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!!


Suldog said...


Just stopped by to see how you're doing. Still keeping up the great fruitcake fight, I see. Good for you!

I'm ashamed to say that I can't remember if I ever thanked you for the wonderful assortment of fruitcakes samples you sent me some time back. If I didn't thank you, please accept my apologies and my extremely belated THANK YOU!

I hope your holidays are merry, bright, and full of wonderfully tasty things!

Jim Sullivan
Watertown, MA

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Isabelle. The rest of us afficionados of fruitcake aren't expecting to get samples from you! We just appreciate your critiques and the guidance you give us in trying specimens we haven't tried before (and avoiding fruitcake pitfalls). Waiting with baited breath for your review of the specimen from Holy Spirit Monastery!