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What a bargain! Or is it?

As I was walking into my local HEB grocery store the other day, the product bin below caught my eye.


Wow! $0! I didn't really need any small plastic garden tools, but I was sorely tempted to pick up a few at that bargain price.

While the bin's price tag was no doubt the work of some bored employee or mischievous shopper, it does offer a catchy visual reminder to always carefully check shelf prices.

Take, for example, this item from The Consumerist: A big box store shopper who was paying attention noticed -- and recorded for the blogosphere -- that the per-sponge price in the six-pack was 14 cents more expensive than that of a sponge in a three-pack. More here.

We've been conditioned over the years to believe that bulk buying is cheaper, but as this shopper noted, that's not always so.

I know the print on those shelf labels are tiny; that's why I keep a pair of reading glasses in my trusty coupon box that I carry to the store. But it's usually worth your while (and a squint or two) to check the per-unit prices.

If I were of the conspiracy mindset, I'd say it's all part of Mega Lo Mart's plan to get us buying overpriced gallons of mayo and truckloads of toilet paper, all the while merrily emptying our bank accounts and overstuffing our pantries while mistakenly thinking we're saving more.

So pay attention, shoppers. You probably won't find quite the $0 "bargain" posted at my local HEB, but you sure might avoid overpaying.

Price update: Yesterday when I stopped by HEB, the toy garden tools were priced at $2.98 apiece. I knew I should have picked up a couple last week!


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