Monday, July 4, 2011

The High Price of Living

“Back in the old country, you would never pay more than a few dimes and a nickel for a banana.”

No, no.  This isn’t a quote from Sophia on the Golden Girls.  And the old country isn’t Sicily.  It’s me, talking about America.  That’s right, I am now officially referring to the USA as “the old country” to give me more of a sense of being an immigrant (::shudder::).  Just like the penniless immigrants from the poor countries of Southern and Eastern Europe probably experienced in the USA when they first arrived decades and decades ago, everywhere I turn my mind drifts to the same thought:  everything is fucking expensive here.

I’m serious – EVERYTHING is fucking expensive.  Food, toiletries, clothes, linens, electronics, alcohol, everything.  Where do they get off?

Let’s run through a few examples.  The differences on the spendy items don’t seem so bad:

iPad 2:
USD price - $499
AUD price - $579

Toyota Corolla:
USD base price - $16,700
AUD base price - $22,990

So, maybe this is a product of the prices not adjusting with the rapid rise of the Aussie dollar and the equally rapid fall of the US dollar.  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  Let’s look at a few more examples.

DVDs: I price compared 127 Hours because it was the first one to pop up on JB HiFi’s website.  Here in Australia, the “Red Hot New Release” prices are as follows:

DVD - $24.98
Blu-Ray - $34.98

Remember, those are sale prices.  Best Buy in the US is substantially cheaper:

DVD - $16.97
Blu-ray - $20.85

The DVD is 47% more expensive in Australia, and the Blu-ray’s price is a whopping 68% higher here.  This is assuming parity, but the Australian dollar is several cents stronger than the US dollar at the moment – and it is expected to strengthen further into early 2012 – so really, the percentages should be higher.

Don’t like the high price of movies?  How about a song?

Standard price of a new release iTunes song:
USD price - $1.29
AUD price - $2.19

Ugh.  Fine.  I’ll read a book.  How about I grab a Lonely Planet and plan my trip to China?

Lonely Planet China:
USD retail price - $31.99 (or $21.11 on
AUD retail price - $49.99


Some say shipping costs add to the price, but isn’t half of this shit made in poor Malaysian sweat shops anyway?  The last time I checked, Malaysia was a hell of a lot closer to Australia than it was to the US. 

It may be because there are no economies of scale.  Products to the US and Canadian markets are manufactured and distributed to roughly 350,000,000 consumers.  Australia and New Zealand combined have around 25,000,000 consumers, making a big difference in manufacturing and distribution costs.  There is less competition here – only two major department stores compared to endless options in the States, and only two major grocery store chains too.  The supermarket oligopoly keeps prices high, but that may all change when Costco opens its doors in Sydney on July 20 – woohoo!  For the things that are manufactured here at home, the minimum wage is substantially higher (ugh, you mean we have to pay our workers a living wage???) and there aren’t really too many illegal immigrants to do the crappy work for us (it’s a lot easier to wade across a barely flowing Rio Grande illegally from Mexico to Texas than it is to boat across shark infested waters from East Timor, then have to land on a crocodile infested coast before trying to hide out on the snake and spider infested land… yeah…

But still.  Some of this is just ridiculous.  Need a new outfit for tonight?

Mossimo Graphic T-Shirt:
USD price - $14.99 @ Target
AUD price - $34.00 @ Myer*

Levi’s Slim Straight Jeans:
USD recommended price - $54.00 (but always on sale for $39.99)
AUD recommended price - $169.95

That’s not 169 dollars.  That’s 169 fucking dollars.  Seriously?  Weren’t they made in the same Jordanian factory?  Why are they more than triple the price here?  Are the employees making the jeans bound for Australia required to use gold looms and diamond machinery?  Also: *Yes, Mossimo is sold at one of our upscale department stores rather than at Target like in the US.  WTF?

But don’t even get me started on food prices. 

Chipotle Burrito (USA) - $5.95
Mad Mex Burrito (Australia) - $10.90

That’s a lot of money to be spending on a burrito that’s not Chipotle.

A trip to the grocery store compares like this:

USD price - $1.00 for 20oz
AUD price - $3.91 for 500ml (approx. 17oz)

That’s more money, for less stuff!  Apparently Australia is the Anti-Wal-Mart.

Listerine, 1 liter bottle:
USD price - $4.39
AUD price - $9.39

Garnier Fructis Shampoo:
USD price - $2.50 for 13oz
AUD price - $9.62 for 400ml (approx. 13.5oz)

They really mark up that extra half of a fluid ounce.

Peanut Butter:
USD price - $4.29 for 28oz  (Jiff brand)
AUD price - $8.55 for 780g (approx. 27.5oz) (Kraft brand)

Gillette Mach 3 Turbo Razors:
USD price - $15.39 for a 5 pack
AUD price - $17.40 for a 4 pack

These are my two favorites:

Ben & Jerry’s, pint:
USD price - $3.99 or 2 for $6.00 with your Safeway Club Card
AUD price - $12.00


USD price - $0.79/lb
AUD price - $13.98/kg

Doing the math, that’s $6.34/lb in Australia.  That’s over 700% higher.  And suddenly nobody likes bananas anymore.

And then – finally – alcohol.

Corona, 12oz / 355ml:
USD price - $7.99 for a 6 pack or $27.49 for a 24 pack
AUD price - $16.99 for a 6 pack or $41.45 for a 24 pack

Guinness, 12oz / 375ml (slightly larger):
USD price - $10.99 for a 6 pack
AUD price - $17.99 for a 6 pack

Sapporo, 22oz / 650ml:
USD price - $3.79
AUD price - $7.99

Note that when we last purchased a Sapporo, the label clearly stated that it was made in… Canada.  Huh?

But surely there must be one thing that is cheaper in Australia:  Australia’s famous wines!

Jacobs Creek Cab Sav, 750ml:
USD price - $5.99
AUD price - $9.99

Yellow Tail Moscato, 750ml:
USD price - $6.99
AUD price - $10.99

Just to clarify, these are Australian wines made right here in Australia by Australian people who grew the Australian grapes on Australian vines.  So that must mean that it costs 60% more to ship a bottle of wine from Adelaide to Sydney than it does from Adelaide to Maine.



  1. i couldnt agree with you more! this shits me all the time. i really dont get it and its quite offensive to those of us who know what things should really cost!

  2. Dang.

    I'm gonna go buy a new outfit just to commemorate this post. :-)

  3. wow, I think I need to move to the US haha. But then again, your health system is crappola, so maybe the good outweighs the bad.

    ps. Bananas are a complete rip, practically $4 each banana - due to the floods *sigh* no bananas for me anytime soon, unless I grow my own banana tree :)