Food for Thought: A Price Comparison of Essie Mae’s and Target

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Just about anyone would tell you that it would be cheaper to shop at Target on a daily basis than it is to shop at Essie Mae’s. But have you ever wondered how much money you really would save if you instead purchased your late night refreshments at Target? The Daily Gazette ran an experiment to find out for sure, and we discovered some pretty significant price differences. For many brand-name products, Essie’s is more expensive by a factor of two to three, and in some cases even more.

First off, consider the most important meal of the day: breakfast. A common routine at Swarthmore is to skip a hot meal at Sharples in the morning because of late night excitement, homework, or sheer laziness. A convenient solution is to spend the extra meal swipe at Essie’s and use some of the generous $9 dinner allowance to cover a quick breakfast for the next morning.

If you want to buy a pair of Pop-Tarts (1 package) at Essie’s, that’ll cost you $1.25. By contrast, you could make the trek to Target and buy thirty Pop-Tarts for $5.00 — merely $0.33 for two. That boils down a $0.92 difference.

Let us continue to our next breakfast item: Special K bars, sold individually at Essie’s for $1.00. At Target you can buy six bars for $3.00. So that means that Essie’s has a 100% markup on Special K bars compared to Target.

Next comes drinks. Powerade at Essie’s comes in at $1.50 for 20-ounces. But Target sells eight-packs of the same-size bottle for only $4.50, or $0.56 for each individual bottle.

The difference in prices for Coca-Cola at these two stores is even greater. At Essie’s you could get eight 12-ounce cans for $8, or you can get twenty-four cans for the same price at Target. Thus for Coca-Cola, money goes only a third as far as at Essie’s. Other drinks like Monster are $3.00 at Essie’s vs. $1.79 at Target and Fuze is $2.50 at Essie’s vs. $1.19 at Target.

Now, let us compare the desserts. A Hershey’s Chocolate Bar is $1.25 at our snack bar and $0.79 at Target. For every two chocolate bars bought at Essie’s, you could purchase three at Target with change to spare. Welch’s Fruit Snacks are $1.00 at Essie’s, but 24 of these are only $4.00 at Target. That’s a whopping six times the purchasing power for Hershey’s at Target than at Essie’s.

Finally, ice cream. At Essie’s, seven ounces will cost you $3.50. How many ounces of ice cream can you get at Target for $3.50? 54. To put it another way, if you were to double the amount of ice cream you got at Essie’s, then double it again, then double it again, you would only get two more ounces of ice cream than you would at Target for the same price.

Now there’s some food for thought.


      1. 0
        Think For A Second Please says:

        Ever heard of economies of scale?

        Not to mention typical wages at Target caps out just above $12/hour, while that is the minimum wage at the college.

        I’m embarrassed for you that you even asked me to clarify, which only further proves my original comment.

        1. 0
          Peter '15 says:

          Ah yes, I forgot that dining services is a small business with no connection to a wealthy college and no way to pay a decent wage without raising prices.

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