In the overall scheme of things, this is pretty small potatoes, but extremely interesting nevertheless.
There was a little item in The Week magazine recently that declared it was a "good week" for tailgaters: Despite inflation, the wholesale cost of bone-in chicken wings is now $1.68 a pound.
That, it added, is lower than at any point since before the pandemic.
As one who indulges in this gastronomical sports bar disaster, slathered in hot buffalo sauce no less, I haven't seen any sign of this decrease in wholesale costs at my favorite gathering spots.
Prices went up significantly when chicken suddenly became scarce during the pandemic, and they've stayed there since. No more 50-cent-per-wing specials.
Then, of course, there's the price of gasoline. The last time the price of a barrel of oil rose to $90, you could still buy gas at the pump for between $2.50 and $3. Now that the per barrel cost has fallen from $120 back to $90, gasoline is closer to $3.50 in most of Wisconsin and nearly $5 in some neighboring states.
One oil economist reported that at one point the difference between the wholesale cost of gasoline at the refinery and the price at the pump, including marketing, transportation, etc., was $1.73 per gallon. Now that difference is $2.08.
An editorial that appeared last week in the Chicago Tribune asked why prices continue to rise.
"You’ve likely read about the obvious reasons many times. Inflation, still surging. Rising wage bills thanks in part to government action. Health care costs. Lingering supply chain issues," the editorial said.
"But there’s another cause that gets less attention: businesses are raising prices because they can. Simply put, they can do so right now with relative impunity.
"One fast-food franchise owner recently told us he had raised his menu prices four times over the last year alone. Sure, that’s partly in response to increased costs, especially labor. But it’s also, he said, because everyone else is raising prices and thus the resistance from the consumer is vastly reduced. If people are expecting to pay more, then they are more likely to have to pay more," the Tribune continued.
Besides, the once held belief that the internet would give customers the ability to comparison shop, making retailers more competitive, has actually done just the opposite.
"Retailers became much more adept at obscuring prices, whether through unbundling, airline-style; requiring monthly fees or memberships to qualify; promoting private labels; or using social media data to squeeze the maximum juice from consumers.
"Instead of getting a golden age of price transparency, we now are in a situation where it is often nearly impossible to compare apples to apples," the paper lamented.
"Add in a lot of media attention to how fast prices are rising and, presto!, It becomes easier to raise prices," it concluded.
In other words, it's a vicious cycle and explains why it's so difficult to get the scourge of inflation under control.