The Ridiculously Overpriced Items You Keep Paying Way Too Much Money For
Unless you’re filthy rich, you’ve probably noticed prices on everyday items are increasing. Some of us might chalk it up to standard retail markups, but what’s really considered a fair hike these days? Unfortunately, retailers stand to gain the most from overpriced items the average American buys regularly, and consumers are forced to shoulder shrug their way through the shocking transaction at the register.
Even the thriftiest shoppers must succumb to premium prices now and again. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed you’ve purchased at least a few of these pricey products recently. Ranked from minor discomfort to downright infuriating, these are the 15 most common items consumers are forced to pay way too much money for.
15. College textbooks
- Markup: 40%
A student can’t get through school without purchasing the required course material. Unfortunately, that means many are cornered into paying too much money for these books because the typical bookstore markup is about 40%.
Publishers attempt to jack up the price by regularly issuing new editions and discouraging the use of previous editions. And have you ever noticed how hard it is to find used copies of college textbooks? Thanks to these clever strategies, students pay over $1,230 per year on college books and supplies, according to College Board.
Next: How high are you willing to go for a good night’s sleep?
- Markup: 50%
People are willing to pay top dollar for just one good night’s sleep — and mattress retailers know it. Consumer Reports notes these expensive items have massive markups, often 50% higher than suggested value. Psychology Today found some mattresses cost a mere $300 to make, yet more than half of buyers surveyed by Consumer Reports paid between $500 and $1,750 for a mattress.
The good news is shoppers who haggle can save about $205, the survey found. Experts advise consumers to begin negotiations at 50% off and not to stop until they get a free bed frame or price protection on the purchase.
Next: The price of beauty
- Markup: 78%
The price of cosmetics is driven largely by advertising and marketing. Manufacturers know cosmetics are often an impulse purchase customers are more than willing to invest in. Money Talks News reports the average markup on cosmetics is 78% — a hefty blow to your wallet considering you’re paying for fancy oils, mud, and sweet-smelling fragrances.
Next: A costly airport mistake
12. Airport food
- Markup: 200% to 300%
Popular airport retailer Hudson News recently came under fire for 300% markups on bottled water at the airport, charging nearly five bucks for something that could be found for $1.99 at a convenience store down the street. But overpriced airport items are nothing new to frequent travelers. Even in-flight baked goods are inflated by about 241%. Airport retailers know travelers have nowhere to go and time to kill, so it’s best to bring your own snacks to avoid overpaying for chips and granola bars in the terminal.
Next: The real reason printers are so cheap
11. Printer ink
- Markup: 300%
Printer ink is probably one of the most expensive liquids you’ll pay for. This overpriced item is marked up by nearly 300%, even though it costs only a few dollars to make. Consumers think they’ve scored a deal by purchasing an inexpensive printer, but that’s merely a marketing strategy manufacturers use to ensure you spend more money on pricey ink for years to come. The manufacturer will make most of its profits from the printer cartridges you buy later.
Next: The price of your caffeine addiction
- Markup: 300%
Like mattresses, some people would consider selling their left kidney for a cup of coffee when the caffeine headaches kick in. But those fancy lattes and specialty drinks are about 300% overrated — especially when purchased at a local shop. It’ll only cost you about a quarter to make your java at home by comparison.
Next: Salad bars that cost a fortune
9. Salad bars
- Markup: 350%
Even making multiple trips back to the salad bar is not likely to reap any type of return on investment as some salad bar items are marked up more than 350% over retail value. The ingredients that really hit hard are those that aren’t worth their weight, such as chickpeas (386%), radishes (302%), and baby corn (277%).
You can save buy choosing ingredients, such as bacon bits or grilled chicken, because their markup is considerably less than what you’d pay at the store. Still, the bagged salad or make-your-own route will be most cost-effective in the long run.
Next: Hotel hijinks
8. Hotel mini bar
- Markup: 370%
As if traveling weren’t already expensive enough, Americans must combat attempted coercion at the hotel mini bar. Priceconomics found popular hotel snacks, such as potato chips, are marked up 300% while bottles of beer run about 370% higher than the grocery store price. And when you just can’t withstand the late-night temptations any longer, that tiny bag of peanuts is inflated by 119%.
So it’s no wonder we come down with a huge case of buyer’s remorse the next morning. Nearly 84% of hoteliers report guests who attempt to cover up items they stole from the mini bar, according to a 2012 lastminute.com survey.
Next: Diamonds are a forever monthly bill.
- Markup: 300% to 400%
Jacob Worth, founder of I Want What It’s Worth, recently went undercover to prove the diamond industry is ripping people off. His research found stores, including Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef, and Harry Winston, are way overpriced when considering the same diamonds are available at Costco for much less. “There is nothing special about the diamonds they are selling, and their markups are exorbitant,” Worth’s YouTube video claims.
A basic round solitaire ring was 253% more expensive at Tiffany’s, 314% higher at Van Cleef, and 336% overpriced at Harry Winston’s. Either way, you’re paying too much for your diamonds.
Next: Price gouging at funeral homes
- Markup: 400%
The average price of a funeral can range anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000, but it seems a large portion of that price is overly inflated. A covert investigation into funeral homes and their pricing policies uncovered that caskets and urns can be marked up by more than 400%. Common practices, such as emotional upselling, are what trick families into paying more than necessary for funeral arrangements.
Next: A common drug that increased by 500% in seven years
- Markup: 500% in the past few years
Despite costing only $8 to make, EpiPen two-packs sell for over $600 today. The lack of generic competition combined with the demand for the life-saving allergy medicine allowed Mylan Pharmaceuticals to hike the price from $103.50 in 2009 to more than $608.61 in 2016. The pharmaceutical company cites research and development — and the fact that most pay a discounted rate on insurance — as justification for such a steep price increase.
Next: The label says it all.
4. Brand name clothes
- Markup: 500% to 1,000%
As you cough up a small fortune for the latest fashion pieces, it’s pretty obvious you’re paying for the label. It’s not uncommon for brand name clothes to tack on a 500% to 1,000% markup, according to Investopedia.
Designer jeans, for example, are a huge scam. According to The Wall Street Journal, it costs about $50 to make True Religion’s best-selling Super T Jeans, but the average retail price is a hefty $335. Handbags and shoes are also items sold at higher prices due to the name attached to the label.
Next: The product that relies on brand recognition for steep profits
3. Beats by Dre headphones
- Markup: 1,000%
The next overpriced item you keep wasting money on is headphones. The increase in demand has caused the gadgets to rise in overall price by 11%, now resting at an average of $34 apiece. But one brand in particular is exceptionally influential when it comes to taking your money. Beats by Dre cost only $18 to make but are sold for nearly $200. That’s a 1,000% hike many consumers pay simply for the name and branding associated with the product.
Next: Movie theater mayhem
2. Movie popcorn
- Markup: 1,000%
Business Insider compared prices on your favorite movie theater snacks and found a small soda is inflated by 1,000% when sold for $5.25. (The wholesale cost is about 49 cents.) You pay nine times the wholesale cost for a large tub of popcorn and 19 times more for a small. No wonder this Michigan man sued his local theater for outrageous snack prices.
If you’re too pure of heart to sneak snacks into the theater, we suggest splurging for candy instead. These products have the lowest markup at around only four times the wholesale price.
Next: The most overpriced item so many of us pay for
1. Prescription drugs
- Markup: up to 5,000%
The most overpriced item we continually pay too much money for is prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies often cite production costs as a reason for such astronomical prices, but the corresponding overhead is not always so justifiable. “There’s a saying, that it costs a billion to produce the first pill and 10 cents to produce the second,” Rachel Sachs, a fellow at Harvard Law School, tells The Atlantic.
Daraprim, the parasitic infection pill Martin Shkreli famously ratcheted from $13.50 to $750, increased in cost by over 5,000%. Shkreli has since been convicted of fraud and is facing jail time.
On a more common level, generic and name-brand drugs also span the price spectrum. A tiny bottle of Advil might run for around $10, compared to only $4 for generic painkillers that treat the same symptoms. In many cases, forgoing such expenses are not an option, so consumers continue to pay the price. Whether they can afford it is another story entirely.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.