These 15 Common Products Have Insanely High Markups

Most people realize that anything they buy is marked up significantly. That $40 shirt? It probably cost a few dollars to manufacture in a factory overseas. Stores make money by selling items for more than they paid for them. That’s just basic retail math.

But certain items have a much higher markup percentage than others. While some of your weekly grocery store buys have a super high markup, the majority only have slim margins, which causes grocers to rely on sheer volume of sales to make money. Clothing, on the other hand, usually has a higher markup.

Then there are those products that have insanely high markups and that you’re almost definitely overpaying for. Read on to see what they are.

1. Movie theater popcorn

Movie theater popcorn

Movie theater popcorn | Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: 1,275%

There’s no such thing as going to the movies cheaply. The tickets alone cost a lot, plus once you’re inside you’ll inevitably want snacks, which is a whole other league of expensive. But when it comes to markup percentage, it doesn’t get much worse than the popcorn.

You’ll pay anywhere from $5 – $15 for a bucket of movie theater popcorn drenched in butter – but the movie theater spends less than $1 making it.

Next: Text messages

2. Text messages

woman using mobile app

Texting |

  • Markup percentage: 6,000%

Unless you have an unlimited texting plan, you’re spending way too much money sending text messages. Sure, 20 cents per text doesn’t sound like very much. But when you consider that it only costs the cell phone provider a fraction of a penny to transmit that data for you, it sure does sound like a ripoff.

Next: Greeting cards

3. Greeting cards

Holding greeting card

Greeting card | Edward Lin/iStock/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: 100-200%

Greeting cards don’t cost much to make, but the two biggest brands in the industry – Hallmark and American Greetings, who own 80% of the market share combined – charge anywhere from $2.99 to $10.99 for those folded pieces of cardstock. They get away with it because people are sentimental and because sending an e-card just isn’t the same.

Want to save money? Only purchase your greeting cards at the dollar store. You won’t have as many options, but you also won’t overpay as much.

Next: Glasses frames

4. Glasses frames

young businessman adjusting eyeglasses

Glasses |

  • Markup percentage: 1,000%

Why are eyeglasses so expensive? It all comes down to a lack of competition. Italian eyewear maker Luxottica owns Ray-Ban, Sunglasses Hut, and LensCrafters, meaning they have practically no competition in the industry. They set the prices however they want and no one can stop them.

Next: Designer jeans

5. Designer jeans

Female wearing jeans

Female wearing jeans |

  • Markup percentage: 300%

Not all denim carries the same markup percentage. If you’re willing to sacrifice that designer label, then you can find great bargains with a reasonable markup. But if you live by showing off your brands, you’ll pay more – like the 300% markup for True Religion brand jeans.

Next: Prescription drugs

6. Prescription drugs

medication on a table

Medication on a table | DedMityay/iStock/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: 200-3,000%

Name brand drugs aren’t cheap. It depends on the brand and product, but some medications may get marked up a shocking 3,000%. The way around this? Ask your doctor for samples or to subscribe you the generic equivalent of the medication you need instead.

Next: Wedding gowns

7. Wedding gowns

Wedding dresses

Wedding dresses | Silk-stocking/iStock/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: Up to 600%

The wedding industry is notorius for exploiting people’s emotions by overcharging for anything associated with their big day. A designer label wedding dress might be marked up 600% or more, which is a lot considering you’ll only get to wear it for a few hours.

Next: Bottled water

8. Bottled water

Water bottles

Water bottles | diego_cervo/iStock/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: 4,000%

One of the biggest markups in the industry is something you can get for free (basically) from the tap. Bottled water doesn’t just create more waste, it also cheats you out of your hard-earned cash for no reason. Get a high-quality water filter and a reusable water bottle instead of wasting money on overpriced bottles of water.

Next: Diamond jewelry

9. Diamond jewelry

close up of man giving diamond ring to woman

Man giving diamond ring to woman |

  • Markup percentage: 200%

Diamonds are nothing more than an aggressive marketing scheme concocted by DeBeers – the only reason they’re valuable at all is because the jewelry industry creates an illusion of scarcity. Name brand diamonds have some of the highest markups, but even if you buy an obscure brand, you’re still paying too much for a hunk of carbon.

Next: Printer ink cartridges

10. Printer ink cartridges

Printer ink cartridges

Ink cartridge | vladacanon/iStock/Getty Images Plus

  • Markup percentage: 300%

Isn’t it weird how the printer sometimes costs less than the ink? There’s a reason for that. Printer manufacturers make a very small profit or may even lose money on selling those printer machines, but they justify that initial loss by overcharging for ink cartridges.

Next: Wine at a restaurant

11. Wine at a restaurant

Sommelier pours wine

Wine | Berezko/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: 400%

It’s not just that restaurants are trying to rip you off. You’ll always spend more on food and drinks when you’re dining out than you would on the same food at home, but at least you don’t have to cook. One of the highest markups is the wine – restaurants pay significant taxes on their alcohol plus having a liquor license in the first place.

Your best bet for saving money? Find a good BYOB and bringing your own wine.

Next: Fountain soda

12. Fountain soda

Soda Dispenser Machine

Soda Dispenser Machine | AHPhotoswpg/iStock/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: 300-600%

Hitting the drive-thru? You might want to bring your own beverage. Fast food and other restaurants have slim margins on pricey items like meat, but make up for it by charging a few dollars for fountain soda that costs them mere pennies to serve.

Next: EpiPens

13. EpiPens


EpiPens | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: 400%

Mylan Pharmaceuticals became a hot button topic of debate a few years ago when they jacked up the price of EpiPens from about $57 to $600. Consumers – especially those without insurance – were outraged at the change, especially since the pens only last 6 months to a year. The company didn’t relent on pricing, but they did promise to offer more financial assistance for uninsured individuals.

Next: Floral bouquets

14. Floral bouquets

Spring time bouquet of cut flowers in vase

Floral bouquet | flutter-design/ Getty Images

  • Markup percentage: Varies

Flowers are expensive as a rule. But the reason you can’t pinpoint the exact markup percentage is that it fluctuates based on the season and occasion. For example, the prices of roses skyrocket in February right before Valentine’s Day and again in May for Mother’s Day thanks to market demand. Similarly, you could purchase identical bouquets from a florist but will automatically pay more when you mention they’re “wedding flowers.”

Next: Salad bars

15. Salad bars

Caesar salad with homemade bacon.

Caesar salad |

  • Markup percentage: 350%

Those make your own salad bars at the supermarket may be a convenient way to create a healthier lunch. But when it comes to cost, they’re not smart at all. Since the salads are sold by weight, you’ll spend just as much on a pound of plain old lettuce as you will on a pound of chicken.

Get your money’s worth by opting for the priciest selections. Or better yet, buy the ingredients make a salad at home.