Wednesday, August 23, 2017

At a Loss

I just bought a box of 100 “caplets” of OTC drug xxx (none of your business!) from Target, their generic store brand Up&Up, for $5.99.  Right next to it was the same exact drug, same store brand, in “softgel” form, with a count of 24, for $7.39!  The shelf labels accurately displayed the “unit cost” (per 100), $5.99 for caplets and $30.76 for softgels!  Softgels were more than five times more expensive than caplets, the same damn thing, 5x as expensive.  The cost for a year: $21.86 for caplets and $112.27 for softgels.  $90 / year difference, for an inconsequential item!

Before we go on, we may wonder whether this phenomenon was an aberration, a one-time only accident.  I checked, and it was repeated over and over again in this part of the store.

OK, so maybe it costs more to manufacture softgels than caplets. If we allow that to be the case, even if it cost 5x as much to manufacture one softgel than one caplet – quite unlikely – most of the end-cost of the item will not be the cost of manufacture of the drug alone.

OK, does Target have the right to charge such a different price for one form of the same thing rather than another?  Maybe an analysis of Supply and Demand dictated the spectacularly different prices.  Of course, they have the right, although frankly I think the pricing was a careless mistake, software code that didn’t notice what I am talking about, pricing the same item in different forms.  But Target would not give us the option if no one bought the more expensive choice.

OK, so maybe the customer prefers – for a rational reason or even an irrational reason – softgels over caplets.  But how likely is it that he prefers to spend an extra $90 / year for that extravagance?  I suspect he never gave it a thought.  And that is what bugs me!

The reason that I am writing this piece is because people who don’t think bug me, people whose eyes are not connected to their brains bug me, people who are willfully stupid (thinking costs calories, after all) bug me.  These people are allowed to vote!  Their unbelievably thoughtless votes cancel my over-the-top informed vote, and we call that a democracy, one person one vote!  I have no idea how many they are, but I will bet dollars to donuts that they make the difference in every close election.  Put that in your pipe!

Damn me, I do not want to disenfranchise any American from his right to vote, but damn me again I do want to insist that he knows at least a little bit what he is doing.  Yeah, Thomas Jefferson had something to say about this!

Pshew.  I can calm down now.  Relax.  OK, done.

Maybe not!