10 Outrageous Markups You’d Never Guess You Were Paying

Sticker shocker: You might not think much about how products are priced, but we did the math to calculate how much you're spending.

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1. Text messages: 6,000% markup

1. Text messages: 6,000% markupiStock/DaniloAndjus
Phone users commonly pay 10 cents per text message, but sending the message only costs the carrier a sixth of a cent. If the phone company applied text-message mark-up to a short phone call, you’d pay $120 for the call.

2. Movie theater popcorn: 1,275% markup

2. Movie theater popcorn: 1,275% markupiStock/lolostock
Theaters know that viewers will pay more for movie snacks, so they hike the prices up: A bag of popcorn that costs 37 cents to make can easily sell for $5. One man in Michigan found the price so outrageous that he's suing his local theater.

3. Brand-name drugs: 200 to 3,000% markup

3. Brand-name drugs: 200 to 3,000% markupiStock/Rob Mattingley
You may feel more comfortable buying brand-name medicines, but know what you're paying for: A bottle of Advil may run for $10, compared to just $2 for generic painkillers that are just as effective.

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4. Coffee on the go: 300% markup.

4. Coffee on the go: 300% markup.iStock/AJ_Watt
A $2 cup made by a barista would cost just 50 cents to brew at home.

5. Greeting cards: 200% markup

5. Greeting cards: 200% markupiStock/EvgeniiAnd
When you buy a greeting card from a drugstore, chances are you're paying at least three times what it cost the company to make. Hello, free e-cards! Or get crafty with the crayons.

6. Bottled water: 4000% markup

6. Bottled water: 4000% markupiStock/baona
A $2 water bottle costs the manufacturer only about 5 cents to make.

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7. Wine at a restaurant: 300% markup

7. Wine at a restaurant: 300% markupiStock/c8501089
Restaurants routinely charge as much as $30 for bottles of wine that retail online for $7 or $8. Check if the restaurant allows BYOB in advance, or opt for a non-alcoholic beverage.

8. Hotel minibar: 400% markup

8. Hotel minibar: 400% markupiStock/serezniy
The convenience of the mini-fridge comes at a cost. A simple candy bar, bag of chips, or can of soda can cost $5 or $10 in your hotel room, so stock up on snacks at a local drugstore for much less before you check in.

9. In-room hotel movies: 200% markup

9. In-room hotel movies: 200% markupiStock/Leonardo Patrizi
Renting a movie usually costs a few dollars at most, but do it through your hotel and you'll easily pay $10 or $15.

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10. Precut produce: 40% markup

10. Precut produce: 40% markupiStock/elenaleonova
Precut fruits and vegetables save you time, but definitely not money: The grocery store charges almost 1.5 times more than for uncut produce.

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18 thoughts on “10 Outrageous Markups You’d Never Guess You Were Paying

  1. When a government contractor is paid to build a new widget and the technical people are paid, say, $50 per hour – the Government typically pays FOR EACH HOUR:
    $50 Actual Employee Salary
    $80 Company Overhead Expenses (approx. 160%)
    $26 Company General & Admin. Expenses (appox. 20% of $130)
    $ 5 Interest on 90-day delayed payment
    $13 Fee (about 8% of the total above)
    $174 (the original $50 plus 250%)

  2. I would never buy it certainly but if it will induce people to actually cook with fresh produce I am all for it. If you only need a little bit of something – like 1/4 of a red pepper, or a slice of red onion and don’t want to buy the whole thing, try the in store salad bar, also if you just want some spinach or salad greens the salad bar is usually a better bargain than the bagged stuff.

  3. The mark up on some name brand drugs is to cover all the money that went into the development, research, testing, and jumping through all the governmental hoops. The generic version didn’t have all those expenses to cover.

    1. well that’s not even slightly true. aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, caffeine tablets all have massive markets for named brands compared to generics whilst none of them obviously went through any of that.

  4. you can lower the markup on hotel minibars by telling the clerk you didn’t consume them and and on hotel movie pay per views by saying the thing didn’t work. they never argue with you. I’m not saying you should, i’m just saying you can.

  5. The dude is suing his theater? Theaters make nothing or next to nothing (if they’re lucky) on ticket sales – their main source of income is concessions.

  6. popcorn machines cost hundreds of dollars to replace if the popcorn is priced too cheaply. 

  7. popcorn machines cost hundreds of dollars to replace if the popcorn is priced too cheaply. 

  8. Most of the items on this list are items are so obvious that I find the title outrageously insulting.How can one fail to guess that popcorn is steeply marked up in a Movie theater?

  9. Are any of the mark-ups a surprise to anyone? I don’t think so. Here’s another ‘not a surprise’ surprise. Go on line to one’s bank and transfer money between accounts. Probably costs the bank ab out .000001 cent. They charge (at my credit union) $2.  The credit union claims it works for me. Right. Anyone believing that, either?

  10. Actually the precut fruits and veggie markup is very reasonable. First they have to pay someone to cut the fruit and veggies and arrange them.  Then they have spoilage over time and have to throw away much of the food cut.

  11. If movie theaters or restaurants had a small markup on the products that turn them profit they would have to increase prices all over…  would that be better?  Frankly I’m a bit tired of the way this is presented: if you really think that it is so much better to drink wine at home go on — but don’t pretend it’s the same or has the same cost that a restaurant has.

  12. you missed one. restraunts that charge 2.00 for a soft drink when you can get 2- 2 liters for that!

  13. The reason movie theater snacks cost so much is because they don’t make enough showing the movie – almost all their profit comes from the snack bar

    1.  Actually the reason is because the consumer will pay it.  Yes they make most of their money from the concession stand because Hollywood charges so much to show their movies, but if the consumer started cutting back on expenses, the movie theaters would pressure Hollywood to lower their costs or risk not having places to show their movies.

  14. The reason movie theater snacks cost so much is because they don’t make enough showing the movie – almost all their profit comes from the snack bar

  15. The precut produce does have a (albeit marginal) value in that some of the normal waste has already been removed. So a 40% markup is not all that bad for the convenience and reduced waste.

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