Free Markets

Wisconsin to Market Chain: Jack Up Those Prices or Else!

Depression-era law used to screw with competitors.


"Let's make it hard to challenge Walmart's market supremacy and then complain about Walmart's market supremacy!"

Michigan-based market Meijer is attempting to expand into the state of Wisconsin, and they're offering food for a steal. Who wouldn't want Pop Tarts at $1.50 a box or tomatoes for $.79 a pound?

The answer to that question is, of course, protectionist bureaucrats and rival stores within the state of Wisconsin. Meijer is now under investigation for violating the state's Unfair Sales Act, a depression-era law that forbids selling merchandise at below cost. A law firm in Milwaukee filed complaints on behalf of an unnamed client naming 37 products they believe are being sold below cost.

From MLive in Michigan:

The alleged violation of the so-called minimum markup law comes as Meijer is investing $750 million to expand into Wisconsin. This summer, the Michigan-based supercenter chain opened four stores in the Milwaukee area and expects to have at least a dozen stores open by 2019.

While Meijer was aware of the law, the complaints surprised the privately-owned retailer, which has long competed on price in the marketplace and uses the advertising tagline "higher standards lower prices" in its commercials.

"Those prices were for our grand opening promotions, which are consistent with the promotional prices we used when we opened the Michigan stores in Alpena, Manistee and Detroit," said Frank Guglielmi, Meijer's director of communications.

The statute even allows competing retail chains to sue Meijer privately "to recover up to $2,000 per day or triple actual damages, whichever is greater," according to MLive. Reporter Shandra Martinez notes that legislators have been trying to reform the law and have so far been unsuccessful.  Entrenched grocery store interests are opposed:

"You would have massive, massive disruption in the marketplace," said Brandon Scholz, [Wisconsin Grocery Association]'s chief executive officer. "You would have competitors trying to meet those prices and you would have others who simply could not do it."

The restrictions of the 76-year-old law are embedded into the business plans of manufacturers, wholesale suppliers, those who transport the goods and retailers, he said.

"You simply can't end it today and expect them to stay in business. In states that haven't had it, they have managed to build their business plans that way," Scholz said.

Yes … and? These laws still exist in just 16 states. All the others are managing to have competitive grocery marketplaces without them. Scholz is demanding that the government should have the authority to protect stores' "business plans" through the force of law.

(Hat tip to Cato Senior Fellow and Reason Contributing Editor Walter Olson)

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  1. Put your hands over your head!! …I’m from the government. I’m here to help ( myself and my cronies ).

    1. +1 hidden security camera

  2. This “depression era law” is what progressives mean when they talk about enlightened governments saving capitalism during the Depression.

    Jacking up food and milk prices at a time when massive numbers of people are unemployed, poor and hungry – genius!

    It’s like the Nebbia case in New York where the defendant sold milk too cheaply. Because the priority in a Depression is to make the poor pay more for their milk!

    1. Jacking up food and milk prices at a time when massive numbers of people are unemployed, poor and hungry – genius!

      To be fair, the unemployed, poor, and hungry were able to buy liquor at more reasonable prices after Prohibition was repealed.

    2. I’ve recently figured out that, by “saving capitalism,” many of them mean that FDR and his boys didn’t go over into full-blown socialism. So we oughta worship them for that kindness.

      I always like bringing these examples up when they talk about the New Deal saving us. Dumping produce while people starve – what humanitarianism!

  3. Survivors will envy the dead in a world where state governments can’t set the floor for the prices of pop tarts.

    1. I would LOVE to see the face of a Venezuelan when he reads this article.

      1. They have internet in Venezuela? No toilet paper, but internet. Seems legit…

        1. Yeah, they have internet, but only the most wealthy have devices to use it on.

        2. Why not? It’s not a stone age country, and it takes longer for wires to rot than consumables to run out.
          Venezuela’s decline was precipitous, and a fine lesson in how little time it takes to ruin a country when you set your mind to it.

          1. I’ll turn on the /sarc light next time

            1. +1 Neil Diamond

  4. “A law firm in Milwaukee filed complaints on behalf of an unnamed client…”

    So an “unnamed client” can sue? How does that work, exactly?

    1. Wisconsin is full of Maple Streets. And we’ll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves. One to the other … one to the other … one to the other …

      1. +1 Twilight Zone

    2. Ever heard of “Jane Roe”?

      1. You mean “Jane Low”?

        OH! I’m sorry, I thought you were Chine….never mind….

        *hurries on*

        1. Here, have a bottle of Coke.

    3. A law firm in Milwaukee filed complaints on behalf of an unnamed client

      Yeah, no. I don’t know under what circumstances you are allowed to sue anonymously, but if I were the trial judge, I’d kick it back and tell them to refile with a real plaintiff.

  5. Do they have this deal with lobster and prime rib? Asking for a friend…

  6. I just paid 59 cents a pound for tomatoes at one of our local Asian markets. Not uncommon around here to pay that or even less in the summer time.

    1. Time for another war with Japan!

      (re last night’s story)

      1. Wait.. there was a war with Japan?

        1. Pfft! Like a hundred years ago.

          1. What? Those slave owning white Jeffersonians attacked the Japanese too!?

            1. He said a hundred, not a thousand.

              1. Oh, well I thought it was like a hundred years ago that the old slave owning white racists wrote that constitution thing on stone tablets.

  7. “Yes ? and? These laws still exist in just 16 states. All the others are managing to have competitive grocery marketplaces without them.”

    Jeez, why don’t you just move to Somolia already, Shackford?

  8. Sometimes you sell thing below cost because you’ve been unable to unload them sooner and just want to get some of your investment back. Getting $1.50 per/box is better than getting $0.00 per/box. Just saying.

    1. And what about perishable stuff, like produce? You just sit there and watch it rot instead of putting it on sale?

      1. Don’t they put it up for auction or donate to charity and take the deduction?

        1. At my local store, they have an “eat it today” section tucked away in back. 50-75% discount.

        2. I remember a long time ago, I had a friend that worked at a supermarket. They just threw the stuff out, out back into big dumpsters and they had to lock in accordance to local law so no one could get any of it and consume it. He was just amazed and sad at the enormous amount of waste.

      2. Now you are catching on.

        1. Sounds like they’re trying to force the Costco model. Costco’s rotisserie chickens are the raw ones that didn’t sell and are about to expire. Costco’s spicy chicken wings, chicken Caesar salads, and chicken soup are the rotisserie chickens that didn’t sell. And I bet that there’s even a few more reincarnations…

          1. Bless ’em, because those rotisserie chickens are great.

            1. No doubt! I’m going to not buy a raw chicken today just to make one more rotisserie chicken tomorrow.

    2. CAPITALIST!!!!

      /hisses, points finger

  9. So, what does Wisconsin have that is good? So far all I know is that it’s colder than hell there in the winter and apparently, grocery prices are being jacked up by an organized crime ring known as the government.

    Waiting to hear about the good things.

    1. I grew up in Minnesota and can say the region is lovely to look at- very green, nice lakes, clean environment. The weather sucks, though.

      1. And let me guess, when it’s actually warm enough to go outside, the mosquitoes and black flies will eat you alive.

        I can never live any place that far north again. Maryland for me is the farthest north I’ll ever live again. When I escape from here, I’ll be heading south.

    2. Female population with high percentage of Nordic and/or Dutch blood?

    3. I’m here.

      Oh, “good” things, you said.

      1. Do you wear one of those furry hats with the horns?

    4. Milwaukee is a very livable city for six months of the year. Madison is a great town to visit, and we have lots of nice summer vacation spots nearby. Oh and the best team in professional football.

      1. What? The Patriots aren’t from some shitty Midwestern state.

        1. He must be talking about Hockey, they don’t play other sports that far north. I mean, they’re practically in Canada. I bet they even speak Canadian!

          1. I think he’s referring to the UW Badgers soccer team

            1. Man, it must be really painful kicking around a frozen soccer ball, ouch!

              1. Kicking a frozen soccer ball through a foot of snow sounds like a rockin good time.

                1. That’s in the spring time, most of the year, it’s like 10 feet of snow!

            2. Badgers? We don’t need no stinking Badgers!

    5. Cheese?

      1. You know, I almost forgot, but didn’t they also discover some of those Viking pyramids up there also?

    6. So, what does Wisconsin have that is good?



      Big 10 football.

      Autumn, which is pretty idyllic, really.

      1. The only thing I remember about it is that it is an absolute speed limit state.

    7. So, what does Wisconsin have that is good?

      Lack of you.

  10. A law firm in Milwaukee filed complaints on behalf of an unnamed client naming 37 products they believe are being sold below cost.

    What a victim. I hope he’s able to exact justice!

  11. Business plans. Set in stone. By Gawd!

  12. Wisconsin’s totally open for business, right Gov. Walker?

    What a joke. This is straight out of Rand (anti dog-eat-dog competition). I’m embarrassed for my state.

    P.S. please open a Meijer downtown, thanks.

    1. It is funny how people claim Rand was full of shit and then prove that she wasn’t.

  13. People pay more to live in Wisconsin because the alternative is paying less.

  14. “You would have massive, massive disruption in the marketplace,” said Brandon Scholz, [Wisconsin Grocery Association]’s chief executive officer. “You would have competitors trying to meet those prices and you would have others who simply could not do it.”

    “You would have massive, massive disruption in the candlestick marketplace if we let customers purchase these so called ‘light bulbs’.” -Candlestick Manufacturers Association chief executive officer, ~late 19th century.

    1. So



    2. When it comes to dairy, poultry and eggs, this is literally all of Canada. In fact, if TPP falters on anything, it’ll be on the fact that it would result in far lower prices on milk up here.

    3. No, that robber baron libertarian hero capitalist John D. Rockefeller had already destroyed the candlestick makers by late 1800s. I think you meant to quote the Big Buggy Whip c.e.o.

    4. It’s funny how people who know nothing about how markets work are taken seriously for their economic prophecy.

  15. Unfair Sales Act

    I find it hard to believe that whoever was the first person to utter those words wasn’t immediately killed with a spoon.

  16. The sad part is that there are a great number of Wisconsinites (mostly in Madison) that support this retardation. They want to pay more.

    1. Just like everyone who opposes Walmart in favor of the mom and pop shops.

  17. Am I the only one who imagined Brandon Scholz as Princess Clara?

  18. I thought food was getting expensive? And now Meijer’s is selling it cheaply? I HAZ CONFUZ ON NARRATIVE!

    1. We’ve always been at war with loss leaders.

    2. Food deserts don’t create themselves!

  19. Kind of on topic.

    Last night I’m with 2 friends, and we proceed to use Uber to get home. One of my friends says he has a problem with Uber because he’s he a union guy. So me and the other guy end up taking the Uber car, and the other guy calls a cab. The Uber car, a new Audi, comes within 5 minutes and ends up costing the minimum $5 charge all in. So I get home, change, eat a sandwich, and text the other guy, and he’s still waiting for his cab, which from experience I know will cost $10 plus tip.

    I’m still mocking the guy, and will never ever let this go; it’s too perfect.

    1. Made my day

    2. Yeah, I would rub that shit in until the end of time.


      Oh, did you ask him if there was puke/cum/scum/trash in the cab? I bet it at least had a choking scent of air freshener.

  20. OMG! Customers are getting a good deal! This must stop! They might have money left over to buy other things! That’s just not fair! They’ve got to pay top dollar! Good deals are bad! That’s why Walmart is so terrible! They sell stuff at lower prices! That’s not fair! Other businesses can’t compete! That’s not fair! Businesses that sell stuff at lower prices must be stopped! We can’t allow customers to get a good deal! That’s not fair! Not fair! Low prices aren’t fair! Not fair! Competition isn’t fair! Not fair! Businesses that sell stuff at lower prices steal money from their competition! Not fair! Every business should be able to compete! Everyone is a winner! It’s not fair! Customers should be forced to pay higher prices! But, but, but if businesses with lower cost that could offer lower prices are forced to sell at higher prices then they’ll make even more profits! Aaaauugghhh! Profits aren’t fair! No matter what it isn’t fair! Not fair! Aaauuugghhhhh!

    1. I think this same argument was used for the Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Act, right?

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