Inconsistent Pricing: Pay Attention to Save Money

inconsistent pricingLogic has its place. This is not always the case in life, as many things that happen are due to luck, fortune, and emotions. But usually, especially in terms of the buying and selling of goods in the marketplace, there is some logic involved.

Example #1: Grocery Store

If you buy just one item from a store, you might pay more per-unit than if you bought a larger quantity. You know, price discounts can be worthwhile for a business. Perhaps you won’t get a discount for buying more. But certainly, you won’t pay more.

Well, I saw something different at a grocery story recently. I was in the produce section, and noticed that they had a prominent display of figs for sale. Now, the real reason it caught my eye is because I don’t typically see figs displayed so prominently. It’s not like figs are your typical, everyday grocery purchase! But, this store was promoting them.

Figs as an attention-getter. Who knew?

Maybe it’s because this was such an atypical item to be promoted that their pricing also caught my eye. They had a sign noting that they were for sale at $0.69 each, and another saying $11.99 per case. The thing is, those cases didn’t look like they had too many figs.

Intrigued (and wondering why I’m paying close attention to figs, but that’s another matter!), I looked over the cases and saw that they had 14 figs each. That didn’t seem right, so I did a super quick scan again. Yes, it confirmed that I still know how to count. There were 14 figs.

Let’s do the math here: 14 figs at $11.99 equals $0.86 per fig.

So, if you bought them individually at $0.69 each, you would pay $9.66. Buy them in bulk, and you’ll pay $2.33 more.   That’s a 24% penalty for buying the larger quantity.

Say goodbye to volume discounts, and hello to volume penalties.

There could be some real logic here. It’s not readily apparent to me. Rather, it seems illogical.

Example #2: Gas Station

It seems as if many gas stations are located close to one another. Competitive stations are doing battle in close proximity, in heavily trafficked areas.   These are often at intersections where one station could be a corner and another is directly opposite.

Recently, I stopped to buy gas at one station without really checking the prices at the adjacent station. Well, I really didn’t check the prices at mine either. I needed to buy gas, and that’s really I thought of at the moment.

As I was filling up the car with gas, I took a look a look at the price per gallon. Then, I glanced at the other station nearby.

To my surprise, the other station was charging $0.07 less per gallon. And there were a few more cars over there than at the station I was at.

Now, I’m not sure that there is any noticeable difference in the gas. Same octane, just a different brand. If there is a real difference between gas sold by major brands, it’s news to me.

By not paying attention, I got burned. Sure, the $0.07 per gallon difference isn’t that significant. I might have paid a dollar more and that’s it. But still, it was totally avoidable.   Clearly, others must have noticed and were giving the other station more business.

Key Takeaway

Pay attention! Check prices when you’re shopping, and don’t assume that you’re getting a fair deal all the time.

If you’re buying more, you might not be getting any kind of discount. Or, you might be paying more than you would at the store next door. Either way, prices for goods and services aren’t always logical.

With smaller items like I mentioned, the amount involved isn’t a huge deal. But for bigger ticket purchases, the money can add up. That’s where we really need to pay attention.

I don’t have any specific recent examples for big purchases. However, I’m sure those illogical price differences are alive and well out there!

My Questions for You

Do you pay what you’re charged without a second thought, or do you pause and think about discounts and competitor prices?

Have you ever seen any big differences in price between similar items, or other interesting pricing decisions/policies by stores?


  1. says

    People always think that when you buy a bigger quantity, you get more, but I think as you found out, that’s not always the case, and stores will occasionally price things to take advantage of that bias. I remember once when I was at a drugstore looking for some snacks, a single sleeve of Fig Newtons was $0.79 and a double sleeve package was $1.99. This was regular price (and a few years ago as you can no doubt tell), but if you wanted two sleeves, it was cheaper to double up on the smaller size than buy the bigger size. Weird.

  2. says

    Discounts smaller or bigger,should always be welcome.It is good to always compare the prices before going for one.But it is equally important that quality is not compromised while searching for discounts.

  3. says

    I always pay attention, certainly at the gas pump, watch out for the differences in prices if your ar paying with debt or credit too, I’ve seen some strange things at the grocery store as well, week over week. As an example Oreo cookies were on sale week 1 for $1.99, the next week they were on sale as well for 2 for $5, $.51 more, but still consider a sale. Beware! :)

    • Squirrelers says

      Yes, prices can change from week-to-week, and in some cases day-to-day. Yet, still might be advertised as a bargain even with the higher prices.

  4. says

    Interesting catch on the figs. I wonder if retailers are going to secretly charge more for higher volumes since so many people now just think that buying in bulk saves them money. I’ll have to keep an eye out on this.

    • Squirrelers says

      Interesting…catching people making what would be an otherwise reasonable assumption. Maybe that’s worth watching.

  5. says

    It always pays to compare. Not only can smaller items be cheaper per unit at the grocery store, but having coupons or a sale on certain sizes might change the situation as well. When it comes to gas, I do have a “favorite” station that is regularly cheaper than the others, but I always look around in case that changes.

  6. says

    I try and compare before I shop, but I still sometimes overpay for items. For example, I know that my favorite tea at Walmart is $2.00 LESS than if I purchase it at the grocery store. However, I have to drive a little further which means I sometimes pay the extra $2.00 if I’m being a little lazy.

  7. says

    I usually pay more attention to prices when I’m at the end of the month and try to keep within my budget for that month haha. I also find sometimes bulk pricing doesn’t mean better deal. If I need to buy something in bulk I usually do a quick math to calculate whether the bulk pricing (or higher volume packaging) actually works to my advantage or not.

    • Squirrelers says

      That’s good that you’re doing the quick math. This way, you won’t get fooled and end up paying a volume penalty!

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