6.23.2008

Can...did

I normally have a well-stocked fridge because I love to cook, but ever since I got home from all that business travelling, I've become too lazy to. When I first got back, I made a few meals (you've heard me whine about how sick I was to eat out all the time). But when I was hit with a lot of work, and gas prices shot up, and food prices also jumped, grocery shopping became a chore and got less and less appealing by the day. Good thing the cafeteria in a building near my work offers relatively healthy fares in large portions for a budget-friendly price. Otherwise, I would have gained a good number of pounds by now.

Today I had to work all day again, but once I was done with the day's work, I was truly done and satisfied. I was actually excited about the prospects of spending some of that free time in the grocery store, walking down the aisles and planning my meals when a certain meat or produce strikes my fancy. Alas, the market I normally go to for such things was closed at an unnaturally early hour...maybe for good. There were rumors that the supermarket was already struggling through the bad times, and if a partnership deal isn't struck with new investors, it'll go under really soon. Perhaps the white flag has already gone up.

Feeling a little sad, I headed over to the 99 Cents store to see what cheap-but-not-cheapy grocery items could be found. I read/heard a story on either the New York Times or NPR a while back (can't remember anymore) about how the bad economy is driving hordes of people over to dollar stores, which you'd think would be great business for those stores. However, that's the wrong conclusion. It sounds counterintuitive, but it make sense once the economics were explained--by virtue of their store names, such merchants have to keep selling things for a dollar even when the wholesale prices of goods are starting to cost much more, thereby cutting into an already-slim profit margin. It's just a matter of time that the practice of selling everything for a buck will no longer be sustainable.

There are 2 options for survival--either raise the prices of some items so that they're no longer a dollar (which defeats the purpose of calling the outlet a Dollar Store), or shrink the portions but keep the price at a dollar. The 99 Cents Store I went to today apparently took the latter route. I've noticed that many of the items have shrunken dramatically in size, particularly the pasta sauces. I used to be able to get a really nice bottle of pasta sauce (which sold for several dollars at a regular market) for a buck. Today, however, a dollar gets me a squat little "trial size" bottle with perhaps a third of the former volume. Likewise, the can of chili I purchased was in a much-reduced volume from what I saw before all the price hikes.

I know that in a free-market supply-and-demand economy, every businessperson has to make adjustments to keep the business afloat. Still, the practice of selling reduced-size things for the same price first struck me as being a little shady, as it goes against the expectation of returning consumers who aren't getting what they thought they'd be getting. However, it's not like people won't notice the difference in the Incredible Shrinking Can.

Sigh...it's just a bit disappointing. My former bargain spot isn't what it used to be. But then again, economic change is a way of life. Just as we heard stories of the nickel-and-dime store, the 99 Cents Store may become the lore for our children and grandchildren.

2 comments:

are you there, god? it's me. said...

Omg I read that too! NY times. That's really sad to think about; 99 cent stores not exisiting!

Sales Rack Raider said...

Thanks for pointing out the correct publication! It is sad to think of a world without the 99 Cents Store...whatever will we do?!?