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# The Cost of Convenience

### by Tina Hartley

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In today's fast-paced world, there is an increasing demand for convenience. Often we choose to make a quick stop at a convenience store instead of taking the time to make lunch or carry a thermos full of coffee. Many of us choose to make a quick stop at a convenience store on the way home from work for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread.

It truly is a convenience to run into a small store versus a large grocery store. The walk from the closest parking space to the store and the walk to what will invariably be near the back of a large building can take 10 minutes. Then if you happen to be someone like me who always picks the wrong line to get in, you may stand in line for another 10 to 15 minutes. Your quick stop has turned into a half-hour and counting.

What is the price tag attached to all this convenience? I've done a little research at my local stores to compare prices. A gallon of 2% milk at my favorite grocery store is \$3.69. The same gallon of milk at a local convenience store (which happens to be run by the very same company) is \$4.11. A loaf of bread is \$1.19 at the grocery store and \$2.29 at the convenience store. A 20-ounce bottle of Diet Pepsi is \$1.39 at the convenience store, while a six pack of 24-ounce bottles of Diet Pepsi is \$3.99 at the grocery store. That works out to 60 cents per 20 ounces. I see a definite trend here.

As consumers, I think we are all well aware that we pay more for items in a convenience store. We are more than willing to sacrifice an extra 50 cents or \$1 for that convenience. No one shops at a convenience store because we think we are getting the best price. The real cost of habitual convenience store shopping lies in impulse buying and our health.

I stopped in on the way to work to get gas in the car. In a rush, as usual, I didn't have any breakfast. Isn't it convenient how the store has breakfast sandwiches? I grab a bacon, egg and cheese bagel and a coffee while paying for my gas. My workday was hectic and I worked straight through lunch. On the way home, I remember that we're out of milk, so I stop at the same convenience store. I grab a gallon of milk. I remember that the bread was almost gone this morning, so I grab a loaf.

Thinking about my poor choice this morning, but feeling very hungry since I missed lunch, I am determined to not buy anything loaded with sugar or fat. I proudly take an apple from the bin near the register. It's not until the ride home that I begin thinking about my pattern of purchasing at Stop-n-Go.

Impulse buying is the boon of retail! When we stop at a store for one thing and come out with a bagful, the marketing strategists have done their jobs well. Convenience stores are mini super centers. You can buy gas for your car, get your lunch, play the lottery, and fill up your windshield washer fluid in one stop. We're in a hurry, we often make unhealthy choices and we pay too much!

According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, sales rose more than 20% in 2005 to a whopping \$474.3 billion and 69.4% of sales were fuel purchases. We just stopped to get gas and end up buying this, that and the other thing. The price we pay for convenience is a much higher price than the extra 42 cents for a gallon of milk. The marketers pay close attention to our buying patterns. The next time you stop at a convenience store notice the bin of fresh fruit in between the candy bars and the hot dog machine. Something for everyone because once we are in the door, chances are excellent that we will end up buying something we don't really need that costs too much and most likely isn't healthy.

Take the Next Step:

• For all things "Groceries & Food," please visit www.stretcher.com
• Choose today to stop being one of the many people that pay too much at convenience stores. The temptation is real once you're in the door. So, if you must go in to pay for your gas, make a beeline to the checkout, keeping intent on your goal of getting in and out without buying things that cost too much and probably aren't the healthiest choices you could make.

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