Friday, October 8, 2010

Updated: Midnight Grocery Runs Capture Economic Desperation

From Yahoo News. Poor grasshoppers!

"Once a month, just after midnight, the beeping checkout scanners at a Walmart just off Interstate 95 come alive in a chorus of financial desperation.

Here and at grocery stores across the country, the chimes come just after food stamps and other monthly government benefits drop into the accounts of shoppers who have been rationing things like milk, ground beef and toilet paper and can finally stock up again."

Honestly--waiting until the sun comes up doesn't make prices rise, and it doesn't make you any more desperate.

"More than a year after the technical end of the Great Recession, millions of Americans still have a hard time stretching their dollars until the first of the month, or even the next payday.

One in seven Americans lives in poverty, and more than 41 million are on food stamps, a record. Last year the figure was about 35 million.

As a result, there are more scenes like the one last week at a 24-hour Kroger in Cincinnati. As the final hours of September ticked down, about five dozen cars were in the parking lot. It's much slower on normal weeknights."

Ah--a clue about when to shop at this Kroger in Cincinnati.

"Stores have always noted swings in spending around paydays — a drop-off in buying in the days before shoppers receive paychecks or government subsidies, followed by a spurt of spending once the money is available."


"There is no broad data on the impact of this shopping pattern, known as the paycheck cycle. The timing of government assistance is different from state to state, and when payday falls varies by employer.

But stores have learned how to adapt to the surges, which typically occur on the first and the 15th of the month, when many people get their paychecks. They monitor the pay schedules from big employers in the towns where they operate."

This is what a full pantry protects you from--the paycheck cycle.

"...stores have learned how to adapt to the surges, which typically occur on the first and the 15th of the month, when many people get their paychecks. They monitor the pay schedules from big employers in the towns where they operate.

Walmart, Kroger, Kmart and others have worked with their suppliers to stock more gallons of milk and supersized packages of toilet paper and detergent at the beginning of the month. Smaller packages and store brands are given prominence leading up to payday.

Walmart is collaborating with vendors to offer even smaller sizes for under a dollar to win back customers who are heading to dollar stores to buy mini-size laundry soap and other items because they only have a few dollars left until the next payment. Earlier this year, Kmart began pushing $1 items on snack packs and other food items, timed a week before the 15th of each month to help customers stretch their budgets."

You can bet the price per unit of these things will be higher than others--this is how they profit from the poor. These so-called $1 snack packs are undoubtedly cheaper if the snacks were homemade, and therein lies the trap: convenience foods. Convenient for WHOM?

You'd think that with more people unemployed, there would be more time in a day to cook from scratch, but no--old habits die hard. If people would cook from scratch, they'd notice it's cheaper and more abundant than convenience food, and they'd notice they'd actually have MORE with LESS, as in income. A SAHM is worth at least $41,000 in tax writeoffs--a figure well out of the poverty range! This is why I stay home--I make more money than I did working.

"Americans relying on government benefits are doing their homework to stretch the payments. The vast majority interviewed by The Associated Press as October dawned last week were carefully scrutinizing prices and had a game plan of what to buy where.

In Harlem, shoppers were running back and forth from Target to Costco to compare prices just after 10 a.m., the time most of the stores open, on the first day of the month.

Sandra Bennerson, 66, who is retired and gets Social Security on the first, was in the detergent aisle at Target, explaining to a reporter why Costco had a better deal on Tide. Costco was offering 20 more ounces for the same price.

"Every penny counts," she said."

At least she isn't falling back on the old WallyWorld, relying on it for so-called rock-bottom prices. I've been comparing, and I find WallyWorld to be one of the most expensive stores in my area to shop at. Reputation isn't everything, and numbers don't lie.

I had a friend and former WallyWorld inmate tell me how WallyWorld does their rollbacks--the price cuts are actually price INCREASES, but you don't notice because the item was brought out of an aisle, a hidden away slow seller, prime for marketing attention. Bring out the smiley-faced Rollback character, slap it all over TV, and put it on print, and a price cut is born! That's how Wally moves merchandise. That's how all stores move merchandise.

UPDATE: I'm also finding that stores with some sort of money connotation in the name (Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Bottom Dollar Grocery, Cheap-Mart, The .99 Store, Buck-o-Rama, etc.) have higher prices than the stores that don't have "money" in the name: Kroger, Harris-Teeter. It's rather interesting that these two stores are also union shops...hmmmm. Could Obama's stimulus have something to do with this?


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