Sunday, August 02, 2009

Pet Peeve #1 - Comparison Shopping

You know how every once in a while, Yahoo will have one of those "how to save money" or "where you're wasting money" articles on their main page? One thing they like to suggest is "comparison shopping" at the grocery store. You know, comparing price per ounce for an item, which usually shows that the bulk packaging is cheaper, or that one brand in a different size is cheaper than another? It irritates me, because I always find one glaring problem when I try that:

The store's tags are never in the same unit from one brand or size to another.

Just as an example, I had to buy toilet paper the other day. Brand X only came in a pack of 6 rolls, Brand Y only came in a pack of 12. I've used both brands before, and I really don't find one to be better than the other, but it was getting towards the end of the month (and the end of the paycheck), and this wasn't a discretionary - or even precautionary - purchase. So I decided to check the unit price of Brand X compared to Brand Y, and found the problem.

The shelf tag for Brand X listed price per roll. The shelf tag for Brand Y listed price per square foot.

Now, they both listed the total number of ft^2 in the package, and I am capable of doing that kind of math in my head. But it gets difficult to do that math in my head while also keeping track of the total amount I'm spending on groceries. I really don't want to lose that total, because overdraft fees suck.

I've noticed this with other products, too. You try to compare food brand A to food brand B, but brand A shows price per ounce, and brand B shows price per cup. How many ounces are there in a cup again? Even worse are the ones where one brand has the unit price in imperial measurements, and the other has it in metric units. Is a 6-pack of 12 oz cans more cost effective than a 2 liter bottle?

Different brands of the same item should have the same units shown for the unit price. It shouldn't be that difficult for the same computers that print the shelf labels to standardize them.

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