Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paying Almost Double for Pre-Sharpened Pencils

A 12 pack of unsharpened Ticonderoga pencils in a cardboard box - $2.14 ($.18 per pencil)

An 18 pack of pre-sharpened Ticonderoga pencils in a plastic package- $5.99 ($.33 per pencil)

You are spending $.15 -per pencil- to have someone sharpen it for you. The 18 pack should cost closer to $3.24. That's a $2.75 premium for pre-sharpening.

I moved the two boxes next to each other to take this photo. They are actually placed on different levels of the aisle so a side-by-side comparison can't be made immediately. It took me some time to believe that these could be the same pencils, but the exact same words appear on both packages (just in different locations).

-P. Econmancer

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ford Motorcraft Shrinks Oil Filter Size

This is really disappointing. I just got done changing my oil and I've had an unpleasant surprise. At some point between oil changes the FL400-S oil filter by Motorcraft has been reduced in size. I'd say there is about 3/4 of an inch less filter material than previously. That's a big reduction in surface area inside the filter.

My car is turbocharged and these engines have a tendency to get oil sludge. I want as much protection as I can get so I use the FL400-S size filter. I've sent my concerns to Ford and will update with any information they care to provide about this.

I'm assuming it was done to keep the price from going up, but I personally don't buy Motorcraft brand filters to save money and I'd bet there many who are with me on this. It's one of those things I'd rather pay more for and get the best I can instead of having the potential for increased engine wear so I can save a few cents.

So for anyone who has been using the Motorcraft FL400-S filter on their car, take a ruler along with you next time you're in the oil aisle and be sure you're getting the most filter for your car by checking out the other brands available. I'll size these up as I have time and post my results.

Alternatives filter brands to check out-
Fram (xx)3600
STP S3600
Bosch 3422
Mobile M1-209
K&N HP 2009

-P. Econmancer

Monday, May 17, 2010

Organic Beef Jerky

Organic beef jerky. Maybe I just don't appreciate this niche market, but is there really that much demand from beef jerky consumers for an organic alternative to beef jerky?

You could argue that it's gluten-free, but so are an number of the (Cheaper!) Oberto brand beef jerky flavors. I guess it's for if you are really worried about the hormones and antibiotics they typically put in cows? I'd think if you're the kind of person who worries about that, you'd probably also have issues with some of the features of beef jerky this organic alternative doesn't address- the sodium level is an example that come to mind. Personally, I love beef jerky but I'll stick to the non-organic brands.

-P. Econmancer

From Amazon:

Golden Valley Natural Organic Beef Jerky

Monday, May 3, 2010

Price Discrimination and Self-Incrimination

I just got done reading The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. It was an enjoyable book and I wanted to post about the part I found to be the most interesting- price discrimination by businesses and self-incrimination by consumers.

Harford explains that there are people that, for countless reasons, are willing to pay more than the general population for goods and services. He then shows three ways stores encourage certain customers to pay more for the products they buy; Unique Targeting, Group Targeting, and Self-Incrimination.

I admire the Self-Incrimination method the most and I've searched out local examples since reading this book. Price discrimination is everywhere and you can save money by looking out for it. I have, as an example, included two photographs of food taken at Target. Target has ramen noodles in two spots inside the store. On the pasta aisle you can purchase one brand of ramen noodles for a little over $.10.

On the Asian food aisle (only one aisle over from pasta) you will find a different brand of ramen noodles for $.70 per package.

I see two things happening here, Target gets people that don't take time to search for the cheaper noodles elsewhere in the store, and Target gets people willing to buy a “premium” brand of ramen noodle at a higher price (7 times higher!). I purchased both brands, just to make sure the expensive brand wasn't lined with 24k gold foil, and I couldn't tell a difference in quality or taste.

From Amazon:
Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup - 36/3oz

-P. Econmancer

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Narrow Aisles in Stores

Top: Pasta/soup aisle ~8.5 feet across | Bottom: Cereal aisle ~7.5 feet across

The next time you are at Target, count the number of floor tiles across the cereal aisle or candy aisle and then count the tiles on any other food aisle. The candy aisle and cereal aisle are a foot narrower than the other food aisles. I'd assume it's so parents can't keep kids from grabbing items on those aisles no matter how centered they set the cart. The parents are then more likely to buy the item to prevent a tantrum from the child when the child sees the item being taken from then and put back on the shelf. That's all well and good, but Wal-Mart doesn't narrow these aisles. I've measured.

Why wouldn't Wal-Mart take advantage of this if it is to increase sales? Why does Target do this if it doesn't really increase sales? Maybe my theory is wrong and it's not about increased sales, but nothing is random in store design. What advantage does Target get from this and why does Wal-Mart not want/get that same advantage? I don't have answers, but it sure is annoying when you have more than two people going down the cereal aisle at the same time.

The frozen food aisles are the widest in the store, but that makes sense because it leaves room for the doors to be opened on both sides and still allow people to pass.

(the difference in angles on these two photos adds to the narrowing effect, it doesn't look that dramatic in person, but there is a physical difference you can see when you are there even without measuring the width)

-P. Econmancer