A standard-sized package of Oreos costs $6.66 at the Kenyon College Bookstore but only costs $2.98 at the Walmart in Mount Vernon. This discrepancy in price leads some to do their grocery shopping off campus, including President Sean Decatur, who said he shops for groceries at the Mount Vernon Kroger.
Although the brands that each store sells differ, Walmart alternatives are substantially cheaper than those at the Bookstore and the Village Market, whose prices, for the most part, only differ by a few cents.
“Oreos are an extreme example, as we are far more competitive pricing-wise on most of the items we sell,” said Angus MacDonell, the general manager of the Bookstore, in an email to the Collegian.
The price of Oreos is one of several instances in which the Market and the Bookstore charge over one hundred percent more than nearby Mount Vernon stores for the same items, making it hard to compete with those stores.
“I think they realize that the fact that they are close to everyone means they can charge pretty much whatever they want,” Nathan Geesing ’21 said.
MacDonell said Walmart’s competitive edge comes from the fact that they can purchase wholesale from producers directly. The Bookstore and the Market do not have the capacity to do this.
As such, at the Bookstore all health and hygiene products and most food products are purchased from third-party distributors rather than producers.
MacDonell also said that the Bookstore’s prices are determined in part by the need to not be a financial drain on the College. If the Bookstore charged the same as Walmart, it runs the risk of losing money.
Oreos are not the only item for which stores in Gambier charge more. Speed Stick deodorant, for example, can be bought in packs of two for $3.76 at Walmart while a single stick runs for $4.15 at the Market. An Oral-B toothbrush runs for $1.50 at Walmart, while the Bookstore charges $2.54 for one of comparable quality. The Bookstore charges $4.01 for 264 sheets of 2-ply toilet paper while a four-pack of Walmart’s more expensive version is only $2.00.
A box of 14 sanitary napkins at Walmart is $3.97 while that same quantity costs $5.79 at the Market.
A single Clif Bar runs for $1.99 at the Market, while Walmart sells six for $5.87.
MacDonell assured the Collegian that although the Bookstore’s prices are higher compared to Walmart’s, it does its best to stock things as cheaply as it can.
“We regularly evaluate what our distributors charge us,” he said, “and change sources if we are able to get better pricing from another provider that we can then pass on to our customers.”
Chloe Hannah-Drullard ’20 expressed cynicism towards the Bookstore and the Market’s pricing.
“I want to give the Bookstore the benefit of the doubt,” Hannah-Drullard said, “but the vast majority of my mind says that’s bulls—t, and I can name 75 million reasons why we can have less expensive Oreos on this campus.”