“You’re the first person not to complain at that price,” the cashier at our local store told me yesterday, showing me $7.09 on the register.
“You did have them down as the regular grapes at $2.99 per pound, and not the organic at $3.99, didn’t you?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied. I quickly calculated in my head the price in pounds sterling — about £1.60/lb — and agreed to the price. I’m used to paying slightly more than that in the UK, but then again I don’t usually buy grapes in the middle of Northern California’s Wine Country, where you’d expect grapes to be in abundant supply. I then remembered we’d refused a bunch of organic grapes in Sebastopol, which had been priced at over $8 after the cashier had asked us whether we wanted to go ahead with the purchase. What’s interesting is that it’s not just shoppers who’re balking at the prices: it’s that the cashiers view the price as quite literally remarkable. And it is they who drawing their attention to the — apparently exorbitant — prices being charged by their employers. But shop assistants are consumers too, and they have to live. I asked her why the price was so high, but she had no more idea than I did. Looking at US government prices for table grapes over the last two years, supply has increased by over 17% — and yet prices have apparently rocketed.
But if consumers are bitching about $2.99/lb grapes, what will they think of $5-a-head lettuce if illegal migrant manual labour is kicked out of the country as the Bush administration is proposing? For that’s what Sonoma County farmers are forecasting would be the price if this were to happen.