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April 14, 2019

Stop & Shop workers overwhelmed by outpouring of community support

Since Stop & Shop workers walked off the job Thursday, there has been an outpouring of customer support as New England communities rally together with the goal of making Stop & Shop a better place to work and shop.

UFCW Locals 328, 919, 1459, 1445, and 371, representing all 31,000 Stop & Shop workers in New England, have been in negotiations with the company over a new contract for nearly three months since January 14th, with the current contract having expired on February 23rd.

Despite Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, taking in more than $2 billion in 2018 and authorizing over $4 billion in stock buybacks from 2017 to 2019, the company is proposing unreasonable cuts to workers’ take-home pay, health care, and retirement benefits.

In addition, the company unlawfully refuses to provide financial information to verify its claim that their proposed cuts are necessary.

UFCW’s five New England locals are unified at the negotiation table and are asking for Stop & Shop to properly value the employees whose hard work and dedication have made their company so successful.

Support from Customers

The flood of support, both in person as customers stop by picket signs to drop off bottles of water, offer hugs or messages of strength and encouragement, or online on social media, shows New England is a place that values hard-working union families and believes workers have earned the right to build a better life and community.:

Support from across our union family

Union members, both UFCW and from other unions, have also been sending along their strength, both from local former Stop & Shop workers, but also from union members as far away as Alberta, Canada:



Thank you to everyone who has shown their support so far. It means a great deal that in these divisive times, we can still come together as a community and have one another’s backs when it matters. The hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop pride themselves on their service to the community, and are humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement received so far.

If you would like to voice your support for Stop & Shop workers, sign the petition.

April 14, 2019

Why New England Stop & Shop workers walked off the job Thursday

31,000 Stop & Shop workers from over 240 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island walked off the job Thursday April 11. This massive worker protest comes in response to months of negotiations with Stop & Shop in which the company has refused to back down from proposals attempting to cut workers’ health care, take home pay, and retirement benefits.

Stop & Shop is claiming they are offering a wage increase, but $.30 in hourly wages for a part-time worker would not offset the cuts they have included in their proposal such as:

  • Elimination of Sunday and holiday pay for part-timers
  • Increase in weekly premium costs for employee only coverage by up to 90% over three years
  • Doubling of health care out-of-pocket limits for many employees, going from $1,000 for an individual to $2,000, and from $2,500 to $5,000 for a family

Stop & Shop is the number one grocery chain in New England. It is a subsidiary of multinational company Ahold-Delhaize, which reported more than $2 billion in profit last year. This is not a company in financial trouble.

At the same time the company was demanding workers’ pay more for health care and lose Sunday and holiday pay, Ahold authorized $880 million in dividend payments to shareholders from 2017 to 2019. Ahold also recently received $217 million in corporate tax cuts. Amongst other actions, the company unlawfully refuses to provide financial information to verify its claim that their proposed cuts are necessary.

Instead of investing in the workers who made the company successful and who take care of their customers, Stop & Shop is trying to stiff them.

The decision to walk off the job is a tough one. If one person were to try to fight back on cuts like these by themselves, they wouldn’t stand a chance. But the 31,000 workers who made this choice are doing it together as one union family. None of them have to fight for their health care and benefits alone. Together they can fight these cuts and protest the company’s unlawful actions in connection with negotiations—and win. .

UFCW’s five New England locals are unified at the negotiation table and are asking for Stop & Shop to properly value the employees whose hard work and dedication have made their company so successful.

UFCW members who work at Stop & Shop could use your support. If you live in New England, please don’t cross the line. Please stop at other union stores.

Please sign our petition and stand with UFCW Stop & Shop workers for a contract that allows them to deliver excellent customer service while still being able to provide for their families. It’s time for Stop & Shop to reach a fair contract agreement that reflects the true value of its workers.

Sign and share the petition today to support Stop & Shop workers

Or Text “support” to 698329 to sign the petition by mobile.

April 12, 2019

Protesting Health Care, Take Home Pay, & Customer Service Cuts, Stop & Shop Workers Walk off Job

31,000 UFCW Members From Across New England Protest Stop & Shop Cuts That Hurt Workers, Customers, and Local Communities

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Today, 31,000 members of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 328, 371, 919, 1445, and 1459 who work at Stop & Shop are walking off their jobs to protest the company’s proposed drastic and unreasonable cuts to health care, take home pay, and customer service as well as unlawful conduct.

The proposed cuts by Stop & Shop, whose parent company earned $2 billion in profits in 2018, would devastate health care benefits, significantly increase health care costs, and decrease take home pay. Stop & Shop’s proposed cuts would also have a negative and severe impact on customer service, including the very cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks, and butchers that Stop & Shop customers rely on.

The members of the five UFCW Locals released the following joint statement:

“Our 31,000 members who work at Stop & Shop work incredibly hard to provide the great customer service that has made the company billions of dollars in profit and the top grocery store in New England. Instead of a contract that recognizes the value and hard work that our members provide every day, Stop & Shop has only proposed drastic and unreasonable cuts to health care benefits and take home pay, while replacing real customer service with more serve-yourself checkout machines. 

“The hard-working men and women at over 240 stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are standing together to tell Stop & Shop that it is time to do the right thing. The men and women who make Stop & Shop a success have earned and deserve affordable health care, a good wage, and the ability to retire with dignity. They have earned and deserve a good job that allows them to do what they do best: provide the very best customer service for New England communities.

“What Stop & Shop workers don’t deserve, and what no one who works hard in New England deserves, are unreasonable cuts while the company they work so hard for makes billions of dollars in profits. That is wrong and it sends a terrible message to every customer who truly depends on our Stop & Shop cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerk, and butchers.”

BACKGROUND

UFCW Locals representing 31,000 Stop & Shop workers in New England have been negotiating a new contract with Stop & Shop representatives since January 14th. The company’s latest proposal includes the following drastic cuts:

  • Requires the average full-time employee to pay an additional $893 and the average part-time employee with employee-only coverage to pay an additional $603 in weekly health care premiums over three years.
  • Reduces the monthly pension benefit for many newly hired full-time employees by 32 percent.
  • Many part-time employees would receive an average general wage increase of less than two percent.

Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, saw over $2 billion in profits last year and got a U.S. tax cut of $225 million in 2017. The company is claiming the proposed cuts are necessary, but is unlawfully refusing to provide financial information to verify that claim.

While Stop & Shop continues to propose drastically cutting worker benefits, Ahold shareholders voted on April 10 to give themselves an 11.1 percent raise in dividends over the last year. The expected payout will be on April 25 for around $880 million.

###

April 10, 2019

Theme park discounts for UFCW members

Time to Save and Splash at America’s Favorite Theme Parks

Whether you are a roller coaster enthusiast or just like an excuse to eat funnel cake, your UFCW membership gives you discounts on some of the most popular parks in the country.

Access Your Water and Theme Park Discounts

Accessing your discounts does require setting up an account on the UFCW Lifemart Discounts website, which is free for UFCW members. From there, you’ll not only get access to discounts on theme parks, but discounts on movie tickets, hotels, car rental, and more that can help you squeeze a little more fun out of your wallet.

REGISTER/LOGIN AND START SAVING ON FAMILY FUN

Discounts Available at:

WALT DISNEY WORLD ® RESORT
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT™
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
DISNEYLAND®
KNOTT’S BERRY FARM
KNOTT’S SOAK CITY WATER PARK – ORANGE COUNTY
SEAWORLD ORLANDO
BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY
SEAWORLD SAN DIEGO
SEAWORLD SAN ANTONIO
SESAME PLACE – LANGHORNE, PA
LEGOLAND® FLORIDA RESORT
LEGOLAND® CALIFORNIA RESORT – CARLSBAD, CA
LEGOLAND® California Resort has more than 60 rides, shows and attractions including the new LEGO® Star Wars™: The Force Awakens Miniland Read MoreSAVE OVER 40%BUY TICKETS
DOLLYWOOD & DOLLYWOOD’S SPLASH COUNTRY WATERPARK
KNOTT’S BERRY FARM – 2019 SEASON
CALIFORNIA’S GREAT AMERICA
SIX FLAGS DISCOVERY KINGDOM – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN – LOS ANGELES, CA
PACIFIC PARK ON THE SANTA MONICA PIER
SIX FLAGS HURRICANE HARBOR – CONCORD, CA
SIX FLAGS HURRICANE HARBOR – LOS ANGELES, CA
AQUATICA – ORLANDO
DISCOVERY COVE
ADVENTURE ISLAND TAMPA BAY, FL
RAPIDS WATER PARK
UP-CLOSE DINING AT SHAMU® STADIUM AT SEAWORLD® ORLANDO
BUSCH GARDENS SERENGETI SAFARI
FUN SPOT AMERICA
DISNEY’S BLIZZARD BEACH WATER PARK
DISNEY’S TYPHOON LAGOON WATER PARK
DISNEY AFTER HOURS AT MAGIC KINGDOM PARK
COCO KEY WATER PARK – ORLANDO, FL
DAYTONA LAGOON WATER PARK
FUN SPOT AMERICA ATLANTA
SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA – CHICAGO, IL
WORLDS OF FUN & OCEANS OF FUN
MICHIGAN’S ADVENTURE
VALLEYFAIR
NICKELODEON UNIVERSE AT MALL OF AMERICA
SILVER DOLLAR CITY
SIX FLAGS OVER ST. LOUIS – ST. LOUIS, MO
SIX FLAGS THE GREAT ESCAPE – LAKE GEORGE, NY
DIGGERLAND USA – A CONSTRUCTION THEME PARK
LEGOLAND® NEW YORK RESORT
DORNEY PARK
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester
LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER WESTCHESTER
CAROWINDS & CAROLINA HARBOR WATERPARK
KINGS ISLAND & SOAK CITY WATER PARK
LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER PHILADELPHIA
KENNYWOOD AMUSEMENT PARK
LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER DALLAS / FORT WORTH
JAY PEAK PUMP HOUSE INDOOR WATERPARK
BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG
COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG
WATER COUNTRY USA
KINGS DOMINION & SOAK CITY WATER PARK
MOUNTAIN CREEK WATERPARK
SPLASH ZONE WATERPARK, NJ
WET ‘N’ WILD EMERALD POINTE
CRANMORE MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE PARK
CAMELBEACH MOUNTAIN WATERPARK
WATER COUNTRY NEW HAMPSHIRE
IDLEWILD & SOAKZONE
RAGING WATERS SACRAMENTO
RAGING WATERS SAN JOSE
RAGING WATERS LOS ANGELES
NOAH’S ARK WATERPARK
SANDCASTLE WATER PARK
WHITE WATER BAY
SPLASH KINGDOM WATERPARK
SUGARBUSH RESORT GOLF CLUB
HERSHEYPARK
BIG KAHUNA’S WATER & ADVENTURE PARK
DUTCH WONDERLAND – A KINGDOM FOR KIDS
BROMLEY MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE PARK
WET ‘N’ WILD PALM SPRINGS
FRONTIER CITY THEME PARK
SANTA’S VILLAGE – EAST DUNDEE, IL

 

April 4, 2019

10 ways to become more involved with your union

Are you new to the UFCW or just looking for more ways you can play a more active role in the union? Here’s a quick list of some of the ways you can get started.

1. Attend a Local Membership Meeting

Local unions have regular membership meetings that all members are welcome to attend. This is where important business, like upcoming negotiations, formation of bargaining committees, planning for community events and more is discussed.

Because it is impossible to cover all the ways you can get active at your specific local union, attending one of these meetings can be a great way to dive in and learn more about what is going on and how you can be involved.

2. Help Out with Local Union Events

Many local unions have regular food drives, charity events, community days, and more. The UFCW is an active participant in Light the Night and has raised more than $60 million dollars to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

From disaster relief to raising money for other UFCW members when they are going through tough times, the ways UFCW locals participate in their communities are deep and diverse and there’s something for everybody.

Check your local union website or Facebook for past activities, or ask about what’s on the calendar for this year at your next membership meeting.

3. Read Your Contract

Do you have a copy of your contract? Have you read it? By reading and understanding your contract, you will better be able to spot when your rights, or the rights of your coworkers, are being violated.

Knowing what you are currently entitled to can also help you keep an eye out for what you think is missing and would be helpful to add in the future.

4. Find Out Who Your Steward and UFCW Union Representatives Are

Each worksite has a Union Representative (also called a Business Agent at some local unions) — union staff regularly visit your worksite to inform you about what’s happening around the union, and help make sure everyone’s rights are protected.

Each workplace also has one or more stewards. A steward is a union member like you who has been trained to enforce co‑workers’ rights in the workplace and speak out on union issues.

It is good to have the names of your stewards and union reps along with the best way to reach them so in case an issue comes up, you can quickly reach out for help.

5. Carry a Copy of Your Weingarten Rights

In the Weingarten case, the Supreme Court ruled that Union-represented workers have the right to Union representation during all meetings or discussions with supervisors or managers that the member reasonably believes might lead to discipline.  These meetings or discussions include discussions on the work floor, in work areas, offices and even outside the facility.

At the beginning of the meeting, this law requires the supervisor or manager to disclose all meeting topics and to give the member a chance to ask for a representative.  Members can demand the presence of any on-duty steward.  If none is available, the supervisor or manager must postpone the meeting until a steward is available.  Companies may not punish members for exercising their Weingarten rights.

Encourage all your coworkers to get familiar with and exercise their Weingarten rights. This is important because a member waives the right to a witness if the member does not speak up and expressly request a witness.

6. Follow Your Local Union Online

Many local unions have either Facebook pages, websites, or other places online where they post updates about meetings, events that are happening, or other important news. Not only can you stay up to date on opportunities that might impact you, but you can help pass on information to your coworkers.

7. Become a Steward

At some local unions, stewards must be nominated or appointed. If you are interested in becoming a steward, talk to your union rep and find out what the process is for your workplace, what training is required, and what your responsibilities would be. Becoming a steward is a great responsibility, but also a rewarding way to stick up for you and your coworkers.

8. Join a Constituency Group

OUTreach

UFCW OUTreach is a constituency group dedicated to building mutual support between our union’s International, regions, and locals and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and their allies in order to come together to organize for social and economic justice for all, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, color, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Together, we will ensure full equality for LGBT workers on their jobs and in their unions.

Together, we will build a labor environment that cherishes diversity, encourages openness, and ensures safety and dignity, as we move forward in the spirit of “an injury to one is an injury to all,” opposing all forms of discrimination—not just against members of the LGBT community.

Together, we will educate all UFCW leaders, staff, and members about the LGBT community, and build support and solidarity for the UFCW in that community and all communities that share our union’s common goals and interests.

Together we will fight to achieve equality for all members of the LGBT community in employment, marriage, immigration, and wherever else inequities exist.

Together, we will work closely with Pride at Work and other organizations to achieve mutual goals and make our shared vision for equality for LGBT workers a reality.

Equality, education, understanding, and solidarity are our mission.

Join Here

United Latinos

The United Latinos of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) is an organization of men and women who have joined together to promote the issues and pursue interests important to Latino workers.

“Working Toward Latino Empowerment and Building Latino Pride!” We have a simple but powerful purpose of empowering Latino men and women within the UFCW and within our communities. We are also building Latino pride which will help others better understand our cultural differences. Our diversity will help make our organization and our society stronger. The United Latinos will help teach others that through UFCW membership, there is a better way of life that includes wages, health benefits, pensions, job security and dignity.

Women’s Network:

The UFCW Women’s Network, founded in 1988, works to motivate and encourage women to become active in their local union so they can contribute toward building and strengthening the UFCW.

More than half of the UFCW’s 1.4 million members are women — and we are a powerful resource for our union.
The active participation of women members in the UFCW enhances our strength at the bargaining table, in organizing campaigns, and in the political arena.

UFCW Women’s Network Membership Application

UFCW Minority Coalition

The mission of the UFCW Minority Coalition is to develop a unified voice and promote diversity and inclusion within the labor movement. The Minority Coalition strives to be a viable asset to the growth of the United Food and Commercial Workers, labor, and communities in need.

More Information

9. Learn Your Rights Under OSHA

The “Your Rights Under OSHA” guide is available in several languages:

10. Become a Benefits Ambassador

There’s a ton of benefits that UFCW members are eligible for just by being members, and you can help get the word out to make sure your coworkers know about them. Spend some time on MyUFCW.org and look through the different discount programs and opportunities like UFCWFreecollege.org, Online Language Classes, GED programs, Scholarships, and more.

Keeping an eye out for your fellow coworkers not only is a great way for you to help each other, but is part of establishing a culture of caring about each other. We mean it when we say we are a family, and you are an important part of making sure every UFCW member feels welcome and taken care of.

April 2, 2019

Why Is There An Equal Pay Day?

Each year, Equal Pay Day is recognized on different days depending on the year and the country because it symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Another way of looking at it is that if men and women both started working January 1, 2018, then men got to stop working December 31 and the women have been working since then for free. That’s because women made 20% less on average in 2018 than men. The gap only gets wider when you also take race and ethnicity into consideration.

According to the Economic Policy Institute:

“While April 10th is the overall Equal Pay Day, the gaps for women of color are even larger. As compared to white men, women of color must work even further into 2019 to make up for the wage deficit they experienced in 2018. Black women’s equal pay day is August 22nd, Native American women’s equal pay day is September 23rd, and Latina equal pay day doesn’t come until November 20th, almost an entire second year of working to equal typical white male wages in 2018.”

Asian-American Women’s Equal Pay Day was also recognized this year on March 5th, and Mom’s Equal Pay Day, which compares the pay of all working moms to that of working dads, will be on June 10th.

The good news is that even though all the factors that contribute to women earning less than men are complicated, simply belonging to union and having the support that comes from being part of a union family goes a long way in evening out the wage gap. Unions raise wages in women-dominated service occupations (which include food service and janitorial services). Union women working in those industries make 87% more in total compensation and 56% more in wages than their nonunion counterparts. And overall, hourly wages for union women are 9% higher on average than for nonunionized women.

Peace of Mind

“There are probably Federal Laws that protect non-union workers but having such language in your contract makes it easier. I know my union will fight for me,” says Jennifer Rios. “Under a union contract, depending on your job classification, we’re all paid the same. We all move through the same progression steps. With the guaranteed wage increases, I’m able to do a little extra for my family, such as planning a family outing bowling.”

“The guaranteed wage increase helped me and my family a lot,” echoes Local 338 member Evony, who works at Duane Reade in New York. “It’s helped me pay my bills and doing more for my kids. Unlike non-union workers, we know we’re getting our set raise.”

Crystal Quarles worked as a teacher for nearly 15 years and made $8/ an hour with no health insurance. When she started at Kroger in 2014, she joined the UFCW Local 700 without hesitation. Because of her 6-month wage increases she is now at her top rate of pay. As a single mom, she is very glad to have a contract where women are paid the same amount as men for the same work.

Equal Opportunity

Being paid different amounts for the same level of work isn’t the only thing that keeps women stuck earning less. Sometimes, it’s lack of access to higher paid positions. There again unions help ensure equal access to opportunities for advancement for all workers.

In March of 2014 Marlenny Solaris, a UFCW Local 342 member, heard there may be a job opening she could bid on at the nursing home where she worked. This Porter job was typically performed by men in the Porter classification, and she was told by the Supervisor that it was not a woman’s job. When the Home did not put the posting up, Solaris bid on another job and got it. Only after she received her new position did her supervisor post the full-time Porter classification job Solaris had originally expressed interest in.

Local 342 Representatives backed Solaris when she again applied for the now posted Porter position and then she got it. This paved the way for more women who have since taken jobs at the nursing home as Porters. Her situation also shows how the ways in which women can be prevented from having access to higher-paid positions can be complicated, because without a union there to represent her, there’s little chance Solaris would have been able to even apply for the position she was qualified for and had expressed an interest in.

Training

Union membership also helps provide training to help level the playing field for hardworking men and women, regardless of gender.

“I didn’t have to take out a student loan to become a pharmacy Technician,” says Margarita Alejandro, a UFCW Local 1428 member who works at CVS in California. “Thanks to my union contract I’m able to get on-the-job training from my clerk position to technician and to make more money and provide for my family.”

March 27, 2019

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month and a good opportunity to not only thank the UFCW men and women who help make the healthy foods we eat, but also our hardworking men and women in the health care field, like the registered dietitians of Kaiser Permanente.


What is a nutritionist?

Nutritionists are experts in food, health and nutrition. Nutritionists can work in a wide range of environments where healthy eating is important- which can be anywhere from hospitals and grocery stores to gyms and fitness centers.


Member Spotlight

One of our own UFCW nutritionists is also a published author. Kaiser dietitian and UFCW Local 400 member Mary Lynn Farivari shared her tips for preparing nutritious, flavorful meals in her cookbook, Healthy Palate. 

Farivari published the cookbook in 2010 after her patients urged her to share her healthy and delicious recipes with others who would benefits from them.

Farivari works at Kaiser Permanente’s Capitol Hill Medical Center where she provides individual nutrition counseling and teaches classes for those who want to lose weight, manage their diabetes, or lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. She was recognized at Kaiser Permanente with a Thrive Award for sharing her passion for nutrition.

You can order Farivari’s book online and learn for yourself how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet in a way that is both delicious and nutritious.


Nutrition Resources You Can Use


The USDA has put together a number of great resources for National Nutrition Month that can help you stay on track year round. With recommendations and tools for kids, teens, families, and nutrition professionals, there’s a little something for everyone looking to learn more about what they can do to make eating right easier and more fun.

Learn More

 

March 25, 2019

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Local 1776KS Member Carla Dorsey

For UFCW Local 1776KS member Carla Dorsey, Women’s History Month is a time to help her union sisters and all workers build a better life.

Dorsey, who is a pharmacy tech at Rite Aid in Philadelphia, has been a member of UFCW Local 1776KS for almost 27 years and has served as a steward for 20 years. She was mentored by her own shop steward years ago, who took the time to show Dorsey the important role stewards play in our union. When her steward eventually left, Dorsey felt it was a role she could fill.

As a steward, Dorsey has played an important role in helping colleagues in need. In one instance, she made sure that one of her union sisters could take time off from work so that she could recover from an assault. She also made sure that her colleague had access to the employee assistance program and helped to raise funds while her colleague was out of work. In another instance, she helped another colleague arrange for counseling for depression.

Dorsey also enjoys helping people outside of work. Before the holidays, she and fellow UFCW Local 1776KS member and steward Sylvia Hovington donated 40 bags of toiletries, socks and other items to a homeless shelter for LGBTQ teens. They also hosted a similar back to school night drive for children who participate in a skating program Dorsey runs, and gave out 150 bags with school supplies with the help of a donation from UFCW Local 1776KS.

“I love being part of a union,” Dorsey said. “I come from a union family, and my father was a steward, as well. I made him proud by getting more involved in my own local. It’s really just a big sisterhood and brotherhood in which we all help each other – it’s all about helping and giving back.”

March 22, 2019

Register for a chance to win $500 in March

LifeMart, one of the UFCW’s discount programs, is holding a sweepstakes exclusively for UFCW members this month. Members can win a $500 gift card just for registering for UFCW LifeMart discounts or by signing into an existing account.

Text lifemart to 698329Even if you don’t win, you’ll still have access to the amazing benefits that come with being a member of our union family, including savings on important life costs like education and child care, as well as discounts on cosmetics, amusement parks, restaurants and other items.

You can register for the UFCW LifeMart Sweepstakes here. You can get more information about all the ways you can take advantage of your UFCW value here.

March 18, 2019

Should we be worried about dynamic pricing in retail?

Ever go to tell a family member or a friend about a great deal you found online, but when they go to buy it too, it’s no longer there? Or maybe it costs way more than you paid for the same thing?

While you got a great deal, what you’re experiencing is the phenomenon known as “dynamic pricing” or raising and lowering prices many times a day, a week or a month to drive sales but still ensure a consistent profit. This is often paired with what is called “personalized pricing” or “cohort pricing” where each shopper gets their own price for a product – what’s my price isn’t yours and vice versa. These are marketed to consumers as a benefit – deeper discounts just for you — but in the end, may actually end up benefiting the retailer at your expense.

One paper from MIT’s Sloan School says that “Implementing DP can improve revenues and profits by between 8% and 25%.”

So if everyone is saving, how are retailers making money? In the case of things like groceries, people tend to buy the same items over and over again. Since you’re not the only shopper, companies like Amazon sometimes charge one shopper triple what another one pays for the same item.

Companies are able to get away with doing this because as customers, we don’t actually have a single price we’re willing to pay, we have what’s called a “latitude of price acceptance.” That’s a band of prices—from a steal to a little pricey—that we’re willing pay for an item. According to McKinsey & Co., that price variance can be as much as 17% , which is a lot of extra money to be made if you move to the top of the band.

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence

While price fluctuations aren’t new and dynamic pricing has been around since the 1980s, having those changes determined by Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is uncharted territory. As retailers battle it out to find that exact pricing sweet spot that maximizes both sales and profits, evolving technology raises concerns about what the effects are on both consumers and smaller businesses when large companies like Amazon use AI and algorithms to enhance profitability with little oversight.

Data is King

AI-driven personalized pricing relies on tracking and retaining information on customer behavior. That means whoever has the most information on you has a competitive advantage over their rivals. Beyond the security and privacy concerns of big data, this also means that the playing field is tipped even further in the favor of large companies like Amazon, who reached over 100 million Prime members in the US in January.

According to Amazon’s Privacy Notice page, the retail giant collects and analyzes everything from purchase histories and products viewed or searched for to reviews, wish lists and length of visits to certain pages. This huge pool of data on its customers’ shopping habits can help Amazon better understand what shoppers are looking for, what they buy and what prices they are willing to pay. 

Increasingly, company leaders are recognizing that a dynamic pricing strategy supported by big data and artificial intelligence (AI) can help them gain a competitive pricing advantage over rivals. 

– Forbes

With deep insights into the personal preferences and online behavior of about a third of the US population, not even including the shoppers who are not Prime members, Amazon isn’t just a retailer, but a data company.

Pricing based on who you are

While the law prohibits assigning prices based on protected characteristics—like race or gender—personalized pricing is by its nature nontransparent, meaning you can’t see everyone’s prices. That means you may not know that women, for example, are charged more for the same item, because the only price you see is the artificially high one. If we know companies have information on your race or gender, and we also know the AI-driven dynamic pricing responds to your unique set of data and characteristics, how would anyone know if the law was being violated?

What comes next?

We don’t know—and we’re not sure anyone else does either. But we also believe that honesty and transparency are essential. Lawmakers should be wary of technology evolving faster than our laws, or the ability to enforce them, can keep up with, especially if that technology is skewed to benefit powerful retail industry players like Amazon.