He Who Knows Not How to Ask - Pays Up to 60% More

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Once you get inside a store, it could be too late.Credit: Reuters

The cost of celebrating Passover varies hugely depending on where you shop, a survey by the nonprofit Israel Consumer Council found.

The council, which seeks to protect consumers' rights, checked the prices of 39 items for the Passover holiday at 250 branches of 19 supermarket chains all over the country. The basket of items included commonly consumed foods as well as Passovers-specific ones, like matza, matza meal, matza ball mix, grape juice and wine. Among the findings: a 60-percent price gap between the most expensive and least expensive store, big price variations between branches of the same chain and, the good news, an average 7-percent reduction in prices from Passover last year.

The survey found that the cheapest supermarket in Israel for Passover shopping was the Super-Sol Deal in Modi’in, where the basket cost 397 shekels . Two other Super-Sol appeared near the top of the list — the Ayalon branch and the Koresh branch in Afula. Mega’s new wholesale subsidiary, You, also had two branches on the list — the Big Be’er Sheva store and the Kiryat Haim store. The Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma chain — which says on its English website it "has been committed to the lowest prices in Israel for 30 years" — was not among the cheapest chains.

Tiv Ta’am won the dubious distinction of "Israel's most expensive supermarket chain," filling the spots of the most expensive branches to shop at for Passover. At Tiv Ta'am's most expensive branch, the basket cost 693 shekels — 236 shekels, or 60 percent, more than at the Super-Sol Deal.

The Israel Consumer Council checked each of the stores twice, first between March 24 and 25 and then again between March 31 and April 1. Compared to a similar survey done last Passover, there was a 7-percent decrease in the average cost of the basket. A ranking of the average price of a basket of goods from several different branches of the same chain found that You offered the lowest prices, followed by Rami Levy and then Super-Sol Deal.

February was not a good month for the big, publicly traded chains. Nielsen data shows the number of items they sold plummeted 8 percent and their cash sales fell 5.6 percent from January. Consumers are thought to be shopping more at maller, upstart chains, which are seen as less expensive. But the survey shows that, at least during Passover, the smaller upstart chains have trouble competing with the prices of the large chains. Rami Levy is an exception, as a big chain that was less expensive than only Tiv Ta'am.

The survey also highlights the price discrimination that the chains make among their different branches, with Super-Sol Deal shining brightest. The price gap between the basket at its least expensive branch, in Modi’in, and at its most expensive branch, in Bilu, was NIS 159 — and unrivaled 40-percent gap.

Similarly, the basket cost 125 shekels more at the Mega Bool chain's most expensive branch, in Holon, than at its least expensive branch, in the Yad Eliahu neighborhood of Tel Aviv — a 29 percent gap.

Another chain found to have significant price disparities was Yenot Bitan. Among the 15 branches that were surveyed, the gap between the least expensive, in Petah Tikva's Yarkonim neighborhood, and the most expensive, in Petah Tikva's Savyonim neighborhood, was NIS 99 — or 21 percent. On its Hebrew website, Yenot Bitan says, it “holds it to be of supreme importance to provide uniform and inexpensive prices at all of its stores for the sake of all its customers, especially those of little means.” The chain's most and least expensive branches are two kilometers apart.

Shufersal, Israel's largest supermarket chain.Credit: Reuters

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