Supermarkets Begin Charging Different Prices To Different People

Standardized price tags may soon be supplanted by personalized ones. Wealthy, high-spending shoppers will likely be courted by receiving the best prices, while the poor will be charged more for the same goods. Dystopia reportage from the New York Times:

Going to the grocery store is becoming a lot less egalitarian. At a Safeway in Denver, a 24-pack of Refreshe bottled water costs $2.71 for Jennie Sanford, a project manager. For Emily Vanek, a blogger, the price is $3.69.

The difference? The vast shopping data Safeway maintains on both women through its loyalty card program. Ms. Sanford has a history of buying Refreshe brand products, but not its bottled water, while Ms. Vanek, a Smartwater partisan, said she was unlikely to try Refreshe.

So Ms. Sanford gets the nudge to put another Refreshe product into her grocery cart, with the hope that she will keep buying it, and increase the company’s sales of bottled water. A Safeway Web site shows her the lower price, which is applied when she swipes her loyalty card at checkout.

The pricing model is expected to extend to other grocery chains — and over time could displace standardized price tags.

24 Comments on "Supermarkets Begin Charging Different Prices To Different People"

  1. Though this concept could help ensure the poor pay less for neccessities, and penalise the ecologically wasteful, and deter obesity, I bet big corporations have no interest in doing all that.

    • Multidimentionalbeing | Aug 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm |

      Define “neccessities”. The poor is a very broad group of people and their individual thoughts about what is and is not a necessity varies greatly. This ‘concept’ Safeway is applying makes it so an obese person who’s beverage diet consists of mostly Coca-Cola. Is going to have much greater discounts on that product while other products (such as bottled water) will potentially cost more. So basically its going to exacerbate their obesity problem.   

  2. chinagreenelvis | Aug 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm |

    Not really much more than personalized coupons. Makes sense, in an Orwellian nightmarish sort of way.

    • chinagreenelvis | Aug 30, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

      I should also add that Mr. Sloan’s assertion that rich people will automatically get better prices and poor people will wind up paying more is baseless and not derived from the content of the original article. I’m not saying that it can’t happen, but that the information presented here provides no reason to believe it will.

  3. Brian Flowers | Aug 30, 2012 at 6:45 pm |

    Wait…so they’re going to charge MORE to the person who is less likely to purchase the product…making them even LESS likely to purchase it? That sounds like a great way to make your business stagnate…

  4. Liam_McGonagle | Aug 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm |

    Homo Non-sapiens Americanus:  Don’t they realize that this just opens up a whole new market for info tech fraud?

  5. Another reason to decline loyalty cards all together.

    Remember when stores that wanted your business simply charged you less, and didn’t try to bully you into selling your personal information? 

    • E. Palpatine | Sep 1, 2012 at 2:10 am |

      On the plus side my loyalty card says “The Pope” so it kind of evens out.

  6. zombieslapper | Aug 31, 2012 at 12:26 am |

    Personalized coupons is right. I don’t see a problem here. And I don’t see a problem with loyalty cards. I don’t care if Big Brother knows I like cheap gas station coffee & granola bars.

  7. Not sure about explicitly cheaper prices for the rich and higher prices for the poor…

    Although I could definitely see steering certain groups towards certain purchases.

    I can imagine a richer person being steered towards certain aisles whereas the poorer people suddenly get adverts for the “cheaper” cuts of meat and cereals. I get hints to buy Busch Light to dull my “minimal-wage mind” whereas my richer brother gets hints to buy Bells (from Kalamzoo) and/or Three Floyds (Munster, IN) beers for a post-work repast. Never mind that I’m the beer gourmand and my brother’s a tea-totaller.

    I can also see an attempt to drive certain people from certain stores. Suddenly my richer brother finds Aldi’s to be amazingly expensive for their crap and ends up shopping at Trader Joe’s, whereas I suddenly find that what I used to be able to afford at Trader Joe’s I no longer can afford, thereby driving me to Aldi’s to feed on their crap-encrusted junk foods.

    • TapMeYouFascists | Aug 31, 2012 at 9:22 am |

      It’s like Lily Tomlin said, “No matter how cynical you become, you just can’t keep up.” I think your perception is keen on this, unfortunately.

  8. You found out | Aug 31, 2012 at 2:29 am |

    I need a “Good Looking “customer discount 

  9. Anarchy Pony | Aug 31, 2012 at 3:00 am |

    Time to start your own community food gardens and farms kiddies, and trade through barter of goods and services. Divorce yourself from the moneyed economy. 

    • TapMeYouFascists | Aug 31, 2012 at 8:25 am |

      You couldn’t be more right, AP. If learning to garden has taught me anything, it’s two thing, and it is not something I could depend on to sustain myself while I’m learning, if ever.

      But it really isn’t difficult to get started, and the time do grow our own food is now.

      • Monkey See Monkey Do | Aug 31, 2012 at 10:38 am |

        yeh its important to network our vegetable gardens with as many people in our community as we can, good communities make it work really well.

    • Jin The Ninja | Aug 31, 2012 at 10:41 am |

       this is one of those times where country beats city hands down.

  10. 6Blackie6 | Aug 31, 2012 at 2:23 pm |

    Another reason to shop at a locally owned store that provides organic options. They are out there but you need to vote with your $$$.

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