Anything can and does get marked up, sometimes beyond reason. It's a game. The retailer wants to see how much money he can make on an item and the customer wants to see how little she can pay.
Today, the Internet is the answer to a savvy shopper's prayers. You can go online and run price comparisons on nearly any product. Time is money but, thanks to Google, we're able to look for what we want faster than ever, and find new ways to pay less. Winning!
Here are 10 infamous items known for pocket picking through outrageous price markups. Some have been busted by innovative companies offering an alternative for people once stuck in the classic "captive audience" trap. For others we know full well we're paying too much but just don't want to give it up.
1. Name-Brand Painkillers
When you're shopping for a pain or fever reducer, it can be nearly as painful to choose the generic over the name brand. Will this cheaper one really work to get my glassy-eyed and flushed child feeling better as soon as possible? The answer is yes. It's required by law.
Texting was called out a few years ago by CNNMoney as America's Biggest Ripoff. Along with your messages, the cell phone companies reportedly passed along a 6500-percent markup! Despite this obvious ripoff, texting is more popular than ever. A recent study by Deloitte found 90 percent of Smartphone users send at least one text message a day. Several cell phone service providers now offer unlimited texting plans for about $20 per month. Yet this is still $240 a year for what costs the company basically nothing.
3. College Textbooks
Students preparing to attend college classes simply must have the books, and the only place to get them used to be the college bookstore -- for an exorbitant price. But there are options online today delivering long-overdue justice to campus price-gougers. For full details, see our post "Your Complete Guide to Cheap College Textbooks."
Magazine ads for wrinkle creams used to make me laugh. Who do they think they're kidding? As I've gotten older -- or more to the point, as I have gone from broke young professional to mature woman with extra cash -- "anti-aging serum" starts to sound crazily attractive. Face it (on a good day after you've had enough sleep), cosmetics companies can promise a miracle. They know people will pay to soothe their fears about aging. If creams that sell for $200 cost about $2 to make, you end up with snake oil on your face.
5. Bottled Water
It's official. We've come full circle on bottled water. Remember the days before Evian? We all asked incredulously, "who would actually pay for water?" Now we know the answer; Every single one of us, again and again, will pay for it. Was it worth it? Did we actually get better water, or did we get a lot of leftover plastic bottles? In any case, you can filter your water at home in your trusty Brita pitcher and take it with you in your new, overpriced aluminum bottle.
6. Movie Treats
Ah, the high cost of convenience! Also included here are concessions at games, shows and the circus. And let's not forget hotel mini-bar goodies: Not to mention anything from an airport terminal. All of these will slam the wallet of consumers who fail to plan in advance. Listen up, peeps: It's as simple as remembering to eat before you go.
The standard markup on retail jewelery is 300 percent. For engagement and wedding sets it can be much higher. There has never been a better reason to use Grandma's ring. Hate the way it looks? Jewelery designers will remake old jewelry pieces into something new. Ask your local jeweler if they handle that kind of thing. You may be surprised at how Aunt Gert's brooch can be transformed into something modern and beautiful. Overstock.com is also a great place to find discount jewelry, including diamonds.
8. Coffee Shops
Java junkies have already read all the stories about that in-store espresso being a ripoff, not to mention what it costs to make the exact same cup of coffee at home. All told, you're roughly looking at a 1600-percent markup. Overall, you're spending about $14,600 for a daily cup of joe over 10 years. We'll leave you in peace to text this info to your friends.
9. Greeting Cards
This is one of those areas where convenience and emotion intersect to form a Consumer Axis of Evil. We think we can't make a card -- or even buy one special enough to show our feelings -- unless we spend the maximum. Look up ways to make your own on Creative-Card-Ideas.com. Not crafty? Go with inexpensive or free eco-friendly eCards, available from a wide variety of online sources.
10. Ink & Toner
Would you believe a gallon of printer ink at cartridge prices would cost nearly $5,000? If you've shopped for ink or toner lately, the outrageous cost doesn't come as much of a surprise. Fortunately there's a new site designed to help you cut down on the cost of replacements. Try shopping at InkjetWilly.com, where you can compare ink and toner prices across several different stores to always find the cheapest price.
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