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Sam’s Club and a Bad Battery Deal

Written by Nickel - 11 Comments

My son and I were recently in Sam’s Club to pick up some batteries when I noticed something interesting… The 32-pack of Energizer AA batteries was selling for $10.66, whereas the 48-pack was selling for $16.66. That’s right… The larger package was actually slightly more expensive (on a per battery basis) than was the smaller package. While it wasn’t a big difference, this is the exact opposite of what one would expect to see. In fact, I was about to grab the 48-pack when I did a quick bit of math in my head and realized what they were up to. Guess which pack was featured prominently throughout the store, including big displays right by the cash registers? Yep, the marked up 48-packs were everywhere. In contrast, the marginally-more-economical 32-packs could only be found in the electronics section. The lesson here is to make to sure that you’re actually getting a better deal when you buy the über-pack of whatever you’re shopping for. You might just find that the smaller size is actually more economical.

Published on December 29th, 2005 - 11 Comments
Filed under: Miscellany

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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11 Responses to “Sam’s Club and a Bad Battery Deal”

  1. 1
    FMF Says:

    Yep. It used to be that “bigger” meant “less expensive per unit”, but the companies figured out that consumers thought that way, so many started pricing larger units higher. I’ve noticed it on several products.

  2. 2
    j Says:

    I’m confused. The 32 pack at $11.23 is 35.09 cents per battery. The 48 pack at $16.66 is 34.71 cents per battery. Isn’t that cheaper?

  3. 3
    nickel Says:

    My bad. I just found and checked my receipt. The 32 pack was $10.66 (not $11.23) in the store… I knew I did the math right in the store, but then couldn’t find my receipt when I sat down to write the story. Thus, I looked up the price on their website, but didn’t redo the math. It looks like they’ve priced things appropriately online (with the 32 pack being more costly). Weird. I edited the post to fix it.

  4. 4
    BP Says:

    Noticed the same thing at Costco for baby formula. The strangest thing is they actually listed the price per oz. on the display and you could clearly see that the bigger container was (slightly) more costly on a per oz. basis.

  5. 5
    FMF Says:

    I should have calculated it out. I guess I just trusted you. ;-)

  6. 6
    jim Says:

    Trust no one.

    I found out the same thing at a Chevy’s nearby, the 32 oz. draft beer was more expensive, per oz, than the 16. So not only were you paying more for the larger beer, you were paying more just to let the second 16 oz. get warm!

  7. 7
    Andy Says:

    At grocery stores one can of Red Bull is $1.99, which a 4-pack is $7.99. So it’s 3 cents more expensive to buy the 4-pack.

    I don’t drink Red Bull, but I found it amusing.

  8. 8
    Dave Says:

    The same is true for Dog Food at Target, the 22.something pound bag is cheaper per pound than the 40 pound bag.

  9. 9
    anne berry Says:

    The 48 pack of batteries at sam’s club is packed in individual 4 packs for people to resell in thier business. The 32 pack is not and is therefore cheaper. Make sure in the future you are actually comparing apples to apples and not apples to kumquats.

  10. 10
    nickel Says:

    From my point of view, 48 batteries is 48 batteries and 32 batteries is 32 batteries. While this make make sense to some people uder certain circumstances, paying more for less is a bad deal for me no matter how they’re packaged. For the relatively few Sam’s Club customers who buy them to re-sell (the vast majority of members are just plain old families), it might turn out to be an okay deal, but for everyone else it’s not.

  11. 11
    JohannaB Says:

    My favorite of all time was Jello for 12 cents per package or two for 25 cents. It’s been a few years since I ran across that particular price scheme but it still makes me laugh and wonder how many people bought two packages for that quarter.

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