When in Costa Rica, Always Check Supermarket Prices!

Supermarkets in Costa RIca are now quite modern. But don't look for self-checkouts and don't argue with trying to bag your own groceries.
Supermarkets in Costa Rica are now quite modern. But don’t look for self-checkouts and don’t argue with trying to bag your own groceries.

TICO BULL – We all want to trust our favourite supermarket, trust them with giving us the lowest price.  But, a recent report by the MEIC confirms what I always knew, our trust is misplaced. When shopping we have to pay attention to prices, especially when it comes to “specials” (ofertas in Spanish).

In the latest report by the Ministerio de Economia, Industria y Comercio (MEIC) of prices at 33 chain and 8 independent supermarkets, between October 20 and 31, buying items in “combos” may end up costing up to 20% more than buying them individually.

Notice that the "oferta" price is actually higher than the "regular" price.
Notice that the “oferta” price is actually higher than the “regular” price.

The MEIC report cites the case of a a “twin pack” being offered at a 20% discount, when in reality the discount if 12%. The twin pack costs ¢1.330, individually the items cost ¢760 each, thus a 20% discount would be mean a special price of ¢1.216 and not ¢1.330.

Then there is the pricing practice where the individual items comes to less than in combo. The MEIC gives an exmaple of a Lysol combo “oferta” for ¢9.725, but if purchased individually the total cost is ¢9.715 colones.

The Deputy minister of Economía,  Geannina Dinarte, says the Wal-mart chain of stores is one of the biggest offenders, with recurring practices of “deceptive” pricing. To be fair, Wal-mart is also the largest consumer retail chain in the country, operating 8 Wal-mart megastores and more than 100 supermarkets under the brand names Masxmenos, Palía and MaxiPalí.

One of the major problems for the MEIC to reduce deceptive practices are the low fines. The Ministry of the Economy says it is attempting to reform the law to establish more drastic sanctions against supermarkets. The current maximum fine is 10 base salaries, which is less than ¢12 million colones (US$22.000 dollars).

I always check prices, not because I am a cheap skate (I am), but I learned that there are benefit in not only uncovering the deception, but I can take advantage of pricing errors by the supermarket.  In some cases, the pricing policy is irrational.

Reminds me of playing monopoly, “Bank error in your favor: Collect $200“.

Tha favour was mine in two case separate cases.

One was at Pricesmart in Escazú several months back when I found a mislabel on their apple pie, priced at ¢1.295 each. The real price was ¢4.295. A little arguing at the cash and a call to the supervisor I got my price on the six pies.

The other was just recently, at Masxmenos in Rohromoser, a Totino’s personal pizza. The gondola (shelf) price was ¢1.500, a check of the “price checker” showed ¢750. Two please. Ready for an argument at the cash, the computer said ¢750 each, total ¢1.500.

In a third case, one of irrational pricing, I found that a 8lb bag of Prime Cuts dog food cost more, about ¢30 colones, than buying two 4lb bags. When I commented it to the aisle person, all they could say is “that is the price.”

Written by Rico


"In my spare time I'm a really nice guy!" RICO is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! Rico brings his special kind of savvy to online marketing. His websites are engaging, provocative, informative and sometimes off the wall, where you either like or you leave it. The same goes for him, like him or leave him.There is no middle ground. No compromises, only a passion to present reality as he sees it!