October 17, 2009

Once Again, Walmart Charges Me More

It has long been my feeling that even though I am willing to pay a "Target tax" ($1.99 for an item at Target instead of $1.87 for the same item at Walmart), that overall I save money by shopping at Target. This is for two reasons, no three reasons, no FOUR reasons:

1. Target has sales. Target's everyday price might be higher than Walmart's, but their sale price is lower.

2. Target has good clearances. Target's everday price might be higher than Walmart's, but their clearance prices are way, WAY lower.

3. Cheapness is partly reputation---not necessarily deserved reputation. The FEELING is that Walmart MUST be WAY cheaper because they have a carefully-constructed reputation for it and because they are SO unpleasant in so many ways, but an actual item-by-item examination reveals that some items are a little cheaper and some are a little more expensive and basically they're not cheaper. This is something I've been meaning to do a post on (comparing the prices at Walmart and Target of all the things I buy), but the research involved makes me feel like dying.

4. Walmart is a bunch of cheaters. The price marked on the shelf is lower than Target's, but the price that rings up at the register is not. Or, the item will be marked "20% more free!" but will ring up at a price about 20% higher than regular price. EVERY store (of COURSE including Target) makes errors at the register, but in general the errors even out: some are in the store's favor, some are in the customer's. Walmart's don't balance out, and this has been true at all three Walmarts I've lived near and shopped at regularly, in three different states.


ANYWAY. So it has been my opinion that Target costs me less money for the way I personally shop: that is, for the particular things/brands I buy, and for the things I buy on clearance, and for how unwilling I am to drag a cart full of children over to Customer Service to fix a bunch of 24-cent pricing errors.

But today I would like to add "The Example of the Luvs Diapers" as YET ANOTHER reason I think Target costs me less money and Walmart's reputation for cheapness is not fully deserved. Normally I buy all diapers at Target, the store brand ones for daytime and Luvs brand for nighttime. Today my mom and I were running errands and we needed to go to Walmart for yarn, and we weren't planning on going to Target, and I was nearly out of Luvs at home, so I thought I'd better get a box while I was there. I don't like giving Walmart my money, but I felt a little guiltily pleased to be "forced into" paying $15.97 for a box of Luvs instead of Target's $17.99.

Then I got home and OH WHAT HAVE WE HERE.

Target's box is on the left. Walmart's is on the right.

Allow a former math medalist to walk you through the math, or perhaps you can join me at the riveting conclusion in the next paragraph. Walmart charges $15.97 for 70 diapers, so to find the per-diaper price we divide $15.97 by 70, and the answer is 22.814 cents per diaper. Target charges $17.99 for 80 diapers, so to find the per-diaper price we divide $17.99 by 80, and the answer is 22.488 cents per diaper.

Per 100 diapers, Walmart charges $22.81 and Target charges $22.48. Target...charges...LESS. That's a pretty small price difference, and in fact I consider that "the same price." But the issue here is not that Walmart and Target have a similar price on Luvs; the issue here is that Walmart has their own package size, which is smaller than the standard but not enough smaller to be obviously smaller, and that they charge "less" for it. The impression shoppers receive---even MATH MEDALIST shoppers who notice prices---is that Walmart's prices are lower. Which would be fine IF THEY WERE. But I'm adding a fifth reason to my list:

5. Walmart has their own sizes on certain things. This gives the impression that they charge less, when in fact they are charging more.

51 comments:

Heather said...

It's funny, as I was having thoughts along these lines today as well... Because Walmart offers their own sizes of products it allows them to avoid price matching on "standard" sized items that everyone else carries. They get you one way or another. I, too, much prefer Target.

Kristi said...

I adore this post Swistle as I have the same theory!!! You are amazing, once again.

Clarabella said...

Alas, I don't know if I've ever shared this tragic news here, but I live 70 miles away from the closest Target. I know; I often weep about it too.
Anyhoo, Wal-Mart is my only option other than the local grocery stores, but the weird product sizing has made me vow NEVER to buy diapers at Wal-Mart again for the same reason as your #5. It's just ridiculous.

Laura said...

My feelings on Wal-Mart are heavily influenced by the experiences of my sister, who is a supply chain manager for a large company that produces many common place food items. Her job is to make sure that the company's customers, of which Wal-Mart is the biggest, have what they ordered to put on the shelves. Wal-Mart is NOTORIOUS for, e.g. ordering 100 cases, and then only taking 70, even though the cases were special to Wal-Mart (a la the diapers in your post) and thus my sister's company can't get rid of them. And for the most part they're perishable food items. I could go on with more examples but you get the drift. So, this sort of thing doesn't surprise me, but, like you, just confirms my choice not to shop there.

donna said...

Swistle, I adore you. I never would have noticed the size thing.

I hate Wal-Mart with the fire of a thousand suns so I'm glad to hear I'm not alone. I never thought Wal-Mart was really that much cheaper and the time wasted there is not worth it. I'd rather pay a tiny bit more at Target and not feel like I needed a shower afterward, and not be kept awake at night wondering how my money was being used to exploit Wal-Mart employees.

Kathy said...

What kills me is that Wal-Mart gets away with this because technically, since the number of diapers is written clearly on the box, they're not doing anything "illegal." Immoral and unethical? Probably.

Makes me glad that I'm teaching my kids to shop by unit-price, rather than by package-price.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that Wal-Mart hires part-time employees so it doesn't have to cover health insurance for them. Does anyone know if that is true?

Mimi said...

Swistle - you should be a shopping detective! (Is there such a thing? There should be!)

Alison aka Baby B said...

@Anonymous Here's the link to a story about Wal-mart's turn around on health coverage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/12/AR2009021204096_pf.html
I think this story makes it seem a little more hunky-dory than it is, but at least it's from a legitimate news outlet instead of a pro- or anti-Wal-mart blog or forum.

Where I go to school, in a ruralburban (yes, I made that word up) area, we have a Wal-mart 5 miles down the freeway or a Target 10 miles up a different freeway. Sometimes going to Wal-mart just made sense. But it's been a long time since I've felt that. Especially now that my own college town has a Target (woohoo!), Wal-mart is a hardly-ever shopping place for me. When I do shop there, I always have the nagging feeling like I did something wrong... Melodramatic of me, possibly, but I know that Wal-mart bullies suppliers, like Laura above said.

I'm actually off to Target right now :)

Janet said...

How smarmy is that, to have your own packaging with less product in it. Wow.

The only positive thing I have to say about Wal-Mart is that they have a MoneyGram service that allows you to transfer money to any Wal-Mart, anywhere in the world, so that the recipient can receive the money quickly (like, within 10 minutes). In some situations, this is more convenient than trying to track down the nearest Western Union.

Other than that, got nothing good to say about that store, and have to have a very good reason to step foot in one.

Fran said...

I wish I lived closer to Target so I could shop there. My husband WORKS for Target (distribution) so we even get a discount, but our "local" store along with being the crappiest Target in existence is 30 miles away and not a Super Target so no food. Walmart is my only choice.
And to Anonymous: my brother worked for Walmart and was only ever scheduled for 39 hours so he wouldn't be considered full time and qualify for benefits. Now that has been a while ago, and they may have changed.

heather said...

to the health insurance question. I used to work their and yes they provide health insurance to part time employees. It may not be the greatest but yanno at least they provide it. how many other companies provide insurance to part time employees?

Jess said...

That is just plain SNEAKY! Except maybe replace that N with an L and that K with a Z. Just saying. If I could bear to do the research involved I would love to find out what other "special sizes" Walmart offers.

Ashley said...

We live in Canada eh :), and are seriously deprived of the Target experience. And while we don't have Target and do have Walmart, I find there are still better alternatives. I'm a flyer hunter and on baby items especially you can often find waaaay better prices anywhere but Walmart. And here, the Walmart I shop at has a special clearance method. They mark up an item's regular price 2 days before putting it on sale. Since I'm a price watcher I notice often that the "clearance" price is $2 more than the orginal price. It's called robbery, high-stink-way robbery.

Swistle said...

Ashley- I notice Walmart jacks up their prices right before doing a "rollback." So the M&Ms (NOT THAT I HAVE A LOT OF EXPERIENCE WITH THIS *AHEM*) will be $2.50 for months and months, then inexplicably go up to $3.47 for one week, then a big "We're rolling back prices all over the store!!" smiley face goes up and they're back to $2.50. AS USUAL.

jen said...

I haven't been shopping at Target lately mainly because their stuff is just too damn cute & I walk out of there with way more than was on my list! But thanks to your "market research" whenever I consider going to Walmart I'll drive the extra few minutes to Target instead & just work on controlling my impulses.

Mommy Daisy said...

*Sigh* I wish we had a Target here. :( I don't shop much at Walmart, but there are certain things I get there every month- laundry soap, toilet paper, paper towels, stuff like that. Wish I had other options.

St said...

Ho.Ly. Crap.
I'm with you on the Target thing, I gave up WalMart over a year ago and it feels GOOD. But I had NO idea they could do this sort of thing. Can other stores do this? DO other stores do this?? I'm stunned.

Christina said...

I also feel like Walmart's staff and co-shoppers are uhhh... kinda trashy. Around here at least. The store is always a mess and the people are rude. It's loud and the lines are long and you're right - you always have a wrong receipt.

Back in my smalltown home town there is ONLY a Wal*Mart, and I feel like that one is far superior to any other Wal*Mart I've been in. When there's a Target nearby they just pale in comparison.

Groovymarlin said...

Swistle I think you're right on about the overall pricing. Target vs. Walmart, in the long run the cost will end up being about the same. However, I have both almost within walking distance of my house and I will always choose Target simply because the shopping experience is so much more pleasant:
1. The Walmart parking lot is much more disorganized and full of loose carts.
2. The Walmart store is usually trashed, whereas Target manages to keep it pretty neat most days.
3. Target has a better selection of almost everything.
4. The Walmart employees all seem like they would definitely rather be somewhere else, whereas the Target-ites are usually pretty friendly and helpful.

St said...

My friend just told me Target also allows "stacking" of coupons. She'll use a register coupon and a manufacturer's coupon on one item.

kris (lower case) said...

best walmart site ever... http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

Julie said...

Thank you for shining a great big ol' spotlight on the underhandedness of Walmart. After several months, I'm still stewing over noticing that their store brand diapers (size 4) went from 92 per case to 82 per case for the same price. Oh, how sneaky they must have thought they were. I can read, Walmart.

lisa said...

Great post....I've (Sadly) resorted to buying diapers at Target online and having them shipped allllll the way to Japan because the diapers here are almost 10cents more apiece! (Though I do feel a good amt of guilt for the fossil fuel I use to do that). At any rate- I think its good that you post stuff like this because "we vote with our $'s", right?

The thing I wonder, when I hear stories like this is I really wonder how big wigs at Wal-Mart or Corporation A or Car Company B, FEEL GOOD about themselves at the end of the day? I think that is the saddest thing about our society today is that people have become so GREEDY that it doesn't matter if you lie, cheat, or steal....its just about making a quick buck. Sorry for my little tangent. Anyway, good post.

lisa said...

Oh- I forgot one Health Insurance Company X.

Kelly said...

I love target. let's start a church. church of target. =)

Marie Green said...

So here's a fun little Walmart tidbit for all haters out there (me included! A hate group I can lovingly belong to!):

A friend is an employee of Walmart and he explained that Walmart knows and budgets for a certain percent of their inventory to be shoplifted. (I'm sure many stores do this). However, there are no policies in place for watching for or catching shoplifters.

There ARE policies in place, however, for catching EMPLOYEES shoplifting. The cameras at the store? Watching for EMPLOYEE theft.

Can you imagine working for a company like that? That constantly monitored YOU for theft, but let the Obvious Joe pocket shit and leave?

These Hate Walmart posts (well, hate is my word, as I don't think you used it) are just about as fun to read as the MIL posts! What will they do next to screw up???

moosmoo said...

Actually ... not to rain on your parade ... but it's the DIAPER company who is to blame in this case.

It's a way for them to keep prfits up and Luvs is not the only one who is doing it.

I can almost guarantee you that it won't be long before you note the 70 count box at target too.

the new girl said...

I am SO naive because I am shocked! SHOCKED! that Walmart has it's own sizes of things. But, of COURSE they do.

I imagine that if you want to do business with the largest retail chain in America, you do what they say, more or less.

For Moos Moo, that's probably the case most of the time where companies keep the cost the same while decreasing the amount of product, but in this example, there is no obvious benefit to the manufacturer. The diapers cost basically the same. It's an artificial appearance of cheapness if you're not paying close attention...which benefits the retailer.

Stacia said...

I recall seeing something on PBS (a "Frontline" episode, I think) a few years ago where they explained that Walmart would expect companies to make a special cheap version of their product for the store. The example was TVs, I believe, which have the same outer case but the insides are cheaper materials. The show mentioned Rubbermaid specifically refused to participate in this practice. The show was a few years ago but as far as I know Walmart still won't sell Rubbermaid brands.

Also, when I go to the grocery in Walmart, their meats are ALL injected with 20% broth. So it's cheaper, but for almost the same price at a local Kroger I can get all meat instead of 80% meat and 20% broth.

Sarah said...

I heart you, Swistle.

I despise shopping at Wal Mart, just because I do not like their stuff. The store (near me) always seems dirty and I just think (deservedly or not) that their stuff is inferior to my beloved Target. Now, I have an actual REASON (backed up my math medalist logic) to go to Target more!

desperate housewife said...

Wal Mart has also done this with their own diaper brand, Parents Choice. I've been using their jumbo boxes of diapers since Eli was a baby- they seem to fit him well and work without leaking- Luvs don't fit him right at all. And I hate all the DYE in the Huggies and Pampers diapers. (Sorry, had to give a justification there for giving so much money to Wal Mart when I despise them, too.)
Anyways. Recently their ninety diaper boxes went down to seventy diapers. For the same price. And neither Jim or I noticed for a few weeks. The box is just EVER SO SLIGHTLY smaller, because the old boxes were crammed pretty full and the new ones are less tight of a fit.
Boy Wal Mart sure is the SAVIOR OF AMERICA in our recent economic downfall, huh?

AndreAnna said...

I refuse to patronize Walmart for all the reasons all of your commenters listed up here.

As for diapers, I use 1800diapers.com - usually you can get good sales and if you spend $50 or more, it's free shipping and it's always next day.

If I know I need diapers for tomorrow, as long as I order by 3-4 pm one day, I know UPS will have it on my doorstep by 11 am.

Damn, I look forward to diaper-free days.

Momish said...

Swistle, you are so right. I use to work for a manufacturing company and Wal-Mart would demand special packaging at their own special counts so they could price them cheaper banking on the fact that most people don't notice. I never shopped at Wal-Mart again once I found that out.

Another thing they do is demand that the manufacturers monitor their supply chain and stock. Thus, our company had to hire an employee whose sole job was to restock Wal-Mart's shelves, shipping out products as they were needed. One less head count for them, but additional head count for us. Although, in recent years I believe other stores like CVS, Target and all are now following suit (I stopped working at the manufacturing company about 5 years ago).

Ms. Molly said...

So many more reasons not to shop at WalMart...I can't bring myself to go in there ever since reading Dollars & Cents. Thanks Swistle!

cindy kay said...

Yes, I'm not happy with Walmart. A few years ago they went on a building binge in our area and there were THREE Super Walmarts going in at once. It made me feel like Walmart was the big bully coming and throwing its weight around. I boycotted Walmart for about a year, until I finally caved because it's the only place that carries a lot of what I want to buy.

I wish I could shop at Target more, since a lot of other things bother me about Walmart (all of which your other commenters have enumerated) and I was very pleasantly surprised when I trial-shopped Target recently after reading your, and others', enthusiasm for Target, but the nearest Target to me is over an hour drive away, while the nearest Walmart is ten minutes. Sigh.

Felicia said...

First off, let me say that I totally agree about Wal-Mart vs. Target.

However, in this specific case, about the diapers... it is because your box from Target is older. ALL of the diaper companies have made their packages contain fewer diapers. You can check out the "Baby Cheapskate" blog where there are posts about this, and an updated chart of what each size package contains...

http://www.scribd.com/doc/15792914/How-Many-Diapers-Per-Pack

It really irritates me how companies are doing this, as if consumers won't notice... well even if we do there's not much we can do about it!! Also if you buy cans of soda, the large packs are no longer 24 cans - now they are only 20.

R said...

I wish I had a decent Target close by. The closest one is 30 minutes away and it is way overpriced in comparison to our Walmart right here in town. I always thought Target was better and was so thrilled when they finally built one here even if it wasnt all that close by. Ive been burned EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I have shopped there. They overcharge me on at least two items every time. By the time I get to my car and buckle three kids in, the last thing I want to do is turn around and go in and get my money back. Ive also comparison shopped. The same exact order I get weekly at Walmart..Ive done the exact same list at Target. 15-20 dollars more each and every time, depending on sales. I hate my Target. I want to love it. But I cant.

Swistle said...

Felicia and Moo's- Could be, but other commenters are saying otherwise---apparently it is indeed a thing Walmart does. I think Target's box of 80 may already be the downsized version. As of today, they still have Luvs in 80-count boxes.

jerseygirl89 said...

Thank you for more confirmation that I hate Wal-Mart.

HollyLynne said...

Woah . . . BUSTED!!! I haven't been in many Walmarts because we don't have many in where I live . . . but I do remember going to one once and noticing that the larger bottles of shampoo and mouthwash and whatnot were more expensive per ounce than the smaller bottles (which, of course, I BOTHERED TO CHECK, but which is totally counter-intuitive and could easily mislead a busy shopper into buying the more expensive size). Crooks, I say!

The Gori Wife said...

Someone has already done the Walmart/Target price comparison and blogged about it: http://www.cockeyed.com/citizen/target/walmart_versus_target01.html (It's from several years ago and it's five pages long, so make sure to click through all the page numbers on the bottom.) I read that a while ago and it's always stuck with me that Walmart is NOT cheaper!

Also, my father is a quality assurance manager of a company that manufactures a product and the company refuses to do business with Walmart, even though that means their product isn't sold in one of the largest and most popular stores around. He says that Walmart IS a big bully and has run companies INTO THE GROUND before on multiple occasions because they enter into some agreement but then keep demanding lower prices or some other unconscionable contractual change and the company ends up making little or no money because Walmart is their biggest customer but they can't possibly produce their product to meet WalMart's demands. I'm not explaining this well, but what I mean is there is ANOTHER reason to hate Walmart.

Also, along the same lines, to Moosmoo - it's likely part of Walmart's contract with Luvs that they make a special box just for sale at Walmart so that it can be sold at a lower price point.

Cookie said...

Great post! I too prefer Target. I love Target to no end. And you're right, Wal-Mart gives the perception of cheapness when in reality it is not. Also, love some of the designers Target gets. We love the Paul Frank stuff, but the normal line is way too expensive for two little boys. So when Target got a line in, we were really excited, and when it was on sale? We bought it up. Target is probably my favorite place to go shop.

Sincerely, Jenni said...

I feel like a moron now. Seriously. I have always been a Wal-mart shopper, refusing to cave in and shop Target because I always thought everything there was more expensive. You've proven me wrong!

I'm going to give Target a try. I guess I need to start paying more attention to what I buy. I never paid much attention to package sizing of things... HOW STUPID I AM!

ellipses said...

oh thank you for this! i detest wal-mart with all my heart and soul but my hubby feels we can get a better deal there. i need to show him this post - and do a bit of investigation on my own for further proof.

Mom et al said...

Sneaky little Walmart Devils.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this program from pbs..'is walmart good for america'? my brother who also boycotts walmart just mentioned it to me. haven't had time to watch it yet, but thought you'd be interested :)

I can't seem to copy the link, but it was a Frontline show...if you go to pbs.org and search 'walmart' you'll find it.

-kc

Melinda said...

Ha ha! I forwarded this post to my husband, who loves Walmart..and will drive 30 miles OUT OF HIS WAY to go to Walmart when he could go less than one mile from our house to go to Target. (and the gas $$$ for that is on top of everything you mentioned in your post!)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever heard of the Walmart policy not allowing employees to buy clearance items for 24 hours form the time they were placed on clearance? My mother was off shift and I was picking her up when she was stopped by management for trying to buy a lotion set for her hands. Management threatened her by stating "Is your job worth buying the lotion?" My mother put it down. I called Walmart 800 number only to find this is not a policy that the company knew of. Does Walmart management honestly think they own employees? When the staff is not at work, YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OF THEM WALMART MANAGEMENT!!!!!

Laura said...

This is a brilliant post, You rock!

SmithLakeLover said...

Hey, wanna see a little Walmart 'slight of hand'? I bought several packs of Walmart-brand 'Equate' flushable wipes back in Feb. 2010. There were 60 in the pack. I needed more in April and at the checkout I noticed there were only 42 in the pack..at the same price as back in Feb.! That's a 30% reduction in goods for the same price! No obvious distinctions in packaging, either. I truly believe they hope you won't notice. Ironically, 'Equate' means 'equal'. What a load! Buyer beware of Walmart!