On the Fiction that is Capitalist Pricing

Companies want to sell you things. And of course, to run a business that isn’t money laundering, what you get from your customers needs to be more than what you pay for goods and services yourself. But of course they don’t just want to make some profit, they want to make as much profit as they want to and that’s where brands come into play, where they tell you stories to justify a much higher price, where a certain label means the shirt costs 150 bucks while still being made in the same sweat shop by the same people who make the 15 bucks shirts. Another trick is evoking that something is rare and exotic and therefore expensive.

Yesterday we went to the wholesale supermarket and one thing I needed was allspice. I absolutely love allspice, I was running low on allspice and I wanted to make some Jamaican jerk anyway, so I went to the spice section where I was presented with two options: the normal supermarket size packet with 19g of allspice, which would probably have been enough to make a small batch of jerk, and the restaurant wholesale packet, by the same company, with 500g.

The price difference? 2.80 vs 7.50. That’s a difference of 15 vs 150 € per kilogram for the same fucking allspice.

I think we’ll have a lot of Jamaican jerk this summer…

©Giliell, all rights reserved


  1. says

    All the allspice!

    I have 10lbs of cloves in vacuum bags for the same reason. And because I couldn’t help thinking what amazing wealth it would represent to a Roman, and here it was one-click $20 on Ebay.

  2. says

    I used to use potassium cyanide as a process chemical for wet-plate photography. The stuff is pretty cheap -- it’s the plywood box full of vermiculite and layers of welded polyethylene bags full of vermiculite that make shipping expensive. It used to cost $15 for 100g, and $150 for shipping and handling. But they charged the true shipping cost, so 15kg of the stuff was $100, and $150 for shipping. And that’s why I have enough KCN that the FBI should have paid me a friendly visit, but they never have.

  3. Bruce says

    Another way to look at it is by assuming that the cost per gram of product is constant. If the total price includes the cost of the bag and making the bag etc, then we can attribute the cost difference to the bag process. From this, we can calculate amounts.
    Without doing the math yet, I think this shows that to the allspice company, the allspice is only a small thing. They are really a company that sells bags, and uses a trivial value of allspice as a marketing method to sell their bags.
    So what did you buy? A nice big bag, plus some stuff not worth mentioning in economic analyses. Crazy.
    It shows it is more cost-effective to be well off, and it is expensive to live as a poor person, who can’t afford the big Costco-sized bags.

  4. voyager says

    That’s so true. We have a grocery store in town that sits beside a senior’s complex and because so many of them live alone the store will break down larger products for them. For example, a single slice of pie costs $1.99. The pie has been cut into 6 slices so that makes the total cost of a pie $12.00 by extension -- except that the same pie costs only 6.99 for the whole pie! I know some seniors who combine grocery lists with their friends in order to get the best price on things.

  5. says

    In Cz, it is the law that supermarkets must show not only the pricing per package but also pricing per kg on the shelves. I did not make a study of it, but my subjective impression is that ever since then the differences between different packaging sizes became less pronounced. But smaller packages are still a bit more costly than big ones. It makes sense to an extent -- for example you have nearly the same machine-time and material costs for packaging of 100 g as you have for 1 kg. But a tenfold difference seems ridiculous

    As a bit of a tangent -- in my previous job one of my colleagues in the logistics department had a really hard time explaining to the management that lower production and material turnover do not, in fact, reduce time in logistics that much. Sometimes it does even the opposite. Because suddenly instead of having to shuffle full palettes with raw materials now and then, they had to shuffle half-full palettes all the time. And the time the forklift needs to move the material from place A to place B is the same whether it is 1 ton or 100 kg on the palette. Similarly loading a simple truck with 18 palettes takes longer than simply half the time it takes to load one with a trailer with 36 palettes. So when you cut your production in half, you cannot, in fact, cut the personnel in half across all departments as well, it simply doesn’t work like that.

    I had the same problem in the laboratory in 2009 and then again in 2017. The production was reduced, but the laboratory was full since we were testing prototypes for future projects and thus our workload was independent of the production. The management was not able to grasp it.

  6. says

    In my late teens I used to work in factories during the summer. Even at the lowest level of management the lack of knowledge about the actual work being done was stunning. I do think that all able bodied people should spend some time in their youth working on production lines, it defenitly builds character.
    We also have that law where they need to display the price per unit.

  7. Ice Swimmer says

    One thing that I’ve wondered about spices is the policy of the big co-operative S chain here in Finland. They don’t sell spices in large packages (hundreds of grams). Nowadays some other chains do it, but not them.

    As for allspice/Jamaican pimenta, it’s popular here (about 40 years ago Finns consumed 45 g allspice per capita/year, 4.5 times as much as Germans and 9 times as much as Britons or Canadians). I like it in soups and brown or white sauces and casseroles.

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