Supermarket Chain Adds 10% At Register, But Only In Some Stores

Nash Finch, a Minneapolis-based supermarket chain, adds a 10% fee to the bill at its stores catering to Hispanic shoppers in Colorado, reports 9News in Denver:

The Nash Finch stores Avanza, Food Bonanza and Wholesale Food Outlets add the 10 percent charge to food at the register and specialize in serving Hispanics, according to store workers.

However, the Nash Finch stores Sun Mart Foods, Econo Foods, Family Fresh Market, Pick N Save and Prairie Market stores do not charge extra at the register and do not cater to Hispanics, according to the store workers.

“Jim,” a store manager, told the news station that the fee is to offset other costs, but it’s clear that the 10% charge is at least partly a way to offer steeper “discounts” throughout the store that are effectively removed when you pay.

Nash Finch denies it’s doing anything skeevy or illegal with its unclear pricing, but 9News points out their attempt at full disclosure is confusingly worded, perhaps deliberately so:

“The ‘shelf-plus’ pricing program is only used in certain store formats. These stores tend to be located where consumers are more price-conscious, as compared to our more conventional supermarkets,” said Brian Numainville, Public Relations for Nash Finch Company. “The pricing policy is explained, not just in English, but also in Spanish, so that no customer is caught unaware at the cash register.”

The stores do advertise that they are going to add a 10 percent fee in signs posted across the store, on the store shelves below the price of a food item on the store shelf and in flyers and circulars. However, the wording is confusing to many. For example, the flyers read, “A great way to save – Plus 10 % at the Register.”

What do you think—is this an acceptable way to price groceries? In a series of questions Nash Finch answered for 9News’ story, they claim that they’re not the only chain to do this, and that it’s not just Hispanic markets. Here’s their final justifaction for the practice:

Question 9: Wouldn’t it be more honest/up front to just add 10 percent to the price of all of the products—so that people can see the actual price on the shelf and on the sticker?

Answer: The grocery industry is extremely competitive. Stores vie for customers. Customer loyalty is highly valued. Given the need to attract and retain customers, our stores cannot afford to alienate its customers by charging unexplained fees or unanticipated mark-ups. Our pricing is attracting customers—rather than losing them–demonstrating that the pricing policy is in fact fair, obvious, and well-understood by our shoppers.

“Some grocery stores add 10 percent fee” [9News.com] (Thanks to Randy!)