Hello, Safeway? What’s with the three prices?

Fantasy pricing and imaginary savings assault the senses and insult shoppers’ intelligence.

Wickenburg has two supermarkets: a Basha’s and a Safeway. Safeway is newer, better stocked, generally cleaner, and closer to my house. It’s also generally more expensive. I deal with it.

KleenexBut what has started to seriously bug me is the price tags Safeway has littered its stores with. If you’ve shopped in a Safeway or Vons, you know exactly what I mean. Half the merchandise in the store has three different prices on it: the “old price,” the “low price,” and the “club price.”

The old price is clearly bullshit. There’s no way in hell that a box of 200 Kleenex ever sold for $2.99 in our Safeway store. It’s clearly a fantasy price dreamed up by the folks in marketing. Say it cost a bunch of money and now it’s a whole bunch less! Customers are saving $1/box, right?

Wrong, if it never cost $2.99.

Then there’s the club price. If you join “the club” and submit your club card or phone number each time you shop, you get an even lower price. Of course, you also let the folks in the Safeway home office know every single thing you buy there. What do they do with this information? One thing they do is spit out coupons at checkout for items you’re most likely to buy. That’s not terribly harmful. But what else do they do with this information? Perhaps share it with other organizations so they also know what you buy? So they can target you with their marketing, too?

Do you really want people to know if you buy things like laxatives, hemorrhoid creme, or adult diapers?

Yet providing your magic club card number knocks another 49¢ off the box of tissues. That number is part of what’s tallied up as your savings at the bottom of your long receipt.

Spring MixI’m guessing, however, that they don’t expect people to really stop and think about it. Or do the math. Instead, they expect us to simply react to the yellow tags.

What else could explain this image? Look carefully. The club price saves you a whole penny over the supposed low price. This isn’t higher math, folks. $5 ÷ 2 = $2.50. The club price is $2.49. $2.50 – $2.49 = 1¢.

It’s bullshit, all of it. Yellow tags all over the place with fantasy prices and imaginary savings.

Why do they do this? It’s simple. They’re betting that people are too stupid or lazy to do real comparison shopping. They concoct in-store savings, conning people into thinking they’re really saving money. But are they?

In reality, if shoppers went to another store, that store’s regular price may be the same or less than Safeway’s “low price” or “club price.”

Mind games, that’s what it is.

And that’s what bothers me. These yellow tags all over the place make shopping confusing. They make the store an ugly mess. They sully the supermarket shopping experience — as bad as it already is.

You can’t just go into a supermarket and pick up the groceries you need. Instead, you have to face wall after wall of ugly yellow price tags that insult your intelligence with their fantasy pricing and imaginary savings.

Why? I call it bullshit.

5 thoughts on “Hello, Safeway? What’s with the three prices?

  1. I feel the same way about the “savings today” note you get on your reciept at Kroger. Of course you didn’t actually save that much — it’s just the difference of what you would have spent at their made-up prices from their “discounts”. Again, pretty much a scam meant to make you feel better about owning thier plastic marketing tool, aka the “kroger plus card” (actually, since it supposedly subtracts from the overall price of an item, shouldn’t it be the “kroger minus card?”).

  2. Safeway is not the only one! Wal-mart is notorious for this same “Fantasy” pricing. I pay close attention to the prices of everything
    I buy and I do all the shopping. For over a year Vitamin water was $1.00
    for a 20oz bottle then last winter they had a tag that said “2 for $2.00”
    as a sale then it said “was $1.18”. IT WAS NEVER $1.18!!!!!! Then I noticed more than 30 items done in the same way. I don’t have any problem to go to the store manager and say “hey, this is false advertising and you’re gonna get caught”. The Wal-mart in Page AZ were I use to live took all those down within a couple of days. I now live in Evanston WY and noticed that they are doing it here too, but now they have an explanation. They say that the $1.18 price was the original price way back when and they lowered it to $1.00 to compete with other stores for all that time now the competition is over now it’s $1.25.
    More of what you said……..BS!!!!!!!!!! Also I’ve noticed that the old way of buying bigger will save is starting to slowly turn on us. There are some items that you can buy in the smaller size and actually save a few cents rather than the larger but you gotta spend the time to figure out the math and I think thats what they gamble on. That you won’t take the time to add. Anyway, nice blog!!! Thank You,

  3. Oh I forgot to mention that all the cashiers at Safeway and Wal-mart in Page AZ stopped telling me how much I saved on my club card because I always came back at them with, “I didn’t save this, I just didn’t get screwed out of it.” “If you want to save us money just keep the prices low in the first place!!!” I think Gemco started this crap back in the early 80’s. Remember them? Ther’re no longer with us anymore.

  4. Ah, marketing in America is now reduced to deception and lies. I remember Safeway introducing their “club card” loyalty program years ago; prices pretty much doubled on everything with club card savings bringing things back down to the old everyday prices. “You saved $4.12, Mr. McCarty.”

  5. tell safway stop ripping the people off , lets send them a message look for somewhere else to shop ,stop giving them money..

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