September 16th, 2018

Supermarket Chain CEO Defends High Prices of Water, Salt, and Other Items as a “Moral” Requirement

Inspired by recent events in antibiotic pricing.

SACRAMENTO, CA. The head of a national supermarket chain is defending a recent substantial increase in the price of water, salt, and other food and kitchen essentials, arguing that this change is the equivalent of a “moral” requirement.

Last month, iFoods Plus Stores announced that common low-cost items such as water, salt, paper towels, and carrots would all have major price increases.

A 12-oz plastic cup of tap water at the food counter will increase from $0.25 to $2.50, and a 26-ounce container of salt will now sell for $6.99 rather than $0.99. A package of two rolls of paper towels will set a purchaser back $19.99, 10 times up from its previous price of $1.99.

Citing occasional price increase from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and other food sellers, iFoods Plus CEO Jack Stevenson said his store’s price increases were not only essential to maintain profits, but were “morally the right thing to do.”

“Our first priority is our shareholders,” said Stevenson. “We live in a capitalist system, and not to take advantage of opportunities to hike prices in settings where we have little competition would be ethically wrong.”

When pressed, he added “Our customers’ well-being and comfort are also important,” but was unable to explain what he meant by that statement.

Some of the price increases have raised concerns among iFoods Plus shoppers, many of whom rely on the stores since the company favors locations with few or no other market options.

And consumer groups say that the increases are unjustified, since most of these items have long been available, and do not represent innovation or research done by the company.

“Water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, and is considered an essential building block of life on earth,” said Karen Hartfield, head of a food pricing watchdog group. “iFoods Plus did no research and spent no money developing the product. They just get water from the tap.”

Hartfield went on to say that salt, or sodium chloride, is a commonly used household flavoring. In general use long before the beginning of recorded history, salt has been off-patent internationally since 2700 B.C., when generic companies used Chinese pharmaceutical treatises to make salt from seawater.

“Paper towels are, well, just paper,” she said.

In the most dramatic example of skyrocketing prices at iFoods Plus, a one-pound bag of baby carrots, previously $1.99, is now listed at $99.99 — a 5000% increase.

“These carrots are very popular, and quite delicious,” noted CEO Stevenson, “So I’m just charging what the market can bear.”

He further acknowledged inspiration by another company that pulled off a similar price hike. “That man was a genius, and clearly schooled in high-level ethics and moral thought.”

Stevenson also said the price of the small bag of carrots would be reduced to $59.99 with a special Customer Assistance Program. Eligibility criteria include demonstration of vitamin A deficiency, or genetic testing indicating that a person is part rabbit.

Note — in case you didn’t know that there were no patent laws in 2700 B.C., this is satire.

5 Responses to “Supermarket Chain CEO Defends High Prices of Water, Salt, and Other Items as a “Moral” Requirement”

  1. MN MD says:

    Did John Oliver highjack the blog? Perfection!
    Is rare Wu Tang Clan also available at iFoods Plus?

  2. Wendy Armstrong says:

    Brilliant Paul. As physicians and other providers, we need to make our voices heard and make nitrofurantoin national news as happened for the Daraprim price hike. As was laid out in Shkreli’s emails, physicians don’t complain enough when these price hikes happen and companies can profit handsomely. This scenario also has important implications for stewardship and antibiotic resistance which needs to be clear. Thanks for publishing this – let’s not let the news cycle just move on.

  3. Heather Wray says:

    Are you sure there were no patent laws back in 2700 BC? The ancient Egyptians were pretty advanced (or not, depending on your view of patents..) in their thinking.

  4. Cari Brackett says:

    Brilliant, compelling, and out-of-the-blue. I don’t expect joys like this on a Monday morning. I ran with it until the carrots…….. But, as always, there are lessons:
    First, the pleasure of sheer, unadulterated wit! Second, that I accepted the ‘news’ nearly until the end, speaks to our depleted moral rage at indefensible profiteering. And third, that even, in the midst of the madness that is modern healthcare, there are those who see.

  5. Jake says:

    Hoping ventures like this make a difference: https://civicarx.org/

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HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

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