Service of Comparative Value

December 12th, 2016

Categories: Post Office, Prices, Retail, Shipping Charges


Sometimes you can impact what you pay and other times you’re captive—take it or leave it.

How Sweet It Is

Waiting my turn at a well known NYC chocolatier I saw a pile of boxed chocolates—six pieces for $9—and noticed that when sold by the piece the salted dark chocolate caramels, that matched those in the box, cost $1.10 each.

I asked why six pieces bought individually cost $6.60 when the [undistinguished] box of six cost $2.40 more. The clerk looked surprised and mumbled that the $9 ones were in a box. I asked, “Wouldn’t you put my order in a box as well?” and he said he would.

I ended up buying 10 pieces, which he put in a much nicer box, [in my opinion], for little more money. The moral: Look around.

Wrap it Up

When a package is small enough to fit in the US Postal Service box Postage meter for Post about Value dec 2016container I use the do-it-yourself post office on my walk to work. There’s rarely more than one person ahead of me and most of the time it’s empty.

If you’ve never sent a package this way it’s easy. You do the work that a postal clerk would and you waste less time than waiting in a long line. Nevertheless, I object to the cost. The box [photo right] was a little over a pound. [I choose lightweight, unbreakable gifts.] I paid $6.95 to ship this small box and I saved the postal service the work of a clerk.

Juicy Value

Apple ciderAcross the street from the postal closet was the weekly farmer’s market where I bought half a gallon of fresh apple cider. Think of the number of apples that went into this sweet juice and the labor to turn the fruit into cider, pour it into the container and drive it to midtown Manhattan from the boonies and pay staff to sell it. The cider cost $4.00. I see more value in the apple juice than in postage.


Postal clerk with packageI got weak in the knees later that day when mailing a large-ish box from a post office-with-clerk. It was so light I had no trouble walking it six blocks from home. [The box would never have fit in the package container mentioned above so do-it-yourself was out of the question.] When the clerk gave me the choice of postage it was then my legs buckled: $20.86 was the cheapest. And I had to wait in line 20+ minutes for the privilege.

Have you noticed pricing discrepancies when buying pre-packaged items versus by-the-piece? Am I out of it to think that $7 and $20 are a lot to pay for shipping lightweight boxes? When do you feel you are getting good value for your money?

More bang for your buck


8 Responses to “Service of Comparative Value”

  1. David Reich Said:

    Just remember…caveat emptor. If we get played for suckers, it’s our own fault.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    So true David! I’ll get off my Pollyanna perch one of these days though I wish there were some places we could relax, if not a topflight chocolate shop with prices high enough to cover all costs or somewhere else.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Writer Reich is on target. I work the system to the best of my ability. If and when I feel fleeced, it becomes a learning experience.

  4. Judy Schuster Said:

    Postal clerks get regular raises, whether they deserve it or not, (most do) however, even when avoiding the clerk you are paying his/her salary and the salary of the person who handles it, the plane that delivers it to a distant address, the person who handles it at the other end, etc. As for the other box, it is huge, by your admission, and size does matter. When a box is that size, fewer items will fit in the plane or in his/her cart or bag. (In the Twin Cities they use motorized carts; don’t know what they use in Manhattan. Either way, cart/truck, that package, by its size, takes up much more room than a small package.) My one suggestion is trying FedEx or UPS, you might find them cheaper (or more expensive), but you pay for handling there, too. It’s the handling you are paying for.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There are cultures that make even the most street smart among us in this country feel like babes starting out.

    The way certain Americans conduct themselves in business–such as the President elect–is reminiscent of these cultures and apparently the “win at all cost, do and say whatever someone wants to hear and don’t sweat the details….just don’t deliver” is OK with the American public. We’ll all get what they voted for.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t argue with you but as I read the comment I thought of a store like TJ Maxx that baffles me in the opposite way. How can such a store charge so little for certain things when they, too, must pay someone to select the item, someone else to pack and ship it, yet another person to open the box and merchandise it and a cashier to charge me for it and if it is breakable, wrap it in paper. The “it” might be a ceramic mug costing $4.99. The US Postal service could take a page from such a store.

    My guess is that unions have something to do with it and that TJ Maxx doesn’t deal with them. This means that most of their employees have no health insurance and make minimum wage. The branch I deal with has cheerful staff. It’s a pleasure to shop there.

  7. hb Said:

    The essence of comparative value, one of the keys to profitability in any organization, and, as such, has always fascinated me.

    At one seminar I attended years ago, the professor used to illustrate his point, the even then dominant window washing product on the market, Windex. He pointed out that the essence of Windex was then two active ingredients which the manufacturer mixed, adding blue coloring, and packaged in a distinctive bottle with an eye catching label. If the cost of the two active ingredients came to say 20 cents, he put a retail price of say two or three dollars on the bottle. It was obviously not the time and effort of the average consumer to save money by buying the active ingredients and mixing his own brew, bottle by bottle, but it was definitely something professional window cleaning companies needed, at least, to consider doing.

    One of my pet peeves is the pseudo, and even some not so pseudo, New York restaurants that sell you an unspectacular bargain “prix fixe” lunch for say $27.50, and the charge you $15.00 for a glass of wine. You end up with a mediocre meal and no bargain.

    But then. these games will go on as mankind roams the earth, and that is a good thing.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The restaurant prix fixe luncheon scam reminds me of a co I worked for that scalped clients on out of pocket charges inflating them to the moon.

    Pricing is also fascinating. As an Air Force wife on a very tight budget, I remember one colleague of my then husband who would walk around his living room and point to a lamp or a sofa or chair and name its price. To begin with, he or his wife had horrible taste. At the time, doing this was considered rude x 10. But he had clearly fallen for the “it must be good if it is expensive” routine that I still see happen every day! Insecurity is a wonderful thing for the manufacturers of $5,000 handbags.

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