Friday, February 24, 2006
7 News Features: Price Check
Everyone wants a bargain. But even the most savvy shopper may want a price check before they check out. In a 7 News hidden camera investigation, we found getting the best prices often comes down to where you shop and where you live.
WSVN--We scour the sunday specials, look for the best deals...
And then head out to spend our hard earned money on the best bargains in town. Or so we think.
Kathy McGowan: "I've found that sometimes certain stores even within the same chains do have different prices in different areas."
Hollywood resident Kathy Mcgowan is a coupon clipper.
Her favorite items are air fresheners.
She has them all over her house.
Kathy McGowan: "Air freshener sound."
But recently, Kathy got a whiff of something strange.
Kathy McGowan: "The other day I paid 2 dollars more for air freshener in one store of the same chain."
And she's not the only one who has noticed.
Bargain shopper Marissa Daugherty works in an upscale neighborhood but avoids shopping there.
Marissa Daugherty: "Sometimes they have diff3erent things and sometimes the price is different depending on where you are at."
That's right, she waits to shop in her neighborhood because she says the prices are cheaper.
Marissa Daugherty: "The prices will change even on something as simple as milk."
So we decided to investigate.
A team of 7 News producers visited several pharmacies, grocery and drug stores in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Our undercover video shows not all prices are the same. Even within the same chain of stores.
Marissa Daugherty: "Grocery store scanner."
For instance, at this Hialeah store, we found a box of Cheerios for $2.68.
The same box at the same store's Homestead location cost $2.76.
Love a good cup of joe?
This gourmet coffee cost $6.89 at this store in West Kendall.
But just miles away, you'll pay $7.99 -- almost a dollar more, even though it's the same chain.
And for a real bargain, we found the same coffee within the same chain on sale for $6 in Hollywood -- that's nearly two dollars less.
Marissa Daugherty: "I was very surprised when I found out that the price would be different."
The same thing is happening at this drug store too.
We spotted this sippy cup for $5.49 in Hialeah.
Then we found the same cup at two other locations... For $5.79.
Grocery store scanner.
From baby formula to medicine, our hidden camera found price differences on all kinds of products depending on a store's location.
But the most surprising find, we bought this toddler booster seat for $49.74.
Then we spotted it for almost $10 less at another location.
Kathy McGowan: "I kind of thought that chains all maintained a certain price for the same item."
But that's clearly not the case.
Nick Castaldo: "If you move around to the more affluent neighborhoods around the country you will probably see the prices in those areas are pushed to higher limit. The industry calls that dynamic pricing."
And it's perfectly legal.
Experts say dynamic pricing is a result of databases which track purchase patterns.
It tells retailers what items they can mark up in which part of town based on popularity.
Nick Castaldo: "It's part of an overall marketing trend away from mass marketing to target marketing which recognizes the differences we all have as consumers."
Craig Stevens: "Unfortunatley, there's not much you can do to avoid it. You can join a preferred customer program to take advantage of weekly specials. You can surf the web for comparison shopping sites. But in the end..."
Nick Castaldo: "The free market doesn't mean everyone gets treated the same. It means you are free to take your business to wherever you will get the best deal."
And that's just what consumers like Marissa and Kkathy will do.
From now on these women are making sure to price check before they check out.
Marissa Daugherty: "If it's a different price, it can almost leave a bitter taste in your mouth."
Kathy McGowan: "A few cents here and there adds up after awhile. It pays to be aware."
Experts say if you paid more for something and then find it for less at the same chain, it doesn't hurt to ask the store manager for a refund... But bring along your receipt.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Nova University H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship