Stuff that’s too expensive

August 7, 2023 • 12:15 pm

If you do grocery shopping (and who doesn’t?), you may have noticed that a lot of stuff—and not just groceries—have skyrocketed in price since the pandemic.  I’m not sure whether this is gouging or a normal economic response (maybe they’re the same), but I’m pretty sure that people are charging what the traffic will bear and that somehow competition hasn’t kept prices down.

The other day, for instance, I bought a baguette on my way home, and the price at the local bakery (the Medici, if you want to know) had jumped from $2 to $3 in one go: a 50% increase. When I wrote to the bakery manager (or owner) complaining, saying that I could get just as good a baguette for $2 at Trader Joe’s, the guy wrote a stinging response saying that he’s just making sure that his workers get a living wage and I could shop at Trader Joe’s if I wanted a place where (presumably) workers don’t make good wages. In fact, Trader Joe’s gives the wages of its Chicago employees, and here they are:

Average Trader Joe’s Crew Member hourly pay in Chicago is approximately $17.79, which is 36% above the national average.

I won’t be going to that store any more, and I presume that the Medici didn’t hike all the employees’ wages 50%.

Here are other things that seem much more expensive than a few years ago, and for some of the price hikes there are good reasons (eggs, for example, skyrocketed because of a chicken shortage).

Bread It’s a crime to pay more than $1 a loaf for decent sliced white bread (that’s what Aldi’s charges), but you’re lucky if you find a loaf for under three bucks in a grocery store.

Eggs (see above)

Toothpaste  I don’t know how the manufacturers get away with charging four bucks per tube when Pepsodent (now almost impossible to find) cost $1 per tube for years. It’s as if adding a bit of potassium nitrate (to reduce sensitivity) to the common stannous fluoride suddenly boosts the price to the stratosphere. Do you know what potassium nitrate costs if you buy it in the lab? Almost nothing! In my view, products like Sensodyne, which is just regular toothpaste with those anti-sensitivity ingredients added) are huge ripoffs. But I use them anyway, as there’s no alternative.

Cereal.  I occasionally used to buy “healthy” cereals like Raisin Bran or Shredded Wheat, but now they’re uber costly. My breakfasts now consist of a latte and two slices of toast. Speaking of which:

Fancy coffee.  I know what it costs to make a latte, because I have a good one every day, made in my Breville espresso machine from good French roast beans from Trader Joe’s (I have a good grinder, too). I’ll estimate the the price of the coffee is about 20 cents and the milk about 25 cents. That makes the latte cost 45 cents.  If you get one in Starbucks, it’ll be about ten times that high. I know there’s overhead and decent wages for the employees, but that is a big profit margin. And if you favor those fancy coffees that are really liquid desserts (peppermint lattes and the like), you’re getting ripped off more, not to mention ingesting a lot of unhealthy calories.

Cars. I haven’t bought a new or used car in years; I’m happy with my 2000 Honda Civic that I keep upgraded by installing stuff as it wears out. (It has only about 78,000 miles on it.) But the reports on the news about the hikes in prices of both new and used cars are scary. Imagine paying 50,000 for a new car!

Airfares.  I won’t kvetch at length about this, but as service goes down, and lots of extra fees get tacked on (e.g., checking luggage, which I never do, mainly because of the bag-loss factor), the airfares go up.

What prices curl the soles of your shoes these days? Now’s your turn to kvetch.

83 thoughts on “Stuff that’s too expensive

  1. I don’t think I have eaten white bread in 50 years. There are many good alternatives like challah and seeded rye (although they have also become more expensive).

    1. I LIKE white bread! It’s what I was brought up on and is good for sandwiches. I abhor rye bread unless it’s encasing pastrami or corned beef. To each their own, but white bread is still too expensive, and rye and challah even more so.

  2. Ummm, that salary at Trader Joe’s amounts to about $37K/year. I don’t think that is anything to boast about or use as a yardstick, especially in a big city like Chicago.

    1. I’ve done most of my shopping at UK Lidl (which trades as “trader Joe in the US, AIUI) for years. Compared to bigger stores (Tesco, Asda, Morissons), Lidl have a relatively low staff turnover, which probably says something about their wages compared to other companies in the same industry.

  3. Having a house has become way more expensive. Insurance up by 50% from last year. A big chunk of money. This may simply reflect prices of existing houses having gone way up. This isn’t a price shift reflecting climate issues….just plain prices going up.

    1. Count yourself lucky. My homeowner’s insurance went up about 300% in one jump about a year ago. Lucky for me, the insurance company canceled that policy within just a few months because they decided not to provide insurance in my state anymore. Then it took about 2 months for my agent to find 3 other options. We chose the one that was only twice as much as the previous year.

      Of course, my state is a special case. Hurricanes plus lack of regulation, bought and paid for.

  4. My solution to most of these issues is to shop at Aldi’s — they sell raisin bran for $2.15, Cafe Bustelo Cuban espresso grind coffee for $3.85 for 10 oz. (283g), and a very nice 12-grain bread for $2.39 — which unlike the big chain grocery store breads (which cost closer to $5) is always fresh. They also have a very respectable produce section. Admittedly those prices have all increased by about one-third of what they were before the pandemic. They also don’t always have everything in stock (for several weeks our local store had no oranges?). But on the other hand they don’t have music playing! Reason enough to shop there.

  5. Sensitive toothpaste at Dollar Tree is $1.25/smallish tube and works fine. You can order by the case online.

  6. Come to my suburb (not even Vancouver proper) where one-bedroom apartments *average* $2,578 per month and the average annual income for individuals is $51,000. New housing starts in my suburb average about 3000 per year (almost all condominium apartment towers for sale not purpose-built for rental), but we add about 5000 new immigrants per year. Add to the mix the thousands of wealthy international students who attend my university plus investors (mostly from China) buying condos. The new immigration is welcome, the international students keep my university afloat (and they tend to be great people), and Chinese investors are understandably trying to get their money (and their families) out of China. But this all puts pressure on housing costs that drives almost all of the other cost-of-living increases we experience. Maybe the details are different elsewhere.

    1. Yep, it should not cost most of your wage to shelter yourself. It’s terrible and no level of government seems interested in doing anything about it and they seem content on just allowing families to live in tents throughout major cities. Pretty soon there will be no middle class & only the very rich will live indoors in private homes. The rest will be generationally poor like in other parts of the world.

      1. It will be like Brazil, with the rich living in high-security gated communities to protect themselves from everyone else in the favelas.

      1. It shouldn’t hurt new (Canadian) immigrants. This is only happening because of changes to the immigrant requirements by the current administration in their pursuit of multiculturalism and supposedly providing solutions to an ageing portion of population, which by the. way never works , just exacerbates the situation in the long term. Take a good look at European countries who have tried it, the UK in particular.
        When we emigrated to Canada some twenty plus years ago we had to prove complete financial independence for a minimum of two year’s together with proven employment prospects in the Province of choice. The initial consideration for grant of a visa for permanent residence took more than twenty four months with a further three months medical assessment and consideration plus one month to add the visa to our passports. A further three years of continuous permanent residence was required for consideration of Citizenship, no absences in these three years. From initial application to full citizenship it took eight years and gave us the right to vote in Federal Elections.
        This is why new immigrants hurt.

        1. Sure, immigrants who are economic principal applicants do well. They tend to have university degrees and work experience in Canada (as a student or a TFW) before immigrating. But most new immigrants are refugees, immigrants sponsored as family members, or are dependents of the economic principal applicant. Refugees and family members tend to do less well, especially because ~92% live in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver where housing costs are high.

          I’m glad you’ve had a good experience as an economic immigrant, but I don’t understand what you mean that the long process of becoming a citizen is “why new immigrants hurt”? The discussion is about economics, not citizenship. My suburb is full of new immigrants who are suffering economically from high housing costs. If I touched a sensitive nerve regarding immigration I didn’t mean to.

          1. In part I meant new immigrants hurt because the time scale for “political integration” ie voting in elections particularly Federal in Canada is huge, so no opportunity to influence anything via the ballot box. Perhaps increasingly irrelevant but at the time it was important to us.
            Our Province is full of third and fourth generation immigrants suffering from high housing costs, some new immigrants also but new immigrants to this Province are not numerous, less actually than wealthy incomers from other Provinces, recent Covid escapees and from those new that do arrive many,most actually leave to go to the larger conurbations where prospects appear better but are not necessarily so. The current Federal immigration program, economic or refugee is unsustainable and does not address the underlying problems affecting the existing population, housing, health care, employment opportunities etc. My neighbours children living in their basements will not and cannot afford a home and children, essential for the Provincial continuity and well being despite good education and reasonable incomes. This is not conducive to new immigrants.
            Yes we were economic immigrants with University Degrees and Professional Qualifications and pre arrival employment guaranteed and have been and are successful but this was over twenty years ago and I can assure you that were it to be happening now we could not even consider let alone attempt emigration to Canada.
            The Company we work for has multiple vacancies and opportunities for skilled and professional workers but are unable to attract viable employable applicants. Some refugees particularly really good Ukraine applicants cannot be employed because of both Federal and Provincial regulations. Immigrants from less “successful “ origins have even less opportunity. This is not new but has actually got worse from when we arrived.
            It is no use whatsoever for the PM to boast about the population reaching 40 million because of immigration if this adds to the existing problems.
            Apologies for the lengthy post.

  7. What brand and model of “good” coffee bean grinder do you use? I like a fine “Turkish” grind, and am less than pleased with my grinder.

      1. How’s the accumulation / cleaning? I found a burr that needs regular cleaning – affects aroma.

    1. Gave up fresh ground – for yeeaarrss – for good pods.

      I get moving sooner. Peet’s Major Dickason’s is good.

      Maybe one day I’ll get the pricey automatic burr deal. Meanwhile, Capresso. Messy, needs cleaning each time, but good price/function.

  8. So what is behind it? I am not sure, but one thing often discussed is “greedflation”. There were genuine supply bottlenecks during the pandemic, and consumers got used to the higher prices. So suppliers kept the high prices (and higher profits where they could find them), and even let prices go up further because we put up with it. Is this true enough? I don’t know, but the argument keeps coming up.

    1. I am not sure what the consumers can do. Riot? Stop buying the product? (Not applicable for basic necessities such as bread.)
      Normally, competition brings prices down. So something seems to hinder competition.

    2. I have been complaining about this for a while, but the costs of doing agriculture have skyrocketed. Diesel is crazy expensive, fertilizer as well.
      Most people do not seem to associate cost and availability of fossil fuels with our ability to efficiently feed everyone, but there is a direct relationship.

      Beyond that, the concept of modern agriculture itself has become a target for “dismantling” by the usual suspects. Not just the people standing in traffic, but policy makers in Europe, Canada, and the US.

      The profit margins in farming were already incredibly thin. Lots of people are losing money with every crop, and burning through savings and equity doing so.

      On the positive side, if there can be one, we are on track to solve our obesity problem.

      1. Farmers may be getting squeezed but many corporations are showing record profits – that is the greedflation. Raising prices to consumers ans squeezing costs for suppliers.

  9. I think the folks above talking about the cost of rent or buying a place to live really is getting beyond comprehension. I know this is true on the East or West Coast, that is why i live in the middle. For younger people starting out — no wonder they live at home. All your money goes into the place to live, to drive and what is left over you eat. I am very fortunate to not be in that rat race any more. The old retired people like me are doing the best and that is only if you live in the lower cost part of this world and if you are really lucky and worked some where that cared about people and had this thing they call pensions. I know most people do not know what that is and that is the real crime.

  10. Another almost hidden fee – the “no cash” charge
    Usually 3-5% for using a credit
    This seems pervasive now
    Just charge more but don’t
    Me for using my card
    Don’t know why card companies don’t
    On this

    1. One retailer that I periodically visit has a) 2% credit card charge, b) 2% debit card fee, and c)3% cash ‘convenience’ surcharge. They are at the bottom of my list, and I only use them for things that are otherwise not obtainable when I can not wait.

    2. In the UK it is illegal do that. However, I am somewhat mystified that companies do it, because handling cash has a cost and if you have a card only business you can probably saver a lot of money.

      Well, OK, I’m not mystified. It’s another excuse to bilk customers.

  11. This is a curiously welcome topic from reading Queer Theory and Marxist writers.

    Amazon or Whole Foods is cutting into grocery with delivery or subscribe and save.

    Maybe companies way overestimated some sort of recovery.

    Coffee went way up a couple months ago.

    But its still busy down there and burning the proverbial hole… maybe everyone is hungrier… I don’t like the sound of that…

    I suppose Marxists know the solution in theology theory like a Jehova’s Witness…. oh wait, I know how that turned out.

  12. To be fair to cars, the new features that are becoming standard are pretty useful and do require a lot of development and extra equipment. I have a bit of a bad neck and reverse cameras and blind spot detection systems are vitally important to me. You can still get a quite good vehicle for under $50k, but for every 2 or 3 people buying a base level Civic, there’s 1 or 2 buying a fully loaded F-150 which can top out at well over $100k

    1. I’m not so sure anymore. The F-150 people just lowed their price another $10,000. Many older people like Prof. Coyne or me are hanging on to our less expensive older cars. Mine is a 2010 Subaru Forester and I may have that another 10 years. It makes no sense for many of us to throw out 30 to 50 grand for wheels. It is a waste of money for us. All you get with all that cost is much higher insurance cost and higher registration costs.

  13. Okay, I’ll bite, as this happened only a few days ago. I don’t go to restaurants often, and I seem to remember reading about this issue before … but then I saw it on my restaurant bill — a “fair wage surcharge” (5%). Even though I know that restaurants have low profit margins, and that they are often in a competitive price war with other restaurants in their respective neighborhoods, I find a “fair wage surcharge” to be a disingenuous economic euphemism. Why not raise the prices to allow for both fair wages and honest pricing? (I already normally tip 20% or more for restaurant service, and very rarely less even for poor service.)

  14. “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” Translation, prices going up on many individual products at many different retailers is a symptom of bad monetary policy, not the result of individuals getting greedy all of a sudden for the hell of it. It is not a cause of inflation, but the messy process by which it manifests itself. I feel like this is a repeat of the 1970s when there was finger-pointing. Big business caused inflation. Or powerful unions. Or greedy OPEC. Sorry, it was the Fed. Then and now.

    1. Inflation was up as well as profits. That’s greed, not necessarily bad economic policy. It would take price controls to combat greed.

      1. Price controls are a road to hell. They have been used in my country repeatedly, with the same disastrous results that are described in economics books from the Paleogene. Today, we have price controls only for drugs, and the unfortunate patients periodically complain that their drug has (surprise!) disappeared from the market.
        For other goods, we let the invisible hand set the prices.

      2. Mr. Bittlingmayer is spot on.

        Greed can’t explain inflation, for many reasons, but one is that greed is a constant.

      1. That is a useful economic data point: the marginal value to you of cold-pressed oil is less than the current difference in price between it and regular oil. And people say you can’t put a price on health! You just did.

  15. There was a $6.4 trillion (with a ‘t’) increase in the M2 money supply between March 2020 and the end of 2021. That’s a 42% increase in 22 months. The only possible outcome is inflation.

    Higher prices aren’t due to greed, they’re due to poor fiscal policy on the part of the government.

    1. I wonder why that was. Can anybody remember some sort of global event that stressed the US economy and caused them to take such drastic action?

      We are paying for the pandemic. Here in the UK, we are also paying for Brexit. It’s going to be grim for a bit.

  16. These are the things I get mad about weekly during my grocery store run: In my area (San Francisco Bay Area), I rarely find a 1 lb box of pasta for less than $2. A couple of years ago, it was just a buck. A single package serving of ramen will go for 70 – 80 cents now. Before the pandemic, you could buy that for a shiny quarter. Don’t get me started on store brand carbonated water. I used to be able to get that stuff for $1 or less for 1.25 liters. Now they want $1.80 or more. For carbonated water, I switched over to sodastream so I could do it myself, but I’m not sure I’ve saved money on it. I am using less plastic though.

  17. I never pay attention to prices, so I have no idea what anything costs. Two reasons for this : 1) If I want/need something, I’m going to buy it anyway and 2) I value my attention more than my money.

      1. “Can I interest you in some dirt?”

        Sorry, I recently bought five bags of it at Home Depot for my wife, who’s a master gardener. Couldn’t tell you what it cost. 😊

    1. I’m with you on not paying attention to costs. For some things I do, but for groceries and niceties (read, alcohol) I get what I want and don’t pay attention. Yes, I’ll admit I’m privileged.

  18. It’s so hard to say what is responsible for the price increases. One thought is that
    the pandemic and supply chain problems have become universal excuses for raising and maintaining prices. Some of it is real and (probably) some of the price increases are simply because retailers have learned that customers have little choice but to pay the high prices. Except for groceries and gasoline—where prices do seem to float up and down—prices seem rarely to go down. Since the cost of most everything needed to produce goods has gone up—labor, fuel, housing, interest on loans, etc.—it seems inevitable that prices on goods will go up as well. A rising tide lifts all boats, which is unfortunate in this case.

    Coffee. I buy my beans in bulk from an online retailer. The coffee is whole bean, fresh, and amazing. Just opening the bag and smelling the aroma makes me smile. I placed an order this morning. The cost: $183.00 for 15 pounds, or $12.20 per pound, including 8.2% tax. That doesn’t seem too bad to me, but—and this is the rub—I’m used to it.

  19. Grocery stores typically operate on slim profit margins due to myriad factors: competition, high operating costs, sales, perishables, loyalty costs, seasonal and weather factors. It has always baffled me why Albertsons can charge so much more than Kroger (I do not patronize that brand for this reason).

    I am very price conscious but would not consider a loaf of sliced bread under $7. It’s premium or bust.

    There is a workaround. Although Jerry seems fit, most of us can stand to lose a few lbs. of excess adipose. What better time is there to get fit than NOW? My grocery costs have never been lower.

    1. I am afraid that spending less on food is more likely to drive weight up, because people cut expensive protein-rich foods such as meat and milk products and start eating more cheap carbohydrate-rich food such as bread and noodles.

  20. My personal pet peeve is tip culture. When I was growing up it was 15% when dining out. Now people are pushing for 25% for everything and manditory “service fees” which they claim are not tips (I beg to differ good sir). All while Europe manages to do the exact same thing with zero tipping. But I have my own little formula so there’s comfort in that.

    1. In my European country, we tip 5-10% for good service, nothing for poor service. The function of the tip is just to prevent “quiet quitting” of waiters. If they are generally underpaid, it is not our fault, and it is not our duty to supplement their wages. I wonder why such ideas have become accepted in America. If I were living there, I’d rarely if ever eat out because I hate being panhandled.

      1. Panhandling is a stretch. But what it really is is wage subsidization. Table service restaurants are allowed to pay wait staff $3 per hour with the expectation that the rest will be made up for in tips. If it is a slow day then the restaurant owner has to make up the difference up to the minimum wage. As a result, restaurants do not budget in wait staff wages and underprice their food. So now there is a double whammy effect. If the restaurant were to get rid of tips and pay staff more, prices would rise and customers would get annoyed. Plus, some waiters make a lot of money in tips and getting rid of it would be a huge pay cut. So even the wait staff doesn’t want to end the practice (all while crying victim of course).

        So I have my system. 20% tip on the food (not the tax). And I subtract and service fees and credit card fees from the tip. Bartenders who pour a glass of wine or a beer get $1. Cocktails get tipped as food.

        1. I wrote above about a pre-tax “fair wage surcharge” (5%) that I got on a recent restaurant bill. Would you also subtract that from the tip? And would you consider it fair to have the surcharge taxed?

          1. Some restaurants in Canada note in their menus that large groups will be charged a gratuity of 15-18%. This is reasonable given that Canadians are notoriously cheap tippers and some would cheerfully stiff a waitress who had run her butt off for their soccer team. But if I was going to tip 15% anyway, without being compelled, I certainly wouldn’t tip on top of the billed gratuity. That would be the tip.

            So a mandatory wage subsidy would come off the tip, certainly. And the tip would be calculated, as always, on the menu price, not the bill with the 5% added. The tax law dictates if these sneaky surcharges attract VAT. In Canada they certainly would and at 13% for Ontario, you would certainly notice! So any charge applied by the restaurant that attracts VAT produces a countervailing discount of the net tip. (In principle. The actual amount might be less than a dollar though.)

            I must say we haven’t seen inflation in the amount expected for tips. The minimum wage in Ontario is $15.50 per hour and this is the same for wait staff and bartenders. If you pay by card you get prompts from the POS device to pick a tip percent, which I always ignore and calculate directly. I’m suspicious that “15%” will mean 15% of the total bill including tax. The three prompts used to have 15% in the middle, now it’s at the lower anchor, so there is some upward pressure. If my wife has cash, we tip cash.

        2. “…prices would rise and customers would get annoyed…”

          I am not sure. To see this, we need someone to open experimental restaurants in America with the real prices in the list, and suggesting tips up to 10% and only if you are happy with the service.
          I would feel annoyed if prices in the list seem reasonable yet I am presented with this and that fee after the fact, and then badgered to tip unrealistically. And why do some places list pre-tax prices? This would make sense for companies trading in bulk but for the individual customer who has no way to avoid paying the tax, it is just a meaningless attempt at deception.
          When eating out, I first look at the menu and if I don’t like the prices (or the food), I just leave and go somewhere else. But generally, a dinner out is supposed to be expensive. At home, it is usually me who cooks and serves, and I know well how much work this is.

  21. Cameras and lenses. When I first started serious photography, a top-of-the-line Nikon body was around $500 and all but the super telephoto and fisheye lenses were affordable to even a hobbyist. Today, mid-range mirrorless camera bodies start around 3K with the top of the line approaching 10K. Yes, today’s cameras are pretty much foolproof computers with lenses, but the price bite is painful. A Sony 600mm f4 super telephoto lens costs $13,000. Put that lens on Sony’s A1 camera body and you are walking around with 20K in your hands. Believe it or not, there is a waiting list for that model.

  22. Of course it is pure greed, playing on the former “supply chain” problems. So store your credit card and save 3%. Then shop at Aldi or Lidl, to save HUGELY on basics such as milk, yogurt, juice, packaged cheese, butter….I just had their barbecued baby back ribs and they were super super meaty, tender, tasty!!! Their pure Canadian maple syrup is reasonably priced. Vermont Village apple sauce, formerly very good unsweetened, suddenly got “apple puree” added to what was formerly just apples. This is merely added water, which you use to make puree. Cheating. No excuse. My complaint was dismissed. Then there are the cans and bottles reduced by two ounces or more with additional price increase. Coffee? Try Cerini! mail order of imported Italian Esse coffee. 2.2 pounds is one kilogram, and you can get their beans for $20 per kilo bag….so that is LESS than $10 per pound (shipping free over $49). Sometimes smaller sizes are proportionally cheaper than larger sizes!!!always check per ounce price!. Worst was a 16 ounce pickle chips in brine: 3 ounces pickles, 13 ounces brine. My complaint was dismissed; stick to classic kosher brands! Frozen lasagna? I searched with a magnifying glass and found four tiny crumbs of chopped meat among the cheese and pasta. Take out soup? Cardboard container filled 2/3 of the way for $16. Cars? I have my 1999 Toyota Corolla, nearly 150,000 miles and running just fine. Cant stand these huge behemoths that I cant climb into without a push. Food corporations are robbing us blind. Oh yes Ritz cracker box looks strangely smaller these days…. and of course who counts the total number of crackers? Rely on Americans to cheat everyone anytime they can get away with it. Please report to this blog regularly on every time you are cheated….

  23. I think you pay more than I do for bread, toothpaste etc. I could get a baguette for 80p when it has not all sold. Cereal, muesli, maybe £2.80 or so . Honestly spend approx £35 or under, a week, on food. Tend to go to a coffee shop a couple of times a week, varies between £2.80 & £3.80 for a latte.

    Air fares are not expensive enough to cover the actual environmental cost of CO2 emissions! 🙁

  24. My favorite scam is cold cereal. The $7.99 boxes (used to be $4.99) on the market shelf are all quite large to look at… until you pick one up and realize it’s maybe 1″ deep (used to be 3″). I’m pretty sure that’s just enough space to stack the cornflakes in single columns inside the box.

  25. Large grocery chains have relatively little to fear from competition and are owned by only one or two corporations who have no interest in competing. This price gouging is the main driver of inflation yet the only response is to raise interest rates and increase unemployment in an effort to lower wages because the greedy three-jobs-just-to-pay-the-rent workers have had it too good for too long.

  26. Over some several years I bought store-brand window cleaner for a couple dollars or so less than Windex. But then one day I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that the cap was crimped on. (I think it had been screwed on previously, so as to get the buyer into the habit of buying it before the crimping started.) I couldn’t unscrew it in order to refill the bottle. (I confess that recently I took such a bottle and gave a big twist on it and loosened the crimp – I felt the fluid on my hand – and put it back on the shelf. Just testing to see if it would unscrew, of course.) I notice that only Windex sells refill bottles. So, my solution was to buy a couple of Windex bottles, then buy large containers of wind shield wiper fluid at .Lowes or Home Depot.

  27. Around where I live, meat has become exorbitant, esp. beef. (I’m sure readers have mentioned this up thread.) I often wonder what the future of beef will be. Complex question, to be sure.

    1. Yes it has. Beef is stupid expensive. I rarely buy beef anymore. Even just ground beef has to be on sale, a good sale, for me to buy it. Normal price is now $6 – $10 a pound depending on the grade. Skirt steak, which used to be a cheap cut “back in the day” is now over $25/lb for outside, while inside is about $17. Heck, stew meat is about $8/lb. Freaking crazy.

      1. Stew meat! I know, that used to be $2-3/lb. Check this: at our local market, they were having a sale on precut/packaged 10 oz. ribeye steaks…for the low, low price of $15.99 ea.!

        The cheapest beef you can get around here is to knock on someone’s door who has cattle. I’ve done this a couple times (about 10 years ago), and usually the beef averaged out at around $3/lb. But you need a large freezer and you better love beef. I stopped doing that because I just couldn’t go threw that much beef and ended giving lots of it away lest it become freezer burned. I will say it’s some of the best beef I’ve ever had.

  28. Inflation is high here in Britain too. It was above 10% earlier this year, a level not seen since the 1980s, and is only slowly falling. But that’s the “cost of everything” figure. Food prices have risen by more than 20% on average, and some items are more expensive still, including bread. That’s being driven partly by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which hit energy supplies across Europe, so anything that requires a lot of energy to make, like bread, has seen increased production costs.

    The weather hasn’t helped either. Last summer was hot and dry, which reduced wheat yields in Britain. This summer has seen a prolonged spell of cold and wet weather, with grain crops still out in the fields as the harvest needs several days of dry weather to dry out the grain. So the yield will be down again, and wheat prices accordingly higher.

  29. Auto repair. In my experience, up 100% in the last two years.

    Someone mentioned panhandlers. I saw one with a sign suggesting a minimum donation of $10.

  30. Yes, coffee is relatively cheap, but most of the costs of a coffee shop are not the ingredients. Rent of the premises, maintenance, wages, management etc. These are what makes a coffee bought in a coffee shop quite a bit more expensive than just the raw ingredients.

  31. I am inclined to credit the money supply as being a more important factor than naked greed, which, as someone said, is probably constant. But another factor is implicit in many of the comments: for every younger person struggling to make ends meet, there is at least one retired person who doesn’t have to worry about inflation, at least for his day-to-day expenses. If your house is paid for & you don’t have to drive around every day to get to your job(s), you are doing OK until the inevitable large medical issue. The falcon cannot hear the falconer, &c. &c.

    1. Are you suggesting getting rid of old people? Many, if not most, people now heading toward retirement are heading toward poverty. I’m retired, but inflation hits me, too. And the resources of retired people, even before “inevitable large medical” issues, are very often limited and inflexible — especially if they’re relying on social security income alone — while an able working person can still try to expand their income. These days most wealth is created by technology. I think that technological wealth, created by robotic machines, should be taxed to fund universal basic income and universal basic health care. U.S. Social Security — a contract made with workers when they were younger, but a contract that is being increasingly limited by Republicans — is not enough for a humane technological society.

      1. U.S. Social Security is a promise (not a contract) made to workers in the present that workers in the future not yet born will be made to pay out of their then-current income what it costs to pay the benefits claimed by those by-then retired former workers. The confidence in that promise makes current workers willing to pay for current retirees: when it’s their turn to retire, they are counting on future workers being dinged for them. Governments everywhere in all humane technological societies are trying to figure out how to reneg on this promise while not appearing to.

        Except by printing money, no government of any stripe can sustain this in an aging society where the “dependency ratio”: the number of workers supporting each non-worker is falling, as it is in all western countries. This seems especially perverse where some people stop working while young and claim a life-time disability benefit drawn from the same pot of money.

        Even fully funded pension schemes, like the Canada Pension Plan (where current benefits are paid from the investment of lifetime contributions made by that worker) and private retirement investment accounts rely on young workers willing to defer consumption and invest in the portfolio that eventually pays out the benefit. A society of old people who don’t work can’t generate private investment income, either (unless they can invest capital abroad in stable high-growth countries where the work force is younger. Any suggestions?) When push comes to shove, young workers will maybe support their own parents, but not other people’s parents especially those of other tribes.

        The problem of taxing “technology” to pay for UBI and (free) UBHC is that tech itself isn’t wealth. The wealth is all from the brain power of people who invented it and who deploy it and whose lives are made richer by tech things like the Internet and smart phones and cars that last longer than they used to. That means taxing people, who lobby against being taxed even if their tech inventions wouldn’t mind filing a 1040. Would you pay “income” tax on the value of things you can do now for the price of an internet connection that you couldn’t do at any price just 20 years ago?

        The ingenuity of medical research guarantees that health care costs for an aging population will rise without limit until someone says No. Since half of all Medicare (U.S.) expenditures are paid in the last six months of the beneficiary’s life, eliminating Medicare would not mean “getting rid” of old people. But to be fair, neonatal ICU for severely premature infants is eye-wateringly expensive with often disappointing outcomes. You could cut at that end of life and concentrate on, say, education of healthy children without gutting concepts of social justice. Just because it’s medicine doesn’t mean it’s saving lives.

        1. I’m sorry, but I don’t see a problem with increasing taxes on the companies that make profits from technology — in other words, taxing the wealth created by technology. Much of the increasing disparity we see is caused by wealth being funneled to a small percentage at the greedy top. I’m certainly not an economist, but this seems obvious to me — and to many other people.

          I don’t favor either “socialism” or “capitalism” alone. I favor capitalism for its benefits as an impetus for progress, but sufficiently regulated so that society as a whole benefits — not just a very small minority. It’s simply wrong from a societal standpoint for CEOs to have incomes that are many hundreds or thousands of times more than their workers. Unfortunately, for several decades now I’ve seen the effective checks on the extremes of capitalism being undercut and dismantled.

          And, yes, I agree that too many cases at the old and young extremes in the health care arena, and extremes in general, are draining funds for good general health care. Providing solutions for that problem are beyond my pay grade, as are the details of solutions for a whole range of other economic problems. But the idea that old people are causing the problems with Social Security is not only abhorrent but simply ridiculous for a country as rich as the United States.

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