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  • Writer's picturePamela Tucker


Shopping for a basic household product, such as paper towels, for me has changed when compared with just a month ago. While shopping in a local store such as Duane Reade or CVS, I would pick up the package of paper towels and continue shopping. I had been aware of the fact some retailers are charging different prices for the same item, and until recently this pricing strategy did not bother me.

A retailer may sell the same item for different prices

A retailer may sell the same product via different distribution channels and the price could vary. The different prices depends on how the item will get to your home. These are typically the different options buyers have for a range of product lines:

  • Pick out in store and take it home yourself.

  • Buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS).

  • Purchase online for delivery with the retailer shipping it.

  • Purchase online for delivery through a third party, such as Instacart and Uber Eats. (Note: Shoppers should also consider if there are additional fees, such as a monthly fee for an Instacart+ membership of $9.99 and /or if there are fees for each delivery.)

Third party delivery services typically lead to the item costing more; but not always

I appreciate that shoppers are willing to pay for convenience and will not be budget minded when using a third party shopping service. But, there are notable price differences. For instance, Fairway sells Fage yogurt in the store and it is available through shopping Fairway via Instacart.

The other day there were different prices for the same Fage yogurt. When I was in the store I saw it was $2.69 and when I looked that day on Instacart, shown below, it was $3.55, about 25% more. I recalled other prices of a few other items in the store and compared them with Instacart and Instacart showed higher prices for all of them.

Paper towel purchases

Getting back to the paper towels --- Last week while browsing through an email from Walgreens (The name of the store brand in New York City is Duane Reade) I saw Bounty paper towels in the list. It showed the BOPIS price is $5.49 and the in-store price is $9.49. Calculating that is a 42% price difference and living two blocks from Duane Reade, I immediately decided I could not pass this up.

I ordered a few Bounty packages online; the order was ready within a short time and I picked it up. The wait though was longer than it should be. But that is the case with Duane Reade. Unlike Target, there is not a separate line for pick-up and with typically one cashier, sometimes two, it is a long wait to pick up the internet orders as well as to pay for in store purchases.

A few days later I decided this $5.49 price was a super bargain and ordered more. While in Duane Reade to pick it up, I first went to the paper goods aisle and was surprised with what I saw. As shown below, the shelf price was $9.99, higher than the in-store price listed, $9.49 in the email. That was a 45% difference.

On the one hand I was glad I took advantage of the BOPIS bargain. Yet, on the other hand I was annoyed about this big difference and wondered if there were other items with such a large price gap. But determining that information would be time consuming and decided not to proceed with the idea.

Rather than spending time looking for other Duane Reade deals where the prices are much lower with BOPIS, I decided going forward I will try my best to stop impulse shopping there and at other stores while picking up my orders. When I have time I could look online for possibly better BOPIS pricing.

Buying online and picking up in store for certain products could continue to be a good shopping choice for me. It is a nice option because the purchases are picked up at stores that are a few minutes walk (thus no transportation costs) and the stores have convenient operating hours.

Financial results, comprehensive studies and thoughtful strategy contribute to retailers implementing BOPIS, and in many cases this results in the retailer charging different prices for the same item. As a shopper I'm puzzled and bothered. My over arching question regarding this strategy: Isn't a person who visits a store considered to be a stronger candidate to be an impulse shopper when compared with one who is stopping in just to pick up an online order? Given I know there could be such a range in prices, in this Bounty paper towels example, over 40% difference, I am going to stop impulse shopping and spend time on researching prices on household and other staples that I buy. What about you?


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