I agree with virtually everything in co-blogger Scott Sumner’s complaint about, and analysis of, the government sector. I did a Krugman about the DMV a year ago and the evidence people presented in the comments caused me to cry uncle and conclude that the DMV was almost as bad as people were saying and that I couldn’t put too much weight on my own fairly pleasant experience.

This is not about the DMV. It’s about something in the private, for-profit sector that I find annoying. I’m not advocating regulation to handle it. I’m publicizing it to see if other people have similar experiences and reactions. When it happens, which is often, I almost always complain about it. So far it hasn’t changed.

Here’s the practice. When I go to the local Save Mart in Pacific Grove and want to buy something, it is fairly common for the big-label price to be, say, $3.99 and then for a tag to show that I can buy 2 for $7.00. So my common sense tells me that if I buy one item, which is what I usually want, I will pay $3.99, but if I buy 2, I will pay $7.00. In that case, the incremental price of the second item, is $3.01. At that price, I often do want the second item. But if the price of the first unit were $3.50 and the price of the second unit were $3.50, I don’t value the second unit enough to get it.

Why would I ever think that the price per unit is $3.50, given that the stated price is $3.99? From long experience. When I go to the checkout line, I have my 2 units and I ask if I have to buy 2 to get the discount. The answer seems almost always to be “No.” I can get one for $3.50. So I tell the checkout person I don’t want the second item, and then someone has to hassle to return it. I’m not going to be the one to do that because it was their misleading labeling that created the problem.

Now, you might say, “If the answer almost always is no, why not just take 1 unit to the checkout?” Because I have this vague recall that it’s not always no and then I would regret not taking advantage of the discount.

Does anyone else have this experience and this complaint?

BTW, in line with Scott Sumner’s post, I have another complaint about Save Mart too, but it’s a practice that I’m pretty sure [at least that’s what the manager told me] Save Mart is required to do under state liquor laws. When I buy booze at Save Mart, I can’t use the self-checkout. Even if I’m willing to show my driver’s license because otherwise I would obviously be mistaken for a 19-year old, under California law, as I understand it, Save Mart won’t let me buy booze in a self-checkout line. And I hate this way more than the Save Mart discount practice I mention above, because at least with the discount practice, I’ve found a way around it.