A disturbing trend in cheese pricing
By Tom // Posted 2 August, 2012 in: Food + Drink, Minneapolis
A specter is haunting Minneapolis: the specter of per-half-pound cheese pricing. There you are, innocently perusing the fancy cheeses, thinking to yourself, “Alas! These cheeses entice me so, but I could never afford them!” But then you pick one up and glance furtively at the unit price, and lo! $10! The kids might have to skip their medicine this week, but ten-dollar-per-pound cheese you can afford.
If you’re smart, you’ll examine that label more carefully, or, if you’re like me, you’ll examine it a few days later: printed next to the clearly visible $10 is a virtually indecipherable one-slash-two: $10 per half pound. $20/pound cheese – this is a cheese for bankers and movie stars, not for you!
Before last week, my experience with this insidious practice was limited to the cheese shop at France 44 – but one expects a certain amount shenanigans as one approaches Edina, and, on the strength of their sandwiches and liquor selection I’m willing to put up with it. Recently, though, Martha brought home a Belgian Passendale from the Uptown Kowalski’s that I was surprised to see priced at only $10 per pound. But examining the label more carefully, it was $10 per 1/2 pound. As far as I know this is a new thing for Kowalski’s – and it suggests that this nefarious pricing scheme may be spreading.
My first reaction was that I don’t like this. It feels like a trick. I can see how people might be fooled at first and stores might move a few extra pounds of cheese, but in the long run consumers will catch on, and their trust in the retailer will be hurt in the process. I don’t see any benefit to the consumer here: as long as I’ve been grocery shopping most things have been priced per pound. Most products – meats, fruits, bulk foods – are still priced this way.
The argument could be made that a 1/2# is closer to the amount of cheese a shopper will actually purchase when it comes specialty cheese, but people really buy arbitrary weights of cheese – consistent unit pricing helps with making comparisons. Unless every cheese (and other comparable products) is priced in the same way, this just adds another math problem into my grocery choices.
It could be worse – stores could be pricing per quarter pound, or per 3/8 pound, or pricing different cheeses in different units of weight (and different currencies!). And ultimately the best way to buy precut cheese is to hold the cheese in your hand, look at the final price and ask yourself, “Is it worth paying this much money for this amount of cheese, based on how delicious I imagine it’s going to be?” But still, come on grocers, you’re not fooling anyone – can we have a little consistency here?