by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
How can the same source want to save you a little money and cost you a lot of money at the same time? I’ve wondered this for years.
For example, I wrote this in 2013:
There’s a disconnect between the money sections and editorial sections of most media outlets. The money sections like to print helpful articles on helping people stretch their scarce dollars and warning against the pain of higher prices on necessities.
The editorial sections favor policies that confiscate those dollars and create that pain.
I thought about that again this weekend in reading how diligently The News & Observer’s Brooke Cain went about comparing prices at 16 different grocery store chains in Raleigh. As she wrote in her big report, “Which grocery stores have the Triangle’s best prices? We visited 16 chains to find out”:
We came up with a list of 38 items to price-check — 18 of those are popular name-brand items (such as Oreos), another 10 are items that people seem to frequently buy in the store brand version (eggs, milk) and another eight are produce items (a mixture of regular and organic). Then we tossed in a fresh baguette from the bakery and some chicken breasts.
We shopped 16 grocery store chains — the major ones like Harris Teeter, Food Lion and Walmart, as well as discount stores like Aldi and Lidl, and specialty stores like Sprouts Farmers Market and Weaver Street Market. In each case we shopped Raleigh locations.
Almost all of our price checks were done last week, Oct. 8-11, with a couple of missing items added this week.
Here’s the controversial part: We only recorded regular prices. No sale prices. We decided this was the only way to do a fair comparison across the board, since sales are fleeting.
Cain elaborated on her Twitter account (read the thread starting here):
I worked on it for almost 2 weeks, putting about 200 miles on my car. I had no idea when I started this that we had 16 grocery chains in Raleigh! (And I still think we missed a couple). It was SO exhausting. But I loved it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Now that’s dedication to helping families save a little money every week! Even the headline include the assumption that the lowest prices are the “best prices.”
I just wish the editorial section had this passion for saving people money. They, on the other hand, defend property tax increases (five years in a row so far), push for bond proposals, get outraged by tax cuts, promote higher electricity prices, desire higher gas prices, on and on. But they’ll publish how to save you some bucks off groceries. It’s like straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel.