Hawkward Thoughts- Why Sales Inflation and Taxes are scary

Sat, 2017/09/30

Recently, I went into 7/11 to buy a Slurpee and, though I did buy a small, was surprised when I went to pay that it came out at just over a dollar. This got me thinking about why all of the things near the counter were all written up to be so much more at near three to five dollars. At normal grocery stores they’ll overcharge you for things near the counter because most likely you are buying them out of the convenience that they’re nearby, but at 7/11, everything is already marked up for convenience anyway so that couldn’t be it. The only other thing that could drive up the price so much, besides the possibility that sodium is just really expensive, is that they’re heated on those little rollers or by an incandescent lamp instead of being chilled by a refrigerator. This also didn’t make much sense to me, as one could guess that as long as there are no state changes taking place in the food itself, heating or cooling costs about the same amount of energy. I decided eventually it was due to the ingredients themselves and that the hot foods cost more effort of labor to prepare and serve; hot meals, no matter how unhealthy, are a luxury.

Then I started wondering why hot foods were still so pricy in the summer when people were less likely to buy them, why cold drinks weren’t more expensive at the moment, and why they retained their prices all year round in the first place; supply and demand is an interesting concept. It might be because the companies do this so subtly that consumers simply don’t notice. The point here is that humans are only comfortable buying things within their budgets if they already know the price of the good, otherwise if the price is too expensive they'll shy away from it, or if it’s too cheap they'll expect it to stay that way forever.

This is why sales inflation and the “hidden sales tax” are so frightening. After we’ve already confirmed with ourselves that the listed price of something is acceptable when it is picked off of the shelf, when we go to the register and learn that it is a few cents more, the comfortability of having to own up to not being sure of the good’s price and the pure inconvenience of putting it back will push us to buy it anyway. Most of the time we don’t even realize how much the tax costs until we get the receipt! This mechanism is what allows taxes to be so dangerous to consumers and create such large sums of money. Its sneaky nature also allows local government to slip in blatant money-grabs like the Bag Tax and the Sweetened Drink Tax right under our noses. No wonder the tax isn’t listed on the shelf.