A betting man would have lost his shirt. Anyone with good sense would have thought the likes of K-Mart and the late Montgomery Ward would have thrived in the economic downturn of the past two years.

Shoppers naturally should be drawn to the discount proposition in uncertain economic times, right?

Turns out, there are things that even the most frugal shoppers won’t do to save a buck.

You Marked it at U-Markit

When I was a kid, my cash-strapped parents found creative ways to stretch $528 a month across four kids, a car payment and a miniature schnauzer.

One such endeavor was a trip to U-Markit. In the days of retail grocery before the price scanner, U-Markit’s management decided to dispense with the individual price labeling on products, as well as the traditional rows of neatly aligned packages and cans. After all, these were very expensive, labor-intensive efforts.

U-Markit threw out all aesthetic considerations and simply left products in their shipping boxes on stark warehouse shelving. Next to each shelf was a grease pencil for shoppers to mark the posted price on each product.

What I remember most is that U-Markit smelled odd. Of the top things that consumers look for in a grocery store, an odd smell is not one of them.

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Mitch McCasland (mmccasland@moroch.com) is director of insight and brand strategy at Moroch Partners (www.moroch.com) and a leading advocate of using customer insights and competitive intelligence as a basis for brand strategy, advertising, and new product design.