One who is willing to buy in large quantities can usually save money. A 39-cent can of food might be offered at 3-for-$1. A $1 golf ball might be available at $10 a dozen.

Occasionally, however, a consumer encounters the reverse of this pattern. One-pound jars of a product - let's call it Mrs. Milford's Melted Muffins - are priced at $1. Alongside them on the same shelf are 2-pound jars of the same Mrs. Milford's Melted Muffins priced at $2.29. The unit price is higher, not lower, for the quantity buyer.

Consumers who ask the manager whether this isn't a mistake are almost always told no, that's the way the home office wants them priced. "The manufacturer is running a special on the small size."

Why? Good question.

Factory representatives have "explained" it to me by saying things like, "Well, that size wasn't selling well, so we decided to increase the sales volume on it."

There is much less to such a statement than meets the eye. It has the form of an explanation but it covers up more than it explains.

If the 1-pound size is normally priced at $1.50 and the 2-pound size is normally priced at $2.29, there's no mystery about the unpopularity of the small size. Two 1-pound jars cost $3, one 2-pound jars costs $2.29. Anybody who takes the time and trouble to read the small print knows that the large, economy size is the better buy.

However, the manufacturer would rather sell his product at $1.50 a pound than at $1.14 1/2. So it is to his advantage to get people into the habit of buying the small size.

One way to do this is to reduce - temporarily - the price of the small size. Then, when the consumer has become accustomed to thinking small, the "special" can be withdrawn and the price of the small jar can be returned to its normal level. Meanwhile the 2-pound jar, which is no longer an economy size when the 1-pound jar sells for $1, is left on the shelf to ensnare the shopper who doesn't have his wits about him.

From time to time, under the heading "Bargain Day," I publish reports about small sizes that cost less per unit than large sizes. You might think that manufacturers would be embarrassed when such items appear, and some are. But others become irate at my failure to understand their "explanation" about the need to increase sales volume on certain sizes.

"I'm delighted that you are in a position to lower prices," I say to them. "But why don't you lower the price on the larger size in the same proportion, and increase the sales volume on that one, too?"

"You just don't understand anything about merchandising," came the testy reply the last time I went through this with a food company official. And my response to him took the form of a question: "Tell me, friend, what's your line of business - selling sizes or selling food?"

I doubt that I changed his position and I know he didn't change mine.

BARGAIN DAY

Verona Z. Ruhl of Silver Spring reports that when she checked her coat at the International Inn recently, she was greeted with a sign that said:

One coat, 35 cents. Two coats, 75 cents." Four for $1.80, perhaps?

For your information, Verona, tipping has been turned into a compulsory fee of 50 cents at many establishments. As a result, one who parks in a hotel garage in the evening will now see men step out of their cars in evening dress. No sign of a hat or coat. Where parked cars can be locked, they lock their wraps in their cars. Where cars can't be locked, they leave their wraps at home and depend on the car's heater.

THESE MODERN TIMES

I bought a battery charger at Best products the other day. I paid $1.97 for it. Enclosed with the charger was a manufacturer's rebate coupon worth $2. So I will get back more than I paid. Apparently this is some more smart merchandising that's too complicated for me to understand.

We used to consider it a difficult feat to make money; spending was fun. Today it's a lot easier to make a dollar, but spending it prudently takes brains, diligence and stamina.

If you doubt what I say, just watch a housewife sort through 200 coupons before she leaves for the supermarket. It's enough to try the patience of a saint, yet if you don't use the coupons you're throwing your money away. What a system! Why can't they just lower prices by saving the expense of coupons and rebates?