20 November 2008

The price of fruitcake in America

Prepare for the shock of your life: mass-produced fruitcakes are not the best value.

I know. Shocking, isn't it? How can I keep this revelation quiet? I feel the need to shout it from the rooftops: AVOID THOSE MASS-PRODUCED FRUITCAKES, PEOPLE!

They make it so easy, don't they, those cakes sitting there at the check-out, or that nice photo right next to the Humongous Basket o' Sausage 'n' Cheese in the catalog. It's a nice looking fruitcake, you think, gee, hmmm, that tin looks pretty, and I need to send a little something to Aunt Gladys. Let me tell you, Aunt Gladys won't write you into the will if you send her that--plus, you're spending more money than you need to on something that just isn't good. And Gladys will probably feed the fruitcake to Peaches, her heavy-breathing little Pug dog.

I was just discussing store closings with someone the other day, and they mentioned something that I was surprised to hear. When some stores are going out of business, they hire liquidators to sell off their goods. Those liquidators sometimes come in and actually mark items up in price. People who may have previously been unfamiliar with the store will see that it's going out of business and come in and buy at that price, thinking they're getting a deal.

So in a way, those people who are unfamiliar with fruitcake (and most people are, aren't they, considering the sniggering hatred of it) are being duped in a similar way--buying something they're unfamiliar with, at a price that I feel is too high for the quality.

Now, in fairness, I was just reviewing my spreadsheet of fruitcake prices again, and upon further review, the Grandma's and Swiss Colony fruitcakes are down towards the less expensive fruitcakes. But Hickory Farms and Wisconsin Cheeseman add a lot of shipping to their fruitcakes, which affects the per-pound price quite a bit--a whopping $10-$12 dollars is what I had to pay to ship to the middle of the country. And isn't Wisconsin in the middle of the country? I probably could have spent less than $10 in gas driving up there to pick it up. Our Lady of Guadalupe had the highest shipping cost for me, as I mentioned in the previous post, and even then it was still a good value because it was three-pound cake.

But as I look at the spreadsheet overall, the monastery fruitcakes tend to be at or below the average price, while the mass-produced and Southern were at or above the average. There was a range of about $14 between the cheapest (Guadalupe) and most expensive (Swiss Colony three-pack) without shipping. With shipping included, the cheapest was Gethsemani (shipping included) while the most expensive was Wisconsin Cheeseman ($10 shipping).

One caveat I want to add here: your results may vary. For some of these sites, I had to go almost all the way to a purchase to find out shipping, and I hope I was able to capture who had shipping and who didn't, but I may not have been the most precise.

Here are the cakes that did not charge for shipping: Assumption, Claxton, Gethsemani, Grandma's, Old Cavendish, and Swiss Colony.

By the way, a couple of the sites were quite annoying when it came to purchasing: Southern Supreme, Swiss Colony, and Wisconsin Cheeseman have all been noted as "annoying purchasing" on my spreadsheet. That can mean one of two things: I had to create a login ID and password to purchase anything on the site; or I had to get all the way to the point where I entered credit card information before I could see what the final total was going to be, including shipping. Those both classify as "annoying" in my on-line purchasing opinion.

OK, kids, you're educated consumers now. Go buy fruitcake!!

13 November 2008

What's a fruitcake worth?

Are you awash in fruitcake catalogs? I am. Funny how that is. I've received at least three to four different catalogs so far this season, as well as this English muffin weirdness--I'm still tempted, but I just don't know who I know who would want English muffins that much.

Anyway, the strange thing is that just about every fruitcake company has sent me not one, but two or more catalogs. I normally do my purchasing on the web, so these catalogs are quickly perused, then tossed into the recycle bin. But I feel sad, almost guilty, when I get the catalogs from the monasteries. I'm guessing these guys aren't awash in money like the guys selling sausage, so I just feel bad that they're wasting their postage and paper on me. Sigh. I guess I can see what I can do about being taken off their mailing lists.

Anyway, enough of that rather boring ramble. Today's message is for all of you who want to know the cost of these fruitcakes without having to peruse each review. Actually, perusing each review (which I recommend, drives up those website hits, thanks!) is a good way to learn about the taste, etc., of the fruitcake, but what about the cost? What's the best value overall? Do you even care about value when it comes to fruitcake?

Well, I think everyone buying a fruitcake should consider the flavor that they prefer first; the quality of ingredients second; but also how much you want to pay, of course. So I did a cost comparison of each of the fruitcakes I reviewed, and I found some shocking, yes shocking revelations about cost.

First, a couple of caveats: my reviews might have some old prices in them, depending on when they were posted. When I went back to check prices, a couple of the fruitcakes had gone up in price, one (Gethsemani Farms) as much as $4. Also, my comparisons are a bit apples to oranges. Many of the fruitcakes were in the 2-2.5 pound range, but I had a couple that were 1-1.5 pounds and one, Swiss Colony, was a collection of three, so it's a little hard to compare. For a couple of those, like the Wisconsin Cheeseman and aforementioned Swiss Colony, I went back to their site and found a standard 2-ish pound cake and got the cost and shipping there.

I fired up my spreadsheet software and compiled the following for each fruitcake: the cost; the shipping fee, if any; the total amount paid; the weight of the cake; and then I divided both the cake cost, and the cake cost plus shipping, by the weight of the cake to get the price per pound, or "value," I shall call it.

I'm not going to enumerate each column of info in this post; I'll just make a few observations and list a few highlights.

First, monastery fruitcakes are still a good value. Yes, even including shipping and the cost of their better quality ingredients, Gethsemani, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Assumption were at the top of the list in value. Even the one with the highest cost to poundage ratio, Holy Cross, was still near the average value of the fruitcakes.

So what is the average cost per pound for the fruitcakes I've reviewed so far? It's $14.83 per pound without shipping; $17.48 per pound with shipping included. Shipping is the real wacky part of all of this; there are quite a few companies that include shipping in the cost of the cake, while others don't. So I've paid $0 to a whopping $12.32 for shipping (Guadalupe). I'm in the middle of the country, in the cold Middle West, so you can gauge accordingly.

I'll leave you to gnaw on those nuggets for a bit. I'll reveal more of my fruitcake data mining in another post.

07 November 2008

Next Fruitcake: Monastery of the Holy Spirit

The fruitcake season is well upon us again; heck, if the stores are any indication, the holiday season has been here since before Halloween. Thanks to an anonymous reader who suggested the next fruitcake, another monastery one. This time it's a place in Georgia, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.

I guess I should be doing another mass-produced or other fruitcake . . . but I couldn't help it, it's soaked in peach brandy. Will it make a difference? Stay tuned . . .