Similar items, not-so-similar prices

07Jul11

I’m a huge fan of a particular type of tortilla chip. It’s an organic blue chip, with just the right amount of sea salt sprinkled throughout the bag. For many months, I was able to buy the product consistently from the same retailer. But lately, something wonky has happened with the pricing.

In a matter of months, the price for my favorite blue chips has increased about 50%. Yet the same product in a “no salt” version has only gone up about 15%, creating a substantial pricing disparity. Does a bit of sea salt really cost that much? Of course not. But I don’t think supply and demand explains it, either.

Regardless of what’s causing this pricing disparity, common sense dictates that similar items ought to be priced in a similar way. If you forget to perform this simple reality check, you create an awkward scenario that forces customers to think twice about whether any of your pricing makes sense. And by eroding that trust, even the most loyal shoppers become more price-conscious. So while the market may allow you to charge inexplicably high prices for a particular product variant for a limited period of time, just remember that the long-term costs may far outweigh the short-term benefits of that approach.



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