Last week in a local grocery store the prices for potatoes were as follows:
- A paper bag, stitched closed, with 10 pounds of potatoes: $5.49 for the bagful
- Loose potatoes, same variety, $1.99/pound
That's right. The loose potatoes were priced at nearly four times the per-pound price of ten pounds of potatoes in the bag.
I can think of two possible explanations for the price differential (feel free to offer others):
- The store is in a neighbourhood where many people are likely to have little storage and eat very few potatoes. In fact, if we hadn't been planning a meal for six people, I wouldn't even have been looking for potatoes. If you eat only one or two potatoes each week in the household, buying ten pounds might not work out very well if you don't have much storage space.
- Paying more for individual potatoes is like buying an insurance policy, paying more for known quality as opposed to an unknown quality that is sealed inside an opaque bag. If you buy the potatoes individually, you can pick and choose to avoid potatoes with big bruises or big gashes and cut marks. Buying them in the bag, you don't know how many bruises and gashes you'll have to put up with. Of course the retailer has an incentive to make sure it buys potatoes from suppliers who do not put lots of bad potatoes in a bag, but there is a noticeable difference in quality.
The two explanations, combined, would help explain why we sometimes do indeed buy individual potatoes. This time, the bagged potatoes had a few minor bruises or cuts, but not many. And we were making mashed potatoes anyway, so those minor flaws didn't really matter to us.