Two tales of grocery woe for you this morning, both of which recently played starring engagements at area Giant Food Stores.
Subject one: soap.
Giant sells its own golden yellow brand of the stuff. The bars come in a see-through plastic sack, sealed at the top by a plastic twist-tie.
As with most of Giant's "house" brands, Giant soap's main appeal is that it sells for considerably less than the "uptown" brands right beside it.
But Giant soap also sells for less than itself.
The reason is that the soap sacks do not always contain the same amounts.
You can buy 14 ounces (four bars, each 3 1/2 ounces) for 99 cents.
Or you can buy 15 ounces (three bars, each five ounces) for 99 cents.
According to Eileen Katz, Giant's consumer information coordinator, the apparent conflict in pricing different amounts of soap at the same level is intentional.
"Our merchandising people don't want to sell our soap in any form for more than a dollar at this time," Katz said.
Consumers thus ought to jump at the chance to get 15 ounces for less than a buck, she suggested, because that chance isn't going to last forever.
But don't most consumers assume they'll be getting more ounces of soap if they buy four bars per sack?
They probably do, Katz conceded. But that's why Giant is careful about posting unit prices, she said.
A glance at the unit prices near the Giant soap shelf will leave no doubt that three-times-five ounces is the best shot. "The consumer is getting a good buy," Katz said.
Convinced? No? Well, try subject two: Ritz crackers.
Harry Atherholt, of Laurel, writes that he bought a 16-ounce box of the salty wafers last week at Giant's Town Center store.
The price sticker on the side of the box clearly read 99 cents. But when the checkout person dragged the box over the computer checkout laser beam, there it was on the sales slip: RITZ CRACKERS $1.09."
A debate ensued, which Atherholt won. But in the course of assembling his case, Atherholt went back to the crackers shelf.
There, he found Son of Soap.
His 16-ounce box of Ritz Crackers was indeed supposed to sell for 99 cents, he found. But right beside it was a 12-ounce box of Ritzes.
It, too, was marked 99 cents. But the only apparent difference was that the crackers inside the 12-ounce box had been divvied up into three neat stacks, whereas the Ritzes in the 16-ounce sack just sat there in one semiorganized heap.
According to Katz, Atherholt got away with a little bit of murder. The 16-ounce Ritzes should have sold for $1.09, and now do.
But why is the larger box 33 percent greater in terms of weight, and only 10 percent greater in terms of price?
Does the work involved in producing triply-stacked crackers account for that much of a discrepancy?
"Evidently it does," said Katz.
My recent dissertation on the follish things that get said to people with gray hair brought forth a torrent of "right-ons."
It also brought forth a torrent of one-liners from other Grays that have been inflicted on them, but never on me. They're so awful that I can hardly wait.
Patricia Tishler, of Wouthwest Washington, says the morsel of tactlessness she often gets is: "Have you been ill?"
Second choice: "You've frosted it, haven't you?"
Then there's Argree Ogilvie-Mitchell. A 38-year-old Washingtonian who describes her hair as "just about half and half," she was shopping in a Woodward and Lothrop's last weekend with her 2 1/2-year-old child.
A woman came up to her and complimented her on having such a beautiful grandchild.
Ogilvie-Mitchell did not throw a left hook. She merely replied with the line she says she always uses.
She pointed to her scalp and said, "I earned every one of them."
Speaking of age, here is what a few famous men have said on the subject.
Disraeli: "Youth is blunder, manhood is struggle, old age is regret."
Richard II, thanks to a fellow named Shakespeare: "I have wasted time; time has wasted me."
Paul Claudel: "Eighty years old. No eyes left, no ears, no teeth, no legs, no wind. And when all is said the done, how astonishingly well one does without them.
Henri Estienne: "If youth only knew, and old age only could."
Harold Rosenberg, late art critic for The New Yorker: "I've heard about old age and death and all those things, but so far as I am concerned, it's all rumor."
Finally, my favorite, with thanks to my favorite Greek, Aristophanes:
"Old age is but a second childhood."