Jun 28

This is the accurate-pricing law of my state, your state may have a similar law –


As required in 202 CMR 7.07 if there is a discrepancy between the advertised price, sticker price, scanner price, display price and checkout price on any grocery item the consumer pays the lowest price. In the case of food stores or food departments, if the checkout price or scanner price is not the lowest price or does not reflect a qualifying discount: the consumer:
a.) Shall not be charged for one unit of the grocery item, if the price is $10 or less;
b.) if the lowest price is more than $10 the consumer shall be charged the lowest price less $10 for one unit of the grocery item,
c.) and shall be charged the lowest price for any additional units of the same grocery item purchased.

There’s one grocery store I frequent where I’ve discovered more and more errors in pricing at the register. Sometimes I catch it right then, sometimes not till I get home, and then it’s usually forgotten. A couple weeks back, I went to buy a bag of popcorn. (Did you know you can make a homemade snack similar to Cracker Jack at a fraction of the price? And if you or a family member has a peanut allergy,  just leave the nuts out. But, I digress.) This was an item I saw I was charged 40 cents too much on the last purchase. So instead of going to the register, I stop at customer service. I figure that when they price-check it for me and it rings up wrong, they’ll at least thank me and say they’ll fix the pricing in the computer. Nope. They tell me to just let the cashier know and she’ll adjust the price. Which she did. You see what’s missing. My free popcorn. Sometimes I’m too easygoing, I suppose. If the cashiers don’t already know this, and it seems the customer service booth people don’t, either, then it’s really something the store management needs to be aware of.  I ask myself if I really want to be the guy to print the document from our state government site to bring to his attention.

The law goes on to state that the above excerpt is required to be posted at every register. My local Trader Joe’s locations all have it taped to the side of the register, but not the other local supermarkets.

What would you do? Would you be comfortable bringing this to the store manager’s attention?

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Jun 19

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a piece by Andrew Tobias, in which he discusses the rate of return on tuna fish. In later retakes of the idea, he uses wine instead, a bit more elegant, I guess. Here’s the idea; when looking at sales, consider the return on your money when deciding how much to buy. In Andrew’s wine example, he keeps the math simple, suggesting that if the wine seller offered a 10% discount on a case (of 12) and you drank one bottle per month, that your rate of return was about 23%/yr tax free. How’s that? Start with paying 90% of an item’s original cost. That 10% discount, when you achieve the full value upon consumption, is worth the full 100% and 100/90 is 11.1, call it 11%. Now, in this example, the wine isn’t all consumed at year end but evenly over time, on average in six months. 11% in 6 months compounds to a 23% annualized return. This concept should give you an idea about how to approach items that don’t go on sale very often. If you combine the supermarket cycle (6 weeks from what I observe) with this math, you’ll find your return even higher. Once you get in the habit of buying the sale items in larger quantity, you’ll find you’re making fewer emergency trip to the supermarket, saving time as well as gas. No running out of TP, soap, toothpaste, etc.

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Jun 12

One thing that may stand out for you as you continue to track expenses is how much you spend at the supermarket. In a 2005 survey, the third quintile (those whose incomes were higher than the lower 40%, but below the top 60%) had a net income of $41,557. Of this number, $5295 was spent on food, $548 on household supplies, and $472 on personal care products, totaling $6315. This is just over 15% of net income, quite a chunk. Your numbers may reflect a similar percentage or vary a bit. Here’s the exercise for this week: Start to list the price you are paying for all grocery type items. You can do this in a notebook or on a spreadsheet. This exercise taught me a major lesson, the cost of items can vary by more than a factor of 2, more so when combining a doubled coupon with a sale. As you pay attention to this it won’t take long to find that most supermarkets are on about a 6 week cycle running sales on most items. I’ve read PF (personal finance) bloggers who feel their large freezers were an investment that paid for itself overtime, and I feel the same. Whether you are single or feeding a family of six, when chicken breasts go on sale for $1.79 vs the usual $2.99, it’s time to put 6 (or more) pounds in the freezer, and the $7 savings in your pocket. One hint, make sure you mark the date on the freezer bag, and be sure to use it in a reasonable time. Back next week with more on this idea.

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,