Thursday, July 14, 2005

Gouging or The Corporate Art of Selling Raspberries

My musings on gouging have been inspired by a visit to my local supermarket. I know that, these days, far fewer people put up -- or preserve by canning, drying, etc. -- summer fruits and so may have lost touch with what prices are normal or usual.

The cheapest I was able to buy raspberries for this season was $3.50 per pound. Usually they sell for about $4 or $4.50 a pound. In all the years I've been fruit shopping, even early in the season when prices are highest, the most I have seen raspberries sold for is $6.50 a pound.

That is, not until yesterday.

While everyone else is selling mid-season raspberries for between $3.50 and $4.50 a pound, my local supermarket is selling them not for 6 dollars a pound, not even for 10 dollars a pound. They are selling raspberries for 14 dollars a pound. That is roughly 10 dollars a pound more than everyone else!

My outrage wasn't felt by my boyfriend who simply shrugged and said, "Well, people can go someplace else." And, of course, that's true. But what about those hard-working men and women who, tried after a days work, have neither the time nor the will to do comparative shopping? I think that people have an expectation, a trust if you will, that the supermarket they routinely visit will not gouge them.

Speaking of Supermarkets, of corporations, Koby and Mennek brought over an aptly named video last week, "The Corporation". One of the themes of this movie was that Corporations, due to their intrinsic nature -- the way the law has defined what a corporation is -- act solely in their own self-interest and without concern for the result of their actions, at least inasmuch as the corporation itself is not negatively affected by them.

Perhaps gouging on raspberries is an example of this. Yes, the managers at the supermarket know that the store 100 feet away from them is selling local raspberries, better quality raspberries, for less than 4 dollars a pound. So, yes, they know that they are overcharging customers by 10 dollars a pound. And, as long as they can get away with it, as long as customers don't make that 100 foot walk next-door to the local grocers, they probably will get away with it.

I'm putting on my walking shoes.

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