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.