‘The U-Store is too good to be true,’ I remember thinking during move-in day. It had the felt hangers I forgot, the sugar for the coffee grounds I brought from home and imitations of the baked goods my Mom makes better.
Six months later, I found myself dragging a massive Amazon Prime Pantry box back to my dorm with items I could have bought at the U-Store, just a minute walk from my Mathey residence, but chose to buy from Amazon instead. How did my relationship with the U-Store get to this point, where I walk an extra 25 minutes to avoid it?
Turns out, I was right that first day. The U-Store is too good to be true. After a few trips back first semester, I realized how overpriced many of its items were. This is likely since it is the only supplier of grocery-like goods in all of Princeton and Nassau St.’s mix of specialty groceries and expensive restaurants.
Motivated by my walk with the heavy box, I set out to find out just how overpriced the U-Store was.
I wanted a broad sampling of goods that students could buy other places, so I kept my sampling to the cosmetic and hygienic items, pre-packaged food and drink, and dorm goods sections. I went through each aisle and chose two items randomly, recording their sizes in ounces and their non-member prices. Then, I found two comparable prices for each item online, excluding Amazon’s prices since they are unusually low. (The comparable prices were usually from Target or Walmart.) I averaged the comparable prices and compared the difference in the U-Store price with the competitor price in percentage. Some items were thrown out of the experiment because there were no comparable prices online.
Findings and Theories: the Good, the Bad, the Booty
On average, U-Store goods were priced 67.33 percent over their usual prices. That’s 57.33 percent over their prices for members.
Only one good out of 30 was priced below the market price: a four oz. bag of Pirate’s Booty was 10 percent cheaper at the U-Store. Two goods were priced at their market price: a four-pack of men’s Jockey Classics Full-Rise Briefs and Nissin Cup Noodles. Wet Ones were priced two percent over their usual price.
The most overpriced good was a 12.4 oz. box of Cheez-Its, priced at $6.29, 213 percent over its comparable price. Hunt’s Pudding priced at 150 percent its usual price, and a 13 oz. box of Chip’s Ahoy cookies were 90 percent over its competitor’s price.
Generally, as I moved from the food aisles closest to the University Place entrance toward the aisles closest to the pre-packaged meal section, items seemed to become more overpriced. They seem to place the most profitable goods closest to the main entrance for easy access by students in their most desperate and zombie-like state after hitting the Street or pulling an all-nighter.
Processed food was the most over-priced category, followed by cosmetics and hygiene-related items and by dorm goods and necessities, like underwear.
Another shocking revelation from this study: Hot Pockets are not sold online. Not even on Amazon.
This was not a perfect study, but the findings are clear. Generally, follow the booty for the best prices. Thank the U-Store for your Hot Pocket consumption. Drop your Cheez-Its habit.