Unit Pricing: Fiddling the Unit of Measure

Another trip to WalMart, another unit pricing puzzle

Here’s the house brand towel:

WM Deco Towel - unit price
WM Deco Towel – unit price

And here’s the name-brand towel for a mere one cent more per hundred towels:

Bounty Select-a-Size Towel - unit price
Bounty Select-a-Size Towel – unit price

How can this be?

Easy! Notice that the name-brand towel allows you to tear off a smaller sheet, which is actually a good idea. Even better, at least from their perspective: more sheets per package = lower unit price! I didn’t check the actual mini-towel size, but surely it’s less than half the usual size, so the comparable unit prices is more than a factor of two higher than shown.

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before WalMart slices their towels in half to get an even better unit price.

Carpet and floor tile used to be priced per square yard. Now it’s roughly the same dollar amount per square foot.

8 thoughts on “Unit Pricing: Fiddling the Unit of Measure

  1. My turn.

    We are all just pawns in their big money making game. Look at what they have done to the width of toilet paper over the years! Pretty soon it will be as wide as receipt paper.

  2. My uncle Roger Pond used to write “The Back Forty” and a number of good books like “My Dog Was a Redneck, but We Got Him Fixed”,
    http://www.goldendalesentinel.com/story/2011/06/01/news/roger-pond-1944-2011/06012011122626163081.html
    Not trying to plug them but they are good reads.

    Point being, cannot remember which book exactly (he wrote several and i ahve them all) but one of them has a story of being a kid on a farm and the the meaning of “3 squares a day” which was found out to mean 3 squares of toilet paper per day per person because it was so expensive back then.

    It’s almost sad that while they are funny stories, we are not far off the path of returning to some of those days. With the constant battle of turning off lights in the house, I could see families enforcing this kind of policy, just to keep food on the table.

    Also, just for reference, we do the same to our folks in the military. Every MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), or modern field rations comes with a tiny, ultra rough, bit of toilet paper. While many jokes are made about it, you do what you have to do, and this is what we give our troops. http://armedforcessupply.com/images/products/detail/ffbc_1.jpg

  3. I am not sure how the system there works, the unit price and retail price dont match. The retail price is higher !! A few cents cheaper to buy them one by one :-)

    1. And sometimes the smallest package is the best deal by far, which makes no sense… until you realize that they know what you’re thinking before you think it!

    1. Visited in an ancient toilet cabin of the Finnish Railway Museum. No toilet paper, just a wooden rod and utility knife. I can just imagine… ;-)

      1. As my father observed, the Good Old Days weren’t very good at all. He said most of the folks who talk about the Good Old Days weren’t alive back then; he was and could report first-hand on the situation!

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