Monday, August 5, 2013

Price discrimination at Ralph's

This is a new one on me.

I was in the grocery store last night when the thought hit me that I hadn't had a root beer float in a long time, too long in fact, but as I walked back and forth along the soda aisle I could not find any cheap root beer. There were various Coke and Pepsi products but to get a reasonable price you had to buy four (I don't drink much soda -- eight liters is a bit much). There were also expensive specialty brands, but no house brands. Annoyed, I grabbed a bottle of A&W and went on with my shopping only to see the store brands I was looking for one aisle over mixed in rather incongruously with the sports drinks.

Normally you'd expect to see the house brands near the corresponding name brand products, but I suspect that the previously mentioned "buy four" promotions prompted the shift, that given the choice between paying the inflated list price or dealing with the inconvenience of buying far more than they needed, too many customers were saying to hell with it and grabbing a Shasta or a Big K which had no restrictions and was even cheaper than the discounted name brands.

Given the competition from places like Wal-Mart and Food-4-Less and the 99 cents store, stocking cheap store brands can keep price sensitive customers coming back but making those brands hard to find can keep the less price sensitive customers spending more than they have to.

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