Balducci's Tea Party
My Uncle "Skip" is 82 years old and lives nearby. We meet regularly for breakfast. It occurs to me that I have been learning a lot from Skip during our breakfast sessions. Yesterday I learned about the pricing at Balducci's.
Uncle Skip says he was in Balducci's recently, the one near A.U. (that's American University to the non-locals). He has been going there for a long time, since it was the Sutton Glutton (that's Sutton Gourmet to the non-locals). It is located smack in the middle of the Land Where the Lobbyists and Defense Contractors Live. So he is used to the high prices that any business occupying this store charges. But he was not prepared for $2.99 per bag tea. That's no typo: it is $2.99 per teabag. If you buy a pack of 10, there isn't even a price break: it's $29.90.
I ask Skip if this was some special tea with gold dust or something in it. He says no. He says that he asked the nearest sales person whether the price was wrong. The sales person came back and said he checked the computer and the price was correct. Skip worked his way up the Balducci's chain. He kept asking each higher level employee, "Does this price make sense to you? It looks stupid." Each time, he received the same response.
Finally, with a small group of curious customers standing around, the final link in the chain, the store manager, made an executive decision: he gave Skip five teabags and told him, nicely I'm sure, to get lost. This didn't make Skip any happier. Now, on top of the stupidity of the tea price, Skip felt guilty about not being asked to pay anything. He says he has enough money to buy tea in Balducci's; he just does not want to pay a "stupid" price for it. To test his principle, I ask him whether, if the marked price was only $.02 per teabag, an obvious mistake in the other direction, he would keep quiet and pay the price, or tell the cashier that the price is mistakenly low. He says that he would say something, because, again, he just doesn't want to pay a stupid price.
Skip says the problem is computers. Having spent many years in business, he says that, nowadays, no one working in middle management at companies or retail stores, below the top level, can think for themselves. They merely consult their computers and worship whatever result the computers yield, no matter how stupid.
Skip may be onto something here.