What makes us spend over $10 on a movie theater ticket, and then stop at the snack bar and drop another ten-or significantly more-on overpriced popcorn, soda, and candy? Is it the convenience? The ingrained experience of eating popcorn while watching a movie? Or is it just the delicious, irresistible popcorn smell that wafts toward us as we enter the theater?
Okay, I admit, movie popcorn is hard to resist. But as a consumers, we often have no excuse for repeatedly buying these overpriced products.
Anyone who has read my past articles has probably realized I am a book lover. I read one to two books a week, and have done so for the past two decades. Here’s my dirty little secret, though: I rarely buy books. The only time I buy a book is when I have read it several times, loved it, and then decided I must have my own beloved copy of it.
The majority of bestselling books are commercial products, marketed to sell as many as possible in the first few weeks of publication and then disappear into obscurity. The average newly-released hardcover book has a suggested retail price of over $20. That’s more than the rising cost of a movie ticket. Sure, you’re buying a printed book that can hypothetically be kept forever, but let’s be honest-most readers buy the new James Patterson, read it once, and toss it aside. If commercial books are becoming throwaway entertainment, then they should be priced as such. Even ebooks, which require no paper, no storage costs, and no shipping costs have, so far, not been priced significantly lower than hardcover books. Resist the instant gratification and put your name on the waiting list at the library or wait until that blockbuster hits the clearance rack, which it inevitably will.
Convenience foods can be a huge waste of money. Specifically, American’s diet-obsessed consumers keep purchasing snack food packaged in convenient 100-calorie portions, even though these products are way overpriced. According to Consumer Reports.com, these snack packs cost 16 to 279 percent more per ounce than the versions in regular packages. Buy the pretzels or cookies in their normal sizes and a few snack-size storage bags and make your own “snack packs”. Or better yet, skip the processed snacks for the most part and have a piece of fruit. A banana, apple, peach, or pear all naturally come in convenient sizes that are about 100 calories.
Remember when we all used to get along quite nicely with cell phones that just made calls? Okay, before I sound like a cranky old-timer, let me just say that many phone apps are fantastically useful and worth the money, and most of the bestselling apps are between $1and $5. But start downloading a new game every time you’re bored, and those apps start to add up. Wired.com made a list of some of the most overpriced phone apps, and some of these overpriced apps are quite worthless. The Sushi Experience app is basically a $40 ebook, which is outrageous. And the iVIP Black app apparently gives the purchaser privileged access to certain restaurants, bars, etc. for the annual price of $1000!
By now, most of us have heard about David Bach’s Latte Factor, and yet consumers are still spending money on specialty coffees. Even if we make coffee at home, we’re often spending high prices on flavored coffees or supplies for special one-cup coffee makers. If a regular old 34.5 ounce container of Folgers costs around $8 and makes 270 six-ounce cups, as it claims to on the label, that figures to about .03 cents for a cup of coffee. Now really…beat that. Make the regular coffee at home and add a little cinnamon, half-and-half, and flavored extract. I make my regular coffee and add a spoonful of Creamy Chocolate Coffee-Mate, which is delicious. If you are running late or on-the-go, swing through a fast food drive-through, where the price of regular coffee is usually about a dollar.
This comes as no surprise, I’m sure. When my daughter recently caught a stomach virus, her doctor prescribed Zofran, a medicine for nausea. Even though our pharmacist substituted the generic version, twelve pills still cost $82.79! That’s almost $7 a pill, for a medicine that is commonly used for patients suffering from the nausea that comes with cancer treatment. I shudder to think of the millions of chronically ill Americans spending enormous amounts of money on chemotherapy and radiation, then having to shell out $7 every time they need relief from the nausea their treatment caused. There’s no quick fix for this, of course. Here’s hoping our country gets its healthcare system in check before we’re all working overtime just to pay our medical bills.
Premium Satellite Television
Basically, we pay for the option of having hundreds of entertainment choices at our fingertips, although we may never actually use those options. If you think about how much television one person is realistically capable of watching-at most, eight hours a day? Good grief, I hope that’s an overestimate-then the price of a premium satellite television package is enormously overpriced. Premium packages cost over $100 a month. Sure, the package may include hundreds of channels, but how many of those channels do you honestly ever watch?
As consumers, instead of protesting these prices, we keep buying the products and feel a warped sense of pride when we feel “rich” enough to afford them-as if our medications or soy lattes are some sort of status symbols. As the recession continues, let’s hope that consumers return to a sense of pride in thrift, and a realistic perception of a “want” versus a “need.” After all, we’re the consumers, and to some extent we control the pricing of products. If we stop buying at a certain price point, businesses have no choice but to provide more affordable alternatives.
See 6 More Overpriced Products We All Keep Buying at Investopedia.com