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Visiting the U.S. and Encountering Sticker Shock

February 15th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Spain, Travel

We once lived decades in southern California. We feel like we know the place pretty well. Certainly from the Mexican border to, say, Sacramento.

We had been outside the country for more than a year, and what we found here on our return yesterday has been … astounding.

When did California prices get out of control?

And not just for housing?

We went to get a couple of smoothies from Jamba Juice. Which has never been inexpensive, but when did it go to $6.39 for a large smoothie?

When did a Pollo Loco burrito, one of the cheapest items on the menu, reach almost $6?

When did mid-level Mexican restaurants go to $15 for rice, beans, a taco and a tamale? As a restaurant professional told me: “The price line for that dish was just under $10 for years. For years.”

Rising costs for groceries are a nationwide thing, it appears, but it seems as if California is out in front, when ranking states.

We noticed the new highs for a variety of goods during our drive from Long Beach to Modesto, to see the grandkids.

Wasn’t it just 10 minutes ago that all this stuff cost a dollar or two less? When did breakfast for two at a diner go to $28?

Why is that California should be worse, in terms of food prices, than France or Spain, two European countries with which we are familiar, and which have far less farmland than does the U.S.

The suggestions for “why are prices rising?” seem to include global warming, the rebounding price of oil (which is a factor in fertilizers), the rise of meat consumption, which runs up the cost of feed …

Eggs are expected to rise 5 percent this year. Meats are thought to rise 3 or 4 percent.

And why should California be particularly expensive, when it comes to eating?

One theory is the dominance of Los Angeles and San Francisco, where it costs $40 a day to park your car. Companies in those towns find they have to pay more to find good help, but even then that new help probably cannot live close to the office and pay sky-high real-estate rates. Instead, they commute from a distant suburb, but they leave most of their rising salary back in the town where they live — and merchants find they can charge more for groceries, and those who aren’t making San Francisco money are forced to pay more in their modest town.

The prices have been a shock. We didn’t expect Spain-level prices, but neither did we expected New York City prices in L.A. or Silicon Valley.


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