Costco hasn't raised the price on its hot-dog-and-soda combo since 1984

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Apparently it’s my day to post Planet Money links. This is #3 I believe.

Anyway, the price of Coke is a way more interesting story than you’d expect, including weird legal, psychological, and technical challenges. The company basically spent almost 100 years painting themselves into a corner and then almost failed getting out of it.


Costco may not have raised the price, but they did change their policy. Used to be, you could walk in for any reason and get the hot dog. Now you are supposedly required to prove your membership to get served. There was a pretty public announcement a year or two ago.

That being said, I don’t know if they’re enforcing it or not. I only stop in to get prescriptions and to cruise the samples. The samples have been suspended for COVID reasons, so it’s usually a quick trip in and out. :slightly_frowning_face:


Same goes for their rotisserie chicken. It’s the old loss leader business model.


Also, something something regressive factory farming and supplier abuses.

That said, even knowing I lose Good Place points every time I buy one, I still get them all the time.


Our nearest Costco is a state-licensed Package Liquor store. No one is refused entry if their (stated) purpose is to buy booze. Once you’re inside, it’s hot dogs all the way down.


My wife had the idea that Lowe’s should be doing this too. She knows me too well.


So they are 36 year old hot dogs?

Pricing can be nebulous. I knew someone who sold small electronic kits, and the market was really the US. He was in Canada. So he picked a US price, if you were in Canada it was a higher price. My impression was that after expenses, he picked a price high enough, but not so high that it would discourage buyers. The higher Canadian price was more than the exchange rate.


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Planet Money has covered rotisserie chickens as well. It was part of another story so I can’t find the link, but basically the store does make money on them. If I recall correctly, the tiny chickens used for that are a byproduct of the main chicken supply chain, and are thus very very inexpensive to buy. It’s a way to use up something that would otherwise go to waste.


A few years back Costco built its own chicken processing plant to supply those birds.


There is a really good Radiolab where they talk about repeat mentions of the same podcast.


A dollar fifty buys you a quarter-pound beef hot dog and a 20 oz cup of soda.

Now I want to see this on the cost/calorie calculator posted earlier this month:

I remember that one. They start out thinking that the cooked, spiced chicken is somehow cheaper than the raw chicken, but dispel that myth along the way:

You may have stumbled upon a new game: try to find a topic that hasn’t been covered by Planet Money.


Moar assholes!!!

Oh man, that gave me a good chuckle. Thanks.

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Or was it a Swedish idea in the first place:


Hershey did something similar with their chocolate bars for a very long time. They fixed the price at a nickel, but moved the size of the bar up and down with the economy/costs. To the point where there was long a “nickel bar” available at some size, even after it was no longer feasible to charge that little for the main product. They moved off to the standard size, but kept a variable smaller sized bar available for a very long time. The idea by that point being that so long as there was always a Hershey bar for a nickel, people would always be able to afford at least a small chocolate bar.

Later they would switch to lowering the cost to make it so they could stick to a couple standard sizes.

They’re younger chickens at the low end of the “fryer” size range but older and larger than a poussin/game hen. They’re popular in food service for portioning reasons, but not particularly popular nationwide in the US and some other nations for retail sale and cooking at home. They’re apparently the preferred chicken size in much of Asia, though.

If I’m remembering it right it goes like this:

The traditional sources for these smaller birds are males before they get too old and start to get gamey, and similar culling situations. Like you got too large of a flock when demand is expected to take a down turn. So there’s always a supply, and frequently over supply. The smaller poussin and game hen sizes have cache, demand at home, and are classy as fuck in restaurants. So they sell at a premium per lb over regular chicken. The in-between size that becomes rotisserie chicken does not, and it has a relatively fixed market. Especially as a whole bird.

The rotisserie chicken thing was pushed as a solution, as were processed foods like chicken nuggets. First in the form of restaurant chains like Boston Market, which were all over the god damn place in the 80’s and 90’s. I very much remember every town in the US having multiple rotisserie chicken joints when I was a kid, there’s still a couple hanging on around here. Then it was pressed into basically every supermarket.

COVID seems to have pushed this size back into retail to get up over the shortages. I’ve seen a number of brands I recognize as wholesale brands from my restaurant days popping up in stores. Almost always as small whole chickens. Which is cool, I really like this size of chicken.


The Futility Closet podcast had a story about the nickel Hershey bar.

When I was a kid, just old enough to buy candy on my own, the local shops had two sizes, priced at ten cents and six cents. The latter, which was the size you usually got at Halloween, eventually disappeared. In kid-compressed time, they had seemed to be around “forever,” but I’m guessing no more than four years, in the late 60s.

I’m guessing that this was the last gasp of the “nickel bar.”


Huh, I’ve lived in three states, and I always had to show my membership card to so much as walk in the door.

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That is what they want you to think. Reminds me of how urban explorers open unlabelled doors that everyone else just walks on past.

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