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10 Outrageous Markups You’d Never Guess You Were Paying

Updated: Mar. 16, 2022

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

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.

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2. Movie theater popcorn: 1,275% markup

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.

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iStock/Rob Mattingley

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

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.

A $2 cup made by a barista would cost just 50 cents to brew at home. Afford all the lattes you want with the highest-paying jobs in every state. 

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5. Greeting cards: 200% markup

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.

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6. Bottled water: 4000% markup

A $2 water bottle costs the manufacturer only about 5 cents to make.

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7. Wine at a restaurant: 300% markup

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.

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8. Hotel minibar: 400% markup

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.

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iStock/Leonardo Patrizi

9. In-room hotel movies: 200% markup

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

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

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest