Rock and Roll Ralphs and the Beer Aisle of Good and Evil

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I like my grocery store. How can anyone not like a store named Rock and Roll Ralphs?

There are Ralphs all over Los Angeles, but Rock and Roll Ralphs has the words Rock and Roll in the title. This is much more fun than, say, Weyburn Avenue Ralphs, which I’ve never visited, but sounds like a pretty boring Ralphs.

Our Ralphs is called Rock and Roll Ralphs because 1.) You can sometimes spot a celebrity there 2.) It’s not far from the Guitar Center on the Sunset Strip 3.) It’s where everyone buys beer for after-parties once the bars close.

And beer is the reason I’m writing. Rock and Roll Ralphs is home to Los Angeles’s Beer Aisle of Good and Evil. Ralphs stocks dozens of different craft brews, including my favorites from Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada. And unlike most grocery stores, Ralphs puts the craft beer near the front of the store and shoves the macro-brews back near the dented soup cans and imported goat meat. That’s the good part.

Here’s the evil part.

Rock and Roll Ralphs

Those are some psychologically manipulative, unnecessarily complicated beer prices you have there, Ralphs. At the top is the regular price without a Ralphs card. In the middle is the price with the card. At the bottom is the price for four six-packs, with card. Please note that Ralphs does this with liquor, too. A bottle of scotch might normally cost $43 without the card, but if you buy 72 bottles they’re $4 each or whatever.

If you live outside of Los Angeles, you might be thinking, “Oh, it must be nice to be able to afford four six-packs of craft beer. Do you have a special craft beer cooler in your Maybach, Mr. Los Angeles Shopper? Do you store them in the craft beer wing of your mansion? Will you drink them when Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Richard Branson come over and throw money at each other?”

No, it’s just the opposite. It’s the Grapes of Wrath in Los Angeles right now. Grocery stores are lucky we’re not just stealing from them outright. We buy one six at a time because $30 is too much to pay for a case of beer when you’re main source of food is leftover rice and Taco Bell sauce packets. I’ve been shopping at this Ralphs for a year and have never seen anyone buy four six-packs of craft beer. Here’s the average grocery cart of the Rock and Roll Ralphs customer: bottle of wine, pack of smokes, frozen burrito and energy drink.

Ralphs, I think you are legitimately trying to sell discounted booze, but what’s actually happening is you are tricking people into buying beer at what they think is a lower price. Shoppers move quickly, and when they see a price at the bottom of a product, they assume that’s the store card discount.

“Toilet paper $3.30? No thanks! Wait a second. (LOOKS DOWN) With store discount it’s $3.19? Sold!”

True story: Two weeks ago I’m standing in the beer aisle and this woman asks me, “How much is this six-pack?” And I say, “It’s $10, unless you buy four six-packs, in which case they’re $8 apiece, unless you don’t have a store card, in which case it’s $11 a six-pack,” and her eyes glossed over like when you tell someone about a dream you had and they immediately start thinking about their cats.

Then she says, “So it’s $8?”

I say, “It’s only $8 if you buy four six-packs.”

And this woman says, “No. It’s $8. See, the tag says $8.”

And I point at the text and say, “Yeah, but it says right here you have to buy four six-packs.”

And she says—swear to God—“No, I think it’s $8.”

This woman refused to believe the clearly written words in front of her. She trusted her own sense of pricing justice over reality. I know she’s not alone. I returned a $43 bottle of scotch after I bought it because I thought I had purchased it for $24.

We can’t be the only idiots.

I tried to tell a store manager how confusing this pricing scheme was, but she was busy, and understandably so, because grocery store manager is one of the most thankless and hardest jobs in America, up there with whoever’s job it is to keep Joe Biden away from Twitter.

So I’m taking my complaint corporate. Stop it, Ralphs. Your Rock and Roll store is a good one. It has a good produce section. Its deli workers are nice. It has that cool sushi bar thing. And it carries good beer.

List two prices—one with the Ralphs card and one without. That’s it. Stop fooling us into buying alcohol that costs more than we think it does.

That’s not very rock and roll.

Joe Donatelli is a journalist in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

UPDATE:

The wheels of supermarket justice are slowly beginning to turn.

UPDATE:

There will be no justice.

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Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.

  • Chadborne

    Rock and Rolls Ralphs was my store for a number of years. Always good for people watching, particularly on a Sunday morning with the rockers on their way home.

  • Agreed, Chad. It’s solid on a late Saturday night. Or a late Tuesday night. Hell, any late night.

  • Danae_5

    I agree, but why not take it one step further and make it one price…have you ever noticed that if you tell the cashier you forgot your card, they will swipe one anyway. So why not banish the card system and go back to one price. Simple! Great article, this is one of my pet peeves about grocery stores too, glad you put it in to perspective!

  • This is true. I suppose this could work if you were required to use a card to shop. Otherwise, with no card, they lose the valuable marketing data they collect from your card. Also, and this is key, no card cuts down on one of the few ways guys (not this one, of course) flirt with girls at the store. Oh, forgot your card, use mine, it’s attached to my keys, which are for my apartment, where we could go right now and listen to my record collection, and then we could sex each other. See how this screws everything up?

  • Scott P

    This has been annoying me as well. I am desperate to find a place near me that is a better alternative for pricing/selection than ralphs. 

    I might just need to start stocking up at BevMo instead. 

  • TD

    Don’t even get me started on the CRV…

  • Yeah, that’s your best bet. BevMo is solid, too. I just like not having to make the extra trip.

  • Want to join my militia?

  • Ok, first, Twitter is awesome. Just this week alone, I’ve had issues resolved with Intuit and Code Canyon because I took the case to Twitter. You do not want to mess with Twitter, people. Twitter rules. As long as we can keep Biden away from it. 

    Second, despite the very cool name of this store, that pricing makes my head spin. Why on earth do these stores make pricing so complicated that it takes someone with a slide rule and a master’s in economics to figure it out? That’s insane. 

    And third, I really wish we had a Rock and Roll Ralphs here in Traverse City. Best we got is the spectrum between Walmart and a local food co-op named after a fertility goddess. We shop there most, and still only have two kids out of the deal, so how fertile could the place really be? 

  • Rose Valenta

    In my State, they need a beer license to sell beer, so we don’t find it in a grocery store. We have to go to the beer distributor. You should see that pricing mess. You don’t want to go shopping in there after you’ve had a few. They honor all sorts of cards: AARP, Triple A (Double A is down the street), and the room key to the local motel. Great article, Joe. I’m glad they responded to you on Twitter.

  • I am sorry you live in Russia, Rose.

  • That’s the key. Once Biden gets on Twitter, the whole thing is over. He’ll dominate. We’ll have to move the party over to LinkedIn.

  • I think times are changing and it will soon be cool to be thrifty. Haggling over prices might have seemed tacky a few years ago, but with the economy in the crapper, people like you who put the word out about pricing schemes will end up on Top 10 most influential people lists or maybe People’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” Your only competition right now is Clark Howard, but keep at this and you will leave him in the dust! 

  • Thanks, Lisa. I think I can beat Clark Howard to the Sexiest Man Alive list.He look like the kind of guy who tucks his polo shirt into his jeans.

  • Jenny B. AngryatRalphstoo

    I feel your pain on this.  Justin and I were talking about this before your post.  In fact, we were talking about the same exact item.  Although at the time I think your store might have had better prices.  I think we had no card @$9.99/with card @ $8.99/with card buying 4 @$6.99.  And to make things worse, I will have you know that on Sunday I went to buy the same beer and this time it was just $9.99 without card and $6.99 if you bought 4.  No discount for buying 1, or 2, or 3!!!  EVEN EFFING WORSE!!  Hey, Ralphs, I can read the EFFING label, I just don’t want to buy FOUR effing 6 packs!!! And, I don’t want to spend time decifering your “informative” labels.

  • I don’t think it’s anything insidious. I just think it’s needlessly confusing. Glad a fellow beer-drinker feels my pain on this! Thanks, Jenny.

  • Wait until you have three kids. You’ll need to drink so much that OF COURSE you’ll buy four six packs.

  • Ha ha. This is true. What the hell am I complaining about?

  • Youbooze.com

    Joe I share your hardship, fact is Ralph’s usually has the most expensive beer, wine and liquor prices in Southern California. Vons/Pavilions being the cheapest, as they (Safeway) is the 2nd largest buyer of alcohol in the U.S., behind only Costco.

    Go to youbooze.com to see the updated prices of 50 of the most popular beer, wine and spirits at the major grocery stores in SoCal, including Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, CVS, Rite Aid, etc.

  • Homerjaysimpson84

    Since we’re discussing Ralphs’ marketing techniques, I’d like to bring to your attention their new slogan “Get real (low prices) at Ralphs.”

    Hey Ralphs, 1995 Seattle called. It wants its colloquialism back!

  • It is? Sweet God. If they start giving away Big Johnson T-shirts as part of a promotion, I’m out.