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.
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.
The wheels of supermarket justice are slowly beginning to turn.
There will be no justice.