Dear Jido,

I would like to know what you think about the new trend in some food stores that seems very unethical to me. It used to be that when you went into a store every item had a price tag.  Now I find that many items do not have pricing and you have to wait until you get to the register and the cashier scans your item to find out the cost.

I, for one, am confident enough to ask how much the cost is, even with other people around me. But, I’ve seen quite a few people that are uncomfortable and embarrassed to ask that question and therefore just pay prices that they were not prepared to pay. I think this trend is very unwelcome and should be addressed.

People work very hard for their money and should not be placed in this uncomfortable position. What do you think?

Signed,

Are They Wrong?  

 

Dear Are They Wrong?

My grandchildren told me something about this thing called Google. They said you could find out anything about everything on it.

So, I giggled. Or Googled. Or something like that.

This is what I found:

New York State Consumer Law Section 20-708 says that everything that is offered for sale in a retail establishment must be price marked and displayed by the unit, weight, or volume. In some cases, it even has to be priced down to the tenth of a penny. Whoo.

But then it says: Except for those items mentioned in Section 20-708.1. And there it mentions food.

Interesting.

So, the store isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong.

But I don’t think that was the gist of your question. You wanted to know if it was wrong of the store to make people pick up something to buy thinking it was priced right and then be too embarrassed to put it back because they thought it was too expensive for the value of what they were getting, thereby forcing them to buy it.

 

Depends.

People could change their minds for lots of reasons. As a customer puts an item back on the shelf they could mumble under their breath – no it’s too fattening, or – I don’t think my spouse would like it, or – I just remembered we’re going out for supper. They don’t have to let on that they’re putting it back because it’s too expensive for them. Also, the other side of that coin is that it’s just not WORTH that amount of money.

If the store/cashier was charging different customers different prices for the same item based on their “perceived” ability to pay, then yes, it would be wrong. But if they are charging based on supply and demand, and we see, by the way, prices skyrocketing all around. So, not displaying prices is actually store owners’ prerogative as businessmen.

 

Are they doing anything wrong? Probably not.

Should they display the pricing? Probably yes.

Jido