Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Price of Milk

We buy one or two gallons of milk a week. And every week, I look at the price of milk at our neighborhood Kroger in order to answer this important question. Which is cheaper: two half gallons, or one gallon? If the half gallons are cheaper, like they were this week ($1.50 for a half gallon, $3.19 for a gallon), then I'll just buy two half gallons (or however much I need). Otherwise, I'll go for the gallon.

But I'd say that only happens one out of every, oh, six weeks or so. Most of the time, two half gallons of milk are not cheaper than the corresponding gallon. In fact, there have been times when half gallons and gallons were the same price ($1.99 for each, most recently). That week, even though we only needed a half gallon of whole milk for Marla, I went ahead and got the gallon, knowing we may have to toss it before we finish it. I mean, if it's the same price, and there is room for it in the fridge (not an issue for us), then why not?

My question is this. Do most people not pay attention to this sort of thing? Do they just buy the gallon without even noticing that two half gallons or cheaper, because "one gallon of milk" is what they came to the store for? Because if everyone noticed, then why even bother selling whole gallons of milk at all if two half gallons are going to be cheaper?

I think that not only do most people not notice, they might not even care. I'm reminded of back when I worked at Publix (2002), was busy restocking the beer shelves, and noticed that someone was buying a 24-pack of something. I mentioned to her that two 12-packs of that same brand were cheaper than the 24-pack. But you know what? She still went ahead and bought the 24-pack. I didn't get it then, and I still don't. Even if it's only, like, ten cents we're talking about, why not take the ten cents? Is only having to carry one case of beer (albeit one that's twice as heavy) into the house instead of two worth ten cents to you?

I'm not much of a "coupon clipper", because I don't think I get enough of a Return On Investment to make it worth the trouble. But noticing that two half gallons of milk are cheaper than a gallon...that doesn't take any effort at all. Sure, being a math guy helps, but Kroger often puts a per-ounce price on the price label (not just for milk, but for everything), so that you can always see which size gives you the best deal, with no math required. And this is important, because there are some items where, unlike with milk, the smaller quantities are actually cheaper most of the time. For example, 16-packs of Kroger sliced cheese - or, I should say, processed cheese food - are, most of the time, cheaper per slice than the corresponding 24-packs.

I guess Kroger is counting on its customers not paying attention when they go shopping. And given how well the grocery chain has done over the years, apparently, that's a safe bet.

No comments: