Service of Make Your Prices Clear, Please

October 24th, 2016

Categories: Prices, Restaurant, Retail

Price tag holders

A friend—I’ll call her Leslie–who is up to date on all things restaurant and retail shared a complaint that I’ve grappled with myself for years: She wants to know what something costs without having to ask.

hip female shopperLeslie wrote: “I ventured downtown to the new Target on Greenwich Street [NYC]. There is a Chobani shop inside that sells food and yogurt. The staff is very personable; however there are no prices on food on display like dips.”

She continued: “I find having to ask someone for prices so annoying. There is a tiny candy shop on the Upper East Side that also sells ice cream. There are no prices on candy so you have to ask about everything…..and you know the prices will be inflated. I said to the owner the first time that I think it would be helpful to have the prices listed and he said ‘I don’t mind telling you.’ But I am one of those people who decides in my head what something should cost so I don’t like not knowing, meaning I wouldn’t ask if I knew something is priced ridiculously!”

Back to the Chobani experience, Leslie added: “Chobani guy says: ‘Enjoy the rest of your day’ to everyone as they leave…that gets tiresome too if you’re in the store for a while! I ordered half sandwich and half salad. Pretty good. But they don’t accept the Target Visa….meaning no discount like I get on everything else in the store. Strange!”

Prices markedLeslie concluded: “What is it with the oh-so-annoying response to everything ‘No problem!’”

When I go to an art, craft or antique show—or store–I also much prefer seeing what the prices are without having to ask. And you? Do you know why retailers and restauranteurs force people to converse with staff? Do repeated expressions–like “no problem”–irritate you as they also do me?

Chobani half salad half sandwich

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10 Responses to “Service of Make Your Prices Clear, Please”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    I couldn’t agree more that prices should be shown clearly, for non-negotiable items. However… In the case of arts and crafts, posted prices may be highly negotiable, so perhaps the artisans want to start a discussion. If you’re asking about pricing, there’s a good chance you want the item. So they may feel you out for what you would like to pay! That’s my spin on it.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I was in Tehran in my 20s at a time in which I loved Oriental rugs. We had $700 to spend on one. We saw a magnificent rug and had to ask the price which was $10,000. [Every expensive rug at the time once belonged to a relative of the Shah….which this one also did we were told. Ha.] Anyway, the asking price was so far off our budget that had we known, we wouldn’t have begun a discussion. That’s why I think that even antiques and art and crafts should have a clearly marked price. If you want to offer less, you always can but at least you will be in the ballpark or know what is expected. What’s the point of discussing something if your budget and the item in question are many miles apart?

  3. David Reich Said:

    I agree, prices should be clearly displayed on any product where there’s expected to be a fixed price, like in a supermarket or most retails stores.

    Hidden prices are a pain. I recently bought a new laptop, and when I looked at prices as low as $399 or so, I thought I’m getting off pretty easy. That is, until I actually went to make the purchase, when I found our those prices do not include the programs we use most commonly for word processing. The Microsoft Office package adds another $100 to the price, which is not stated anywhere in the store or in the sale flyers.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Sounds like everyone is following the airline model of charging for all sorts of things that used to be part of the price. It’s a trick I despise. They catch a customer once and never again. But it fits the “lets make stockholders happy for a year until I get another job” that is prevalent among CEOs these days. Forget the customers, it’s the stockholders and the CEO bonus that matter.

    I have often shared what my grandfather told me when I was 8 or so that I always remember [though I, too have been tricked and too often recall after the fact] as we were driving on Northern Blvd in Queens where there used to be lots of second hand car lots. Based on giant posters touting prices cheap even for a kid I asked him how they could sell cars at those prices. He said that they would cost more if you wanted a car with a steering wheel.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    The absence of a price may be an open invitation to haggle, and I find it pays to find out. There may be savings on a desired item on the horizon. While one may hone such skills in Mexico, there are plenty of merchants eager to trade everywhere else. One friend boasts of saving a great deal of money this way. Offering cash may also bring prices down — and no, not everyone is trying to avoid taxes. Credit card charges are steep, and take a healthy bite out of profits.

    I am not about to be bothered by ice cream and candy store costs, perhaps because it’s either not worth the trouble, or I rarely buy any. Then again, perhaps it’s not right to be nickelling and diming a small merchant who may well be struggling to survive in a shaky economy.

  6. hb Said:

    I’m reminded of the old J.P. Morgan story, which I understand is not apocryphal. The great man, when asked by an aspiring millionaire, what it cost to maintain a yacht like his beloved “Corsair,” replied, “If you need to ask, you can’t afford one.”

    I believe “no prices” marketing gambit is a throwback to Victorian times when supposedly ladies and gentleman did not discuss money in polite society. They considered people who did to be beneath them, “mere tradesmen.”

    I don’t mind the affectation, if I’m in a place I know well, am a regular and am sure that I will be treated fairly, but I find it pretentious and annoying when art and antique dealers do not post their prices, especially when you know that in almost all cases the listed price is only a starting place for negotiations. Besides, the practice is down right silly in this day and age.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t think “Leslie” wanted to bargain with the candy boutique owner. She didn’t want to have to walk away empty-handed if the prices were more than she was willing to pay. I wonder if there are studies that show that people walk away and that vendors lose more money than gain by keeping prices to themselves.

    There’s a pricey chocolate shop in midtown that clearly marks its per-pound cost. You can also see the size of the half and pound boxes. I don’t need to waste the time of the salesperson: I know that only a few pieces would blow my budget and not be enough for a gift. And I don’t bargain–because I am chicken, not because I think it’s a bad thing to do. I wish I could.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t get the feeling that the businesses “Leslie” referenced were harkening back to ye good old Victorian days nor were the art, craft and antiques dealers I’ve met though I was fascinated to read about that tradition, that I knew about, in this context.

    A friend was told a version of JP Morgan’s “if you have to ask” response when she asked her dinner partner where Fishers Island was. He’d said he had a house there. This man and JP were extremely rude. Because you are not casual about how you spend your money doesn’t mean you can’t afford something.

    I am irritated when at a restaurant the wait staff reels off a list of specials without handing me something I can read, with prices on it. This is most important when I am someone’s guest.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    The Leslies of this world have options. They either request costs and consider the expense, or walk out. It’s nobody’s problem but theirs. There’s no requirement that the store lives up to their standards.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I fall in Leslie’s camp. I often do walk out rather than play the vendors’ games and ask for the price especially when I fear the worst. I don’t like feeling pressured.

    It brings me back to the instance that is probably the reason I have so long been interested in service and why I write this blog. I was in college and after learning the price I bought one or two extremely expensive cigars from Dunhill–that had a store on 5th Avenue–to give my dad for Christmas. The salesman snapped, as he looked down at me: “Is that ALL?” Years later when Dunhill came out with a line of women’s clothing that I could better afford, I wouldn’t look at the skirts and jackets. An experience that should have been pleasant was memorably horrible.

    “Leslie” is far bolder than I am. At a recent craft show I asked an artisan the cost of a wool scarf. Not sure what my face looked like when the answer was $800. I realize that people who regularly buy Hermes, Prada and the like would think “chickenfeed, I’ll buy three.” I would have preferred learning the news on a handy price tag.

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