Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Going Up

If it was up to Vince, I'd still be paying $2.06 for my beef sticks and coffee instead of $2.17...I hope

  Kathy and I took Daisy and Baxter to the Jiffy the convenience store two Saturdays ago for our normal 5am walk for beef sticks and coffee. As soon as I walked in the store Vince the clerk said “I’ve got some bad news for you Hank – the price went up.” I assumed Vince meant the price of beef sticks but the price of my twenty ounce coffee refill had gone up from 99 cents to $1.09, a 10 percent increase. I wasn’t especially happy at having to pay an extra dime for the same cup of coffee but it has been over four years since the last price increase (I wrote about it here) and the price of beef sticks is still 2 for $1 so I put away my six cents and fished an extra dollar out of my pocket to pay Vince and was on my way without any complaints.

  If you are the observant type you may have noticed that I had to pay an extra 11 cents when the price of the coffee only increased by a dime. That’s because the state and county took an extra penny out of my pocket in addition to the price increase. I don’t know who first thought of the sales tax but whoever it was deserves the gratitude of every politician who doesn’t have to vote to raise income taxes or tolls or property taxes because every price increase lines the government coffers automatically without politicians having to vote for a tax increase. As Milton Freidman said “Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.” and the sales tax is how the politicians piggyback on the price increases to increase their take.

  After spending the morning readjusting my budget to account for the extra 22 cents my weekend trips to the Jiffy were going to cost Kathy and I took Daisy and Baxter for their 9am weekend walk. We took the beagles west two blocks, headed north until we got to the cemetery, and then south and instead of heading home we made a left and walked the three blocks east to the Kum & Go convenience store for another coffee and beef stick stop.

A horror story worthy of The Walking Dead!
(And what horror story would be complete without a pair of unaware bystanders...)

  When I went into the Kum & Go Joel the manager was on duty for the second Saturday in a row. Normally Joel only works during the week but when I asked him about it the Saturday before he told me that this convenience store had been sold and was going to become the ‘Mishi Food Market’. One of Joel’s part-timers had quit but he wasn’t allowed to hire anyone so he had to work on the weekends until the store closed. Last Sunday Jillissa (The 2014 Daisy and Baxter beef stick award winner along with Vince from the Jiffy) told me she was going to go back to school to get her CNA so she could have a steady job.

  I got my coffee from station at the back of the store but before I could get to the counter Joel said “There’s some bad news on the beef stick front” I expected to the same type of flim-flam that the Casey’s used last year when they raised the price of their beef sticks by 8% saying the beef sticks were 59 cents each and save 10 cents of two instead of 2 for a dollar (which Daisy and Baxter wrote about here) but instead there was a new sticker on the Jack Link’s beef stick dispenser saying ‘3/$2 or 89 cents each’. This was a 50% increase in the price of single beef stick and a 33% increase in the price of beef sticks sold in bulk. Given my particular beef stick situation I consider it a 100% increase since there is no way Daisy and Baxter would let me get home with that extra beef stick in my pocket and not in their stomachs.

  Joel told me that Kum & Go was moving out of a lot of small towns in Iowa and adding stores to the big city markets like Des Moines instead. The strategy doesn’t makes a lot of sense to me. My research this spring showed that the Kum & Go in Marshalltown sells 400 hot dogs a month while the Quik Trip in West Des Moines sells 400 hot dogs in a shift. It seems obvious that Kum & Go will make a lot more money having a store in West Des Moines than Marshalltown but that's only half the story. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation - if the Marshalltown store is making money why can't Kum & Go have stores in both locations?

  Economics aside, store location issues are no excuse for price gouging on beef sticks and I told Joel so. Joel said that the new dispenser came last week and he was just as surprised at the price increase. I asked Joel if I could just get two beef sticks from the old dispenser. Joel chuckled and said no. I must have been in a state of shock at this massive price increase since I bought two beef sticks for $1.78 and didn’t get the third one for 22 cents more. Kathy and I decided we would bring beef sticks from the Aldi grocery store on our 9am walks and give them to Daisy and Baxter instead of going to the Kum & Go and I haven’t been to the Kum & Go since – not even to get a cup of coffee. Their coffee is good but not SO good that I want to spend another dollar on beef sticks.

Trophy Depot has low prices for Halloween trophies....

  Hoping to get a respite from higher coffee and beef stick prices, I took to the Internet to order the trophies for my fall chess tournaments. I gave out Santa trophies in my December tournament in 2011 and they were such a big hit I followed them up in 2012 and 2013 with Halloween (pumpkin or a witch) trophies in my October tournaments, Thanksgiving turkey trophies in November, and Santa trophies in December. I went to the web site of Trophy Depot (my preferred trophy provider) to order this year’s batch.

  I was happy to see the trophy prices hadn’t changed much since last year and proceeded to the Halloween trophy section. I picked out the trophy column and base and then went to select the top for my Halloween trophy. Normally Trophy Depot offers some standard trophy tops and some premium tops that cost extra. This year every Halloween trophy tops is classified as a premium top that cost extra! It was just a matter of whether I wanted to pay $1 or $1.50 for my Halloween trophy top.

...but having a top on the trophy will cost you!

  I’ve always enjoyed using Trophy Depot in the past but this really rankled me. I go to the Trophy Depot website. I select Halloween trophies. They show me a selection all priced with their ‘as low as’ price (which assumes I’m going to buy 250 or more trophies). I pick a trophy style and they show me the prices AND NONE OF THE PRICES APPLY TO ME BECAUSE EVERY HALLOWEEN TROPHY COSTS AT LEAST A DOLLAR MORE THAN THE TROPHY DEPOT ADVERTISED PRICE!!! Undaunted, I completed my order and then started to work on my Thanksgiving trophies only to find that both of Trophy Depot’s Thanksgiving turkey tops are classified as a premium top that costs $1.00 extra! I don’t remember what happened after that but I woke up a couple of hours later screaming and thought I might have suffered a psychotic break. I checked the news and there were no reports of any attacks on convenience store beef stick displays or trophy stores. After some research on the Internet I believe I suffered a a temporary blackout caused by PTMSSD (Post Traumatic Multiple Sticker Shock Disorder) and if it turns out I did something worthy of being on 'Criminal Minds' while I blacked out that's the story I'm going to have my defense lawyer use.

At least there's one happy ending!

  As upset as I am by all these price increases I get that the Jiffy and Kum & Go convenience stores and Trophy Depot aren’t in business for me – they’re in business to make money. If they think they can get more profit by selling less beef sticks or coffee or turkey trophy tops at a higher price that’s their decision to make and as a consumer it’s my choice whether or not to pay the higher price. I can live with paying an extra 11 cents for my morning coffee twice a week. There isn’t a large source of suppliers for turkey or pumpkin trophy tops so I’m kind of stuck there. I’m comfortable with not paying 33% or 50% or 100% more for beef stick treats for my beagles and that decision got a lot easier when a local grocery store had a sale and I bought a 32 pack of Old Wisconsin beef sticks for $12 which works out to 75 cents for two and is THE best price in town.

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