Market Clones: How to Pay Drastically Less for Pricey Products
A recent question posted to “AskMeFi” — the popular crowd sourced question and answer subsite of Metafilter.com — asked users to suggest products that were priced differently, depending on market and intended use. The example offered was food-grade mineral oil, which is costly when marketed and sold as butcher block oil, but inexpensive when marketed and sold as a laxative (as much as $1.74 per ounce versus as little as $.29 per ounce).
Same product, different market, different intended use, different price. The next time I buy a bottle of butcher block oil, I'll visit RiteAid instead of Williams-Sonoma.
How many other bargains like this are out there? (See also: 21 Disposable Products You Can Reuse)
True Market Clones
The community came up with several clear market clones as well as a bunch of money-saving ideas that didn't quite satisfy the rules of the question (buy generics, look for private label alternatives, use men's shaving cream instead of women's, etc.). Here are a few of my favorite bona fide clones from that AskMe.
Super Absorbent Towels
Super absorbent towels marketed to swimmers cost more than super absorbent towels sold to car owners. If you don't mind drying off with a towel sold at the auto parts store, you can save as much as $5 per travel towel.
Diphenhydramine, the stuff that makes you drowsy, costs more in sleeping pills such as Nytol ( $.25 per 25 mg tablet), than it does in antihistamines such as Benadryl ($.21 per 25 mg tablet). Of course, generic versions are even cheaper.
Cotton cord sold as baking twine or kitchen twine at the fancy kitchen supply store costs more than cotton cord sold as regular cotton cord at the hardware store — often two or three times as much per foot. Just make sure you get 100% cotton twine and nothing with wax or artificial colors, and your roast should come out fine.
Excedrin Migraine and Excedrin Extra Strength are exactly the same product except that Excedrin Migraine costs a dollar or more per 24 caplet bottle. Again, generics can save you even more.
While not quite market clones like those above, these products are essentially the same, but are priced differently, depending on where they are sold and who they are sold to.
All the gasoline in your neighborhood — branded and unbranded — most likely comes from the same refinery, and meets the same federal standards for quality. Several major brands tout the efficacy of proprietary detergents they add after the product leaves the refinery, but the reality is that the distribution system inevitably mixes additive and non-additive gasolines alike. It's pretty much all the same gas.
When I mentioned to my wife what I was working on, and that I needed more ideas, the first thing out of her mouth was "beauty products." Apparently there's a whole cottage industry devoted to this topic. So I'm not going there.
However, these seven natural substitutes for toothpaste and lotion and so on come close to the rules of this game.
And here's something interesting. After Proctor & Gamble bought Clairol a few years ago, the base (but not the fragrance) of P&G's pricey Pantene Ice Shine Conditioner was exported to the cheaper Clairol Herbal Essences Hydration Conditioner. Pantene performance at an Herbal Essences price.
How many other beauty product manufacturers share formulations across product lines, I wonder?
This is more of a DIY substitute, but the chemistry is cool (as is how easy it is), so I've included it in this list. Baking soda, aluminum foil, and water. You can't get more inexpensive than that.
Wraps vs. Tortillas
What's the difference between a wrap and a flour tortilla? Only the price!
This one is old news by now, but it's a good reminder that the ethnic aisle in your grocery store is usually a good place to find spices and seasonings at lower prices than the same or similar products stocked elsewhere in the very same store.
Anything I've missed? What other common products are priced differently depending on market and use?
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