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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Episode 136: VC hype vs. Wall Street

Oct 22, 2019

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Marketplace Tech

As prices on consumer goods rise, what are you willing to pay?

Marielle Segarra Oct 31, 2018
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Procter & Gamble is increasing the price of Pampers by about 4 percent.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

This summer, Olivia Sprowell got an early lesson in budgeting. She’s 2 years old, her parents buy her diapers online, and her mom, Kelsey, had noticed that the monthly cost had jumped from $70 to $85.

“And I just thought, these things are way too expensive,” said Kelsey, who’s 33 and lives in Iowa City.

So she and her husband sat Olivia down and broke the news: It’s time to start potty training.

“We said, ‘We’re going to get rid of the diapers, and you’re going to feel better, and we’re going to feel better. Everybody will be proud of you,’” she said

After years of stable prices and even discounts, popular brands of consumer products are getting more expensive. Procter & Gamble, for example, is increasing the price of Pampers by around 4 percent and Bounty, Charmin and Puffs by 5 percent. Unilever and Nestle have raised their prices by around 1 percent.

We asked you to tell us whether you’re noticing price hikes. Here’s some of what you told us:

Everybody has a limit to how much they’re willing to pay for a particular product. Consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever are always trying to game out how much it is.

And they know that it’s hard for some consumers to walk away.

Take Columbus, Ohio, resident Kelly Kaletsky, who’s 56 and has sensitive teeth. He’s noticed the price of toothpaste for his condition has crept up by almost a dollar in the past few months.

“If I didn’t need it, I would buy the cheapest possible tube of toothpaste anywhere,” Kaletsky said.

Instead, he clips coupons and cuts back on other purchases.

We realize these are all anecdotes. In other words, things that you noticed.

“It could be that you notice that the prices of items that go up, but you don’t notice the prices of items that either stay steady or go down,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC.

Faucher said prices are going down on some products, like cars and appliances. 

Procter & Gamble is still rolling out price hikes. Nestle is considering another round. And it can take months for those to show up in federal inflation numbers.

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