Wal-Mart Unit Pricing Amusement

OK, let’s see how well you do on this round…

In the Mysteriously Missing Label category, we find three similar products with only one shelf label. Which one is the better deal?

Caffeine unit pricing
Caffeine unit pricing

You might think it’d be the Wal-Mart Equate house brand. In order to find out, you’d have to haul all three offerings down the aisle and around the corner to the price scanner, which would reveal it’s the one on the far left, by a considerable margin. Oddly, that one says “Double Strength” even though it has the same 200 mg dose as the others.

In the Bizarre Units category, we have two very similar products with completely different unit-price units of measure. Seeing as how a “fluid ounce” is a unit of volume and a “pound” is a unit of weight (or, for the pedantic, force), even the dimensions aren’t compatible. Clicky for bigger pictures.

Vanilla unit pricing - 2 oz
Vanilla unit pricing - 2 oz

And, just to show that wasn’t a one-off mistake that could happen to anyone, the smaller size containers continue the theme.

Vanilla unit pricing - 1 oz
Vanilla unit pricing - 1 oz

Given that nothing in a Wal-Mart store happens by accident, someone was directed to remove two of those three labels and another someone deliberately chose incompatible units.

Of course, anyone I’ve ever asked has no idea why that would happen…

Previous rants live there and there.

16 thoughts on “Wal-Mart Unit Pricing Amusement

  1. Wow, I have never noticed this. The unit price stuff is bad, but leaving the price tags off the products is worse because they know people will assume the store brand is cheapest. I know I would!

    And, don’t they mean “per pint” instead of per pound? Or did they actually measure the density of that vanilla extract and determine that it’s exactly 1?

    1. measure the density of that vanilla extract

      My money says a pint’s less than a pound of 70 proof vanilla vodka…

      1. Good point. So, the tag is not only misleading you by using different units, it’s an outright lie. The price per pound is probably 10% higher than they claim (assuming a density of 0.9 g/ml).

        1. Yeah, just a typo, could happen to anybody… right?

          Sort of like ethanol in gasoline: lower miles per gallon for the same price!

  2. If it makes you feel better, something like 80% of the unit price tags at my local supermarket are just the package price followed by “per each”, instead of something useful like “per sq ft” or “per pint”. I mean, I guess it’s *true*, but…

    1. Yeah, that seems to be the other end of the “we complied with the letter of the law” axis.

  3. Of course you’ve probably noticed the “price value” “Big Economy Size” products usually cost MORE per unit than the smaller sizes….
    It’s been YEARS since I first noticed this and yet I still find myself being surprised when I actually bother to read the fine print on the bottom of the price label. I prefer the larger sizes so I don’t have to restock as often, and I’m still internally wired to think when you buy a larger quantity you’ll get a price break on the per oz. or per pound price….. another marketing gotcha. I had noticed occasionally name brands cost a bit less than store “generic” brands but had not realized it was an ongoing scam now.

    1. “Big Economy Size” products usually cost MORE per unit than the smaller sizes…

      You’re not supposed to notice that, are you?

      It annoys me enough that I’m willing to whip out my ancient PDA, fire up the cost calculator app, chickenscratch the numbers into it, and mutter vile imprecations.

      It’s not like the unit price stickers have the correct numbers on them every time, either…

      1. Luckily pricing information seems to be displayed a little better over here (i.e. it’s always per liter or per kilogram, though sometimes competing products of the same type are also doing the volume vs. weight thing), and I always check that information before I buy anything. I often whip out my phone to do a little price per volume/weight calculation if the units of measurements are different, though if it were very frequent I may take leaps of faith more often. Most larger package sizes are actually (slightly) cheaper over here, though we probably don’t even have the kind of size that Jim refers to.

        1. it’s always per liter or per kilogram

          Every time I’m confronted with ounces and teaspoons and (shudder) slugs, I wonder what possible justification we have for not Just Doing Metric Now, Dammit. That’s why most of my shop projects use millimeters.

          I draw the line at using radians in common discourse, though…

          1. Whoa, I’d never heard of a slug (as in mass; of course I knew the houseless snail).

            Regarding radians, that just looks nice while writing down mathematics, but I don’t think it makes much of a difference in practice (or at least in my regular life).

            1. I’d never heard of a slug

              Back in the day, I managed to pass my freshlyman physics and (somewhat later) a Professional Engineer exam using US units, but if I had to do that right now I’d just shrivel up and die like a salted slug…

  4. I see. Pep pills and vanilla shooters. Are those random data points, or do they reflect the extreme measures needed to stay warm in the basement shop these days? :-)

    1. Mix ’em together, knock ’em back, and I’m ready!

      Except, maybe, for anything requiring fine motor control or good judgment…

      I admit to seeking out egregious examples; it’s not like they’re hard to find.

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