With gasoline prices in decline and the often trumpeted comparison that ‘it’s still cheaper than bottled water’ beginning to wane, I got to thinking about price relativity and products I consider to be offered at too cheap a price.
I guess it’s not a subject most people think about. We’re so conditioned to complain about ever increasing prices, we often overlook those items that (for some inexplicable reason, from our vantage point) are ‘underpriced’. Other than the aforementioned Mobil/Exxon => Evian (Which spelled backwards is Naive) price analogy argument, the only other occasion I’ve seen it used was several years ago, from the cold cereal industry. They argued that for x amount of cents per serving, a nutrient rich bowl of corn flakes is still the best breakfast bargain you can find.
I’m not really looking to discuss windfall profits, corporate spin, the sins of capitalism or ingenius marketing campaigns; I’m looking a list of items you deem to be a really great value: Products you might even end up concluding are too cheap…and could spend five times more for without batting an eye.
The first 3 that come to my mind (and I’m certain there are many others):[ul]Table Salt: Wars were fought over it. Just about eveyone uses it and all living things need it. Salt has to be mined, refined, packaged, shipped (and sometimes iodized) yet they only charge a measly 79¢ for it. At a few cents a pound retail, I don’t think anyone can rightfully complain they’re getting ripped off when making their annual container purchase of table salt.Shaving Cream: What? You ask. Yeah, shaving cream. At about $2 a can, I consider it a great value. Why? You ask. Cuz the shit literally lasts forever. I shave every other day, and can honestly state I don’t even remember the last time I needed to buy it (2001?). It’s almost like they found a way to compress 5 cubic yards of foam into a literally bottomless can. I’m sure there are a few teenaged Halloween pranksters who would disagree with me, but hey, it’s my humble opinion.Blank CD-Rs: At about 60¢ a pop (when purchased in bulk), I consider recordable digital media an underpriced commodity. Making your own mixes keeps getting cheaper. That’s probably due to the fact I’m old school - and barely flinched a dozen years ago when forced to plunk down $3 for one 90-minute Maxell UDXL-II blank analog casette tape.[/ul]So, fellow Dopers, do you have any general products (or specific brands) you consider underpriced? Inquiring minds wanna know.
Pineapple. I never used to think about it, but after I went to Hawaii and learned how much actual human hand labor goes into planting and picking one stupid pineapple, the fact that we get it for as cheap as we do means somebody’s getting screwed over, probably in some third world nation. You get one pineapple plant out of one pineapple top, it takes more than a year to get a fruit, and you can only get one or at the most two pineapples out of that plant. You have to plant and pick them by hand, and the plants are murderous. Anything with that much hand labor involved should cost a lot more than it does if the workers are supposed to get a living wage in there.
Domestic airfare between major cities. It blows my mind that I can almost always fly from DC to LA or San Francisco for about $200, but a slightly longer flight to London costs between $400 and $1,000, depending on when I travel.
I suppose one could argue that overseas flights are overpriced, but I still consider it amazing that for the cost of a few video games, I can get in a big machine and be hurled at high speeds for thousands of miles, arrive safely, and then return in the same manner whenever I like.
Potatoes. About 3 bucks for a 10 pound bag. For such a heavy product, the transportation costs must be significant.
Good quality handguns. You can get a gun for a few hundred dollars that will last several lifetimes, even when used regularly. Compare that to something like a car, which costs many many times more, is far more mainenance intensive, and has a much shorter useful lifespan.
Macaroni and cheese.
At times you can get it for like 33 cents a box (generic - but I LIKE my store brand’s mac) and you can feed 4 hungry kids, 2 normal adults or one fat-ass like me.
I’d say there’s about 15 cents worth of packaging between the box and the cheese pack. Maybe 2 cents worth of noodles and then … well i mean someone had to invent a way to make imitation powedered cheesefood!
Granted you need milk and butter to make it right, but I have been known to make it without both (just water) and it was fine.
Oh also…beer. I think…
I bought a 12-pack of Honey Brown for someone yesterday (a ‘tip’ for doing some plumbing work). I have bought beer at the grocery store maybe 3 times in the 5.5 years i’ve been “eligible”.
So I figure this Honey Brown stuff isn’t your Miller Lite, and it only comes in bottles. So maybe $20 for a 12-pack. I assumed it was “high end” or even if it wasn’t…well, it comes in bottles!
Nope, it was $7.99. Less than $1 for a bottle of beer! I thought to myself “no wonder drinking’s so popular. It’s cheap!”
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti 2+2. It’s amazing how much car you get for a mere $250,000.
I agree with the table salt, JohnBckWLD. What would we do without it, huh.
[hehehehe at Naive-Evian :)]
I mean: How can they make those complicated thingies for that price?
Straws. They cost, what? 50 cents per 100?
Sugar is cheap too.
Cheap coffee, once you hear about all the trouble they go through to get one pound, I’m amazed they can do it for $3-4. Hand picking, storing, drying, sorting, roasting, grinding, shipping, it’s a lot of work.
Organic Cereal. This is the only product I know of where the fancy schmancy organic version, with spelt, flax, amaranth, barley wholegrain blah blah blah is noticeably cheaper than the typical supermarket version. This is the only cereal I buy now because it’s at least a buck to two cheaper than your normal mass market stuff.
Hand-blown wine glasses. You can get them for around $7 apiece, and making them is really labor-intensive.
Champagne flutes at Ikea. We found these when planning our wedding, they were $0.75 each. Renting would have been more expensive. Disposable plastic flutes were more expensive. And these were decent looking glass flutes, too.
Rice and Beans. I bought a twenty-five pound bag of each and the total was $20.00. The back claims they will provide 2,335 rice’n’bean dinners.
Generic soda- on sale for one dollar for a six pack. It seems like the cans ought to cost more than that.
Safeway puts their brand of soda on sale for some insanely cheap price like that every so often, and I stock up. I like the diet Cherry Lemon Lime flavor, and my kids like the goofy flavors like pineapple and raspberry sodas and the fake Dr. Pepper.
You’re right; between the cost of the cans and the cost of packaging it and shipping it, not to mention the actual product, I can’t see where there’s any profit.
DVD players. My first CD player was a portable and I was amazed I could by a handheld unit that accurately read pits at the nanometer level AND error corrected AND did it for only $150.
Now a $28 unit is 5 times more precise, plus has a half dozen codecs (mp4, mp3, Divx, etc.) and a remote!
Kind of an apples and oranges comparison, but this is coming from a guy that could scratch a record thru the plastic by merely picking it up.
And lets not even consider my 2 year old iPod. it holds more music than I ever HOPED to own when I had that CD player.
Soda and “fruit drink.” Why does it have to be so damn cheap? 'Sno go for you, so why does it have to be so cheap and ubiquitous?
I refuse to buy bottled water, because for the exact same price, I can get flavored water, with fizzies, if I want it, and isn’t that obviously a better deal? Hell, I can drink the flavored water, then I can fill up the bottle with unflavored water from the water fountain. Over and over again! Why the hell would I buy unflavored water?
So what if It’s got all kinds of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, plus caffeine that I may or may not want? It’s cheap, don’t cha see? Unflavored water, for the same price, now, that’s expensive. I’m no gonna buy unflavored water. No sir, if I want plain water, I’ll buy the soda, and I’ll drink it, and I’ll fill up the bottle at the fountain, that’s what I’ll do.
wanders off muttering and gesticulating
I’ll submit some of the things that would go on my list:
Costco cheese pizza - a slice and a pop is a meal, and I’m convinced about the cheapest that I can eat out.
Coscto 18-pack of eggs - an egg and toast make a filling breakfast for me (notice a Coscto theme?).
digital watches - my wife just bought a smart-looking watch for ~$15 (actually, a series of watches, since she loses them so easily).
Netflix - we’re still trying to figure out how they can turn a profit.
Chapstick - this stuff just lasts forever.
Quikrete. Five bucks buys you 80 lbs of usable semi-structural concrete. $50 worth overloads any car. $150 worth will have a full-ton truck’s back springs groaning.
My mother was watching my kid once and I came home to find her doing dishes. On the counter was four or five washed out straws.
“Umm… mom? Those things are like a half penny each. You don’t have to wash them, you know.”
The local Dominicks (or Safeway depending on locale) has frozen dinners for $1.00 each. I’m sure they’re laden with all sorts of deadly fats, salts and various chemicals but I’m always amazed that I could, in theory, eat three meals for $3 a day.
Those plastic tubes of Kool-Ade wannabe that you throw in the freezer and turn into popsicles run about seventeen million for a nickel. Give or take.