Unless you’re filthy rich, you’ve probably noticed that movie theater popcorn costs an arm and a leg. Still, countless consumers shell out the big bucks for this greasy flick food.
Of course, movie theater snacks aren’t the only budget busters. Just think about the exorbitant cost of greeting cards, printer ink and bottled water. The sky-high prices on those products are enough to send today’s strapped consumers spiraling into debt. Yet we continue to cough up the cash for these absurdly expensive items.
Here are six outrageously overpriced products that consumers can’t seem to live without:
1. Movie popcorn
At the grocery store, microwave popcorn runs about $3 per box, and each box includes three 3.5-ounce bags.
So why would consumers even consider paying a whopping $6 for a single medium-sized bag of popcorn at a movie theater? No one knows exactly why, but for some reason, moviegoers continue to drain their wallets to crunch on a bag full of those greasy little nuggets.
Why aren’t consumers spending?
After considering that movie theaters purchase popcorn in bulk, the average markup of movie theater popcorn is a whopping 1,275%. At such prices, you’d think those buttery bags were laced with gold.
2. Greeting cards
Since when does a folded-up piece of paper cost $2.99? Since someone slaps a precious kitty picture and a cleverly written message on it and then stamps the back of it with a logo. That’s right — we’re talking about those pricey greeting cards.
Many consumers spend hours poring over the neatly arranged stacks in the greeting card aisle, searching for the perfect message for a sister’s birthday, their parents’ anniversary or “just because.”
The average greeting card costs between $2 and $4, and consumers don’t seem to think twice about paying that precipitous price. The markup is between 100% and 200%, which is not quite as shocking as movie theater popcorn, but it adds up. When you consider how many of those paper jewels you buy each year, it’s enough to send you running for the construction paper and markers. After all, it costs only a few cents to create a homemade card.
3. College textbooks
In 2010, the annual in-state cost for the typical state university soared to more than $15,000, and private colleges now charge an average of $35,600 a year. As if college kids (and their parents) aren’t financially drained enough, there’s yet another inflated price they face: college textbooks. College students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks and other supplies.
College textbook prices have skyrocketed 186% since 1986, and these expensive volumes of knowledge now account for 26% of the overall cost of college. Unfortunately, broke college students are required to purchase these costly books for their classes. At least they can try to sell their books back to a local bookstore at the end of the semester — for a few measly bucks.
4. Bottled water
You’ve probably heard that “Evian” is simply “naive” spelled backward.
OK, so the well-known company probably did not choose its name for that reason, but many people believe that consumers who buy bottled water are certainly naive. After all, water is one of the most abundant resources in the world and is available for free from countless water fountains and sinks across the nation. Yet many consumers are still willing to pay $3 for a bottle of it.
In 2009, Congress revealed that about 45% of bottled water comes from municipal taps — and then the bottled water company may or may not do some additional filtering before pouring it in its logo-stamped bottles. Still, Americans continue to buy more than 500 million bottles every week, making it the second-most-popular purchased drink, after soda.
5. Printer ink
You may be able to buy a surprisingly affordable printer at your local office supply store, but don’t start celebrating just yet. The printer companies make their biggest bucks on ink.
Over the life of your printer, you’ll probably pay more than 500% of the total price of the printer itself on ink cartridges. At $30, a 42-milliliter cartridge of black printer ink comes out to 70 cents per milliliter. On the other hand, the Red Cross charges $200 for 500 milliliters of blood, which comes out to 40 cents per milliliter.
6. Brand-name fashion
How much did you pay for those True Religion jeans, that Burberry scarf and those towering Louboutin stilettos? Probably a small fortune. But they were worth every penny, right? Not so much. When it comes to designer clothes, it’s pretty obvious that you are paying for the label.
As a matter of fact, brand-name clothes are often marked up 500% to 1,000%. Yet, fashion-conscious consumers continue to drain their bank accounts and pile up massive amounts of debt to stay on the cutting edge of couture.
The recession has hit many households hard, and thousands of consumers are passing on these and other overpriced products. So, does that mean the inflated prices of these items will eventually fall? Only time will tell. In the meantime, you may want to check your bank account before you hit the movie theater concession stand.
This article was reported by Amy Bell for Investopedia.
Published Sept. 3, 2010
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