The wise consumer and grocery shopper is quick to compare prices.

But today, the price comparison shopper often encounters some well-disguised store techniques. The tactics are being used to separate the potential consumer from his hard-earned money.

A number of years ago for example, instead of raising their prices, ice cream manufacturers changed from half-gallon containers to a smaller size but retained the original price.

Many more companies are resorting to this trick.

Walk down the bakery aisle of your favorite store and you'll find that sugar is packaged in four-pound bags instead of five-pound bags. Yet, the price remains the same as it when you could buy the five-pound bag.

Some coffee manufacturers are doing the same thing. A quick check reveals that some brands with new packaging. In at least some cases, this means the newer packages contain less coffee than previous ones.

We've been in stores in the past which advertise "buy one, get one free" but on inspection, the price of the product especially meat was raised more than twice the original price. That price hike helps counter that "money-saving" deal.

Another trick we've seen in some stores is to bundle a specific number of packages of meats or other deli products for say, $20. No matter what the price is listed on the meat, buying in lots of say three or five will supposedly save you money.

However, if you look through the meat department you might find that skipping the bundle deal might be more economical. For example, pork chops in the "Five for $20" section might be $4.29 per pound, while other ones might only be $3.39 per pound.

This doesn't happen at every store. It's up to consumers to stay on their toes when doing the comparison shopping.

There's nothing illegal about these tactics. But in order to reap the best deals while grocery shopping, carefully monitor the price breakdowns and those packaging statistics very closely.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com [1]