Unit Pricing Obfuscation

The idea behind unit pricing was to simplify comparisons between packages with different quantities: each package would have a price-per-unit value.

Here are the two shelf labels for two sizes of the lah-dee-dah fluoridating remineralizing mouthwash that our young lady must use for the next few years. The unit price is in the orange block, with some fine print underneath giving the unit. Click for a bigger image; you’ll probably need it.

Unit Pricing Obfuscation
Unit Pricing Obfuscation

Need a bit more help? Here’s the one on the left:

Price Per Pound
Price Per Pound

And the one on the right:

Price Per Quart
Price Per Quart

For those of you in the rest of the world with volumes in liters and weights (uh, masses) in kilograms:

  • 1 pint = 0.5 quart = 1 pound of water

What’s most interesting is that this only occurs when the package with the larger quantity has a higher per-unit price, as with these bottles.

This is a perfect example of something that’s technically legal, but definitely not in keeping with the spirit of the law.

Another interesting situation: if a shelf pricing sticker is missing for one of several similar items, you can be absolutely certain that package is more expensive. A missing shelf price sticker is technically illegal, but I doubt anybody ever gets prosecuted… it’s a simple mistake that could happen to anyone, right?

Because nothing in a Walmart store is left to happenstance, this is obviously planned and approved at the highest levels.

It happens elsewhere, too, but we just happened to be in Walmart this morning. Check it out where you shop…

5 thoughts on “Unit Pricing Obfuscation

  1. Be nice if someone wrote an app so’s you’d take a picture of the UPC barcode and it’d look the item up online and calculate a sane price comparison for you.
    While I’m daydreaming, it’d even allow you to tell you what units you wanted your comparison provided in, so you could get $-per-football-field or $-per-library-of-congress if you really wanted.

    1. look the item up online

      I know that half of it exists, along with the price comparison for the same whatever-it-is, but the rest sounds like a fine business opportunity for one of those companies that doesn’t actually have to make / have any prospects of making any money to attract venture capitalists… [grin]

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