay for some things while saving on others, rather than running all over the place to save a nickel on this, a dollar on that. People have busy lives; not everyone is willing to research where the chicken is cheapest, spend the time--and gas--it takes to drive halfway across the city to buy it, then run to six other places for the cheapest pasta, potatoes, etc.

                            1. re: queenscook

                              That was part of my point. Price is not only everything, that is why I was trying to understand the price difference of items within the same chain. The 5 towns has three major kosher options, all within a few minutes drive of each other and not too much parking issues. On the other hand in Brooklyn some options are quite some distance from each other, Pomegranate, KRM etc with MAJOR parking issues so to shop in multiple stores would be a nightmare. I routinely shop before shabbos, in at least two and sometimes all three stores. Brach for their shabbos special, Gourmet Glatt for their challah nd Seasons for their meats. Since I routinely shop at multiple stores I might as well buy at who has the best price. When I lived in Brooklyn I went to only one store and adjusted my shopping based on the in store specials, I did not look at what the other stores were having on sale, pesach being an exception when even now I would do a Brooklyn run.

                              1. re: MartyB

                                Marty, but you're already showing you are searching for prices by shopping at 3 stores. It seems like all you're concerned about is price and parking. I think you may be retired, so maybe you have free time, but other people value their time. If it's 10pm thursday night and I'm just starting my shopping and know I have to be done with my cooking before I go to bed, then I may buy everything at one store. I could be walking by a second store, but I still won't go in to save a dollar if it's going to cost me the time to shop and wait on line again.

                                1. re: avitrek

                                  Taking my mom to the grocery always meant taking her to 3 or 4 groceries. Then she would bug me about my being too busy to make a "quick" (~2-3 hour) trip to the store.

                                2. re: MartyB

                                  The parking issue in Brooklyn has gotten much better. KRM, moishas, pomegranate, Glatt mart all have valet parking. So many people use the valet, that it's not difficult to find a meter on the street.

                          2. re: MartyB

                            Because gourmet Glatt in Brooklyn is right near krm ... And krm puts their meat/chicken *insanely* cheap before pesach

                            1. re: MartyB

                              second cut brisket at Season's Lawrence was way more, at least $8.99. it was more than the first cut which was on sale.

                            2. re: njkosher

                              I will definitely try to get the Shop Rite tuna if it's kfp, but be aware that for year-round the Costco tuna cans (and the Bumble Bee they sell) have 7 ounces of tuna per can compared to about 5 ounces for all the others.

                              1. re: njkosher

                                Is the Shoprite tuna on sale this week? I've been watching their ads and I didn't see it locally, but I'd head over there tomorrow if it is likely to be on sale now.

                                1. re: hbg1

                                  99 cents for 5 oz no limit. still better than kirkland brand which I think now runs 14.99 for 8 cans of 7 oz

                                  1. re: njkosher

                                    Thanks for the heads up, I'll have to get over there asap!

                                    1. re: njkosher

                                      Maybe better price-wise but not taste-wise. Best of all is the Wild Planet that Costco sells. Easily the best tuna I've ever had. Really wish they'd go for OU-P certification because it's only tuna and salt (no "broth").