(where “international” seems to means “mostly Korean and Japanese”).
When I was w/o car there for a while, I had to get some ingredients for my mom’s birthday dinner, so I hiked down to the market a couple blocks (it’s about a 10m walk) to buy my stuff. It was initially disorienting, because it’s not laid out in standard grocery store form, and doesn’t have nearly the same stuff: the meat selection, for instance, wildly, wildly different from your local Kroger-owned store.
But that’s not what I’m ranting about. I was shocked at how cheap everything I needed was. I understand the pricing’s going to be different, but on items that you can buy at QFC or Safeway compared to the same item, the difference was astonishing.
For instance: I found an item that sells at my normal grocery store for $3.59 for $.99. That’s not a joke. It wasn’t on sale or anything. No matter how you figure it, it means that the nationally supplied grocery chain’s profit on that item was at least $2.60 — and I’ve paid that $3.59 before. That’s crazy! Noodles! Fish sauce! The list went on and on, and the only thing I saw that was comparably priced was bean sprouts.
This is likely not news to anyone, and I’ve bored you already. But it’s the why that fascinates me.
I thought of a couple ways to look at this, but it keeps derailing.
Say that the normal grocery store knows that people who shop there have no idea how much to pay for fish sauce, so they do some market testing and find that if they put it out at $5, they sell to their normal client base and lose the people willing to go to the international market, for a total profit of $tons.
But then why doesn’t the international market sell it for, say, $4 instead of $1? Why hasn’t that price gap collapsed? Is there a different market force operating between this market and the other international ones?
Even if you figure that the international market is pricing at, say, cost + markup, it’s hard to believe that they haven’t walked up the street to where the other two grocery stores are to take a look at their pricing.
I feel compelled to go take some economics classes.