Let’s Put an End to Pretending

by Shawanda Greene

Companies spend a lot of money to convince you their products are worth more than they really are. And you believe ‘em.

Quite frankly, your naiveté is starting to bug me. Mostly because you waste money on perceived, yet nonexistent, value. But also because people like you look down on me.

By now you’re probably thinking, “What are you talking about, girl? We love you. You’re awesome.”

Okay, fine, maybe you’re not saying that, but hear me out.

For years I’ve proclaimed my love for boxed wine. Occasionally, others will express how much they hate it. However, I maintain that I cannot taste the difference between the expensive stuff and the cheap stuff.

Wine Bottles

Recently, I wrote a blog post over at Fabulously Broke called 10 Frugal Habits That Don’t Bother Me At All. In the article, I discuss sacrifices I make to save money such as styling my own hair, refusing to buy gifts, and of course, drinking boxed wine.

One commenter was particularly salty. Look at what she said to me:

You must not know what quality is. Boxed wine? This is the most disgusting wine I ever had.

Um, no, I don’t know quality–at least not when it comes to vino.

In the blog post, I explicitly state that I can’t distinguish between a $3 bottle and a $40 bottle of wine.

So if my taste buds are indifferent, how dumb would I be to pay an extra $37?

As far as I know, high-priced wine isn’t better for your health. So, that’s not an argument for paying a price premium either.

Can we be honest here?

Is this a safe place for the truth?

It is? Great. I’ll just come right out and say what few are afraid to admit.

If alcohol didn’t alter your mood, there’s no way you’d drink a known toxin.

Obviously, some poisons are more disgusting than others. But I’m guessing the number of people who drink wine would plummet if there was no alcohol in it.

Liquor sales would completely dry up.

Don’t act like you drink wine for any other reason than to get effed up or–at a minimum–to get a little tipsy.

I understand how uncomfortable such an admission might make you feel.

It’s much easier to pretend you’re an expert.

I’m sure countless wine snobs couldn’t pick a Chardonnay over a Pinot Grigio in a blind taste test if their whole head was submerged in the stuff.

When a bartender asks what brand of vodka I want in my pineapple juice, I usually blurt out something to the effect of “The cheapest one you got.”

Truthfully, I can tell the difference between cheap vodka and premium vodka–if I were to drink it straight.

However, I don’t drink vodka or any other liquor straight. After it’s mixed with a sugary chaser, whatever teeny taste difference remains certainly ain’t worth an extra seven bucks to get rid of.

But there are other products that fool us.

For instance, it took a New Orleans reporter to point out there’s no lobster in Zabar’s “lobster” salad.

You know what the popular grocer used instead? Crayfish.

No biggie. They’re both crustaceans.

For fifteen years, clueless New Yorkers paid top dollar for something they thought was lobster.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, “a third of seafood sold in the U.S. is mislabeled as one type when it’s actually something else, even something cheaper.”

Ha! I bet a lot of wine is “mislabeled.”

If our palate was as sensitive as we tell ourselves, massive fish fraud wouldn’t be such a huge problem in the United States.

You wouldn’t overpay for farm raised salmon that’s marketed as “wild caught” or blow your budget on catfish because the restaurant menu says it’s grouper. Not if you knew better.

I’m so sorry to tell you this, but you don’t know better.

And your pompous attitude allows you to get robbed by those who prey upon your ignorance.

How much money would you save if you weren’t gullible to deceptive marketing practices?

Photo Credit: Kurt Nordstrom

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

bog0fdebt June 28, 2012 at 9:49 AM

I’m with you and can’t tell a difference in “good” wine and “poor quality” wine. It’s all the same in my book. I tend to buy cheap wine if I buy wine. Why bother spending the money when it all tastes the same to me?
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 3:57 PM

That’s what I’m saying. I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone.
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nicoleandmaggie June 28, 2012 at 9:59 AM

Some people can tell the difference (not me)… The Splendid Table had a really awesome segment on this exact topic with randomized controlled trials and retests and everything. For those people, it is worth the extra $37 if they have it.

Many people buy wild-caught rather than farm-raised because they care about agricultural practices, not because of the taste. Personally I prefer farm-raised because it’s fattier and less fishy.
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 4:08 PM

The best wines I’ve ever tasted were in the $18 to $23 range. Not too expensive, but a far cry more than what I’m willing to pay.

Regardless of your reason for eating wild caught fish, it’s a shame that there’s a strong possibility you’re still getting the farm raised variety. I think I gave up on cage free eggs when I saw the deplorable conditions the chickens live in. I figured I might as well eat the regular eggs. The extra money I’d pay wouldn’t help any animals.
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Daisy @ Add Vodka June 28, 2012 at 10:07 AM

LOL I’m so with you girl! There is no such thing as cheap liquor in Canada, but certainly there is some more expensive than others and I either can’t tell or don’t care, depending on the liquor/day.
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Ooooh. So that’s why I’ve never been to Canada? :)
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Aleksie June 28, 2012 at 10:39 AM

If drinking boxed wine makes you happy and you save money, who really cares? Not for me, but it’s your business and you’re not harming anyone or yourself. *shrugs
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 4:13 PM

That’s right. I’m not harming myself or anyone else.

On second thought, if I’m not careful it makes me gain weight. And gaining weight makes me sad. But that could happen no matter how much my wine costs.
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Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife June 28, 2012 at 12:01 PM

I can’t tell the difference between most wines based on price; I just know I like certain types because they are sweeter! (Pinot Grigio is OK, chardonnay is too dry. :P ) And yes, I buy my PG in a big old box, because it is much, much more economical!!
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 4:21 PM

I like Rieslings, but I hardly ever drink them because the calorie content is too high for my liking. I usually go for a Chardonnay. Moscato is the absolute worst. It’s too sweet, but for some reason, my family loves it.
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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland June 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM

Okay follow up question: let’s say your friend had a taste for high priced bubbly. And you didn’t care. And your friend wanted to bring a bottle of bubbly over to your house for dinner. Would you be offended if instead of bringing over the $50 bottle, she stopped by the grocery store to get an $8 bottle? {I did this last night and was wondering if I should feel guilty}
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 4:25 PM

No. You shouldn’t feel guilty.

Actually, I probably wouldn’t feel guilty if my friend liked $50 a bottle bubbly too. But if she did, I’d probably spring for a bottle that was more than $8, maybe $20. After all, I’d be eating dinner at her house.
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Lance@MoneyLife&More June 28, 2012 at 2:02 PM

I think we would all save a ton of money, myself included. Just because I don’t realize it is happening doesn’t mean it isn’t happening… sad but true!
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Yeah. Since there’s such a huge risk for fraud around certain products, I think I’ll just stick with the lower priced items. I mean, what’s the likelihood of a retailer charging you for a cheap product and giving you a high end product instead?
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Dominique Brown June 28, 2012 at 6:20 PM

This is so true! “Don’t act like you drink wine for any other reason than to get effed up or–at a minimum–to get a little tipsy.” Fyi.. you are right about vodka, there is no difference between the expensive vodkas and the cheap alternatives. The only difference is marketing. I had a party and I bought less expensive coconut vodka and mixed it with pineapple / sprite. I told all the patrons that it was Ciroc.. they devoured it. No one knew it was a 10 dollar bottle of liquor instead of a 40 dollar bottle.

But back to the topic at hand.. Everyone pretends. As a child I used to pretend all the time. Unfortunately, most people never let the pretending portion go.
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Shawanda Greene June 28, 2012 at 6:28 PM

LOL! You know I was thinking of Ciroc when I wrote this. This guy I know says he’ll buy a girl a mixed drink with cheap vodka when she asks for something like Kettle One. Surely, Nightclub Sally doesn’t know what she’s drinking.
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Dominique Brown June 28, 2012 at 6:33 PM

Nobody can tell the difference between the quality of the liquor once it’s mixed. Your friend is 100% correct.. people faking the funk because Diddy is a master promoter.. smh.

Cheap coconut vodka , pineapple, splash of cran, cheap coconut rum and sprite will shut down Ciroc/Pineapple any day.. I tested it amongst the best of the fake “Ciroc boys/girls. ”

side-note: I am amazed that Diddy (Ciroc) and Dr. Dre (Dre Beats) can convince people inferior products are superior.
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Romeo June 28, 2012 at 9:02 PM

I disagree. Have you ever had a taste test with Suaza, Jose, 1800, and Patron tequilas? Big effin difference if you drink Suaza and then drink a more expensive Patron, and a noticeable difference if you mix them as cocktails.

I usually drink my tequila and scotch straight-up, as well as most all other liquors, so trust, the difference in taste is there–for me.

I will say, though, I haven’t noticed a big difference in taste between 1800 and Patron Silver, so I now opt for 1800.

But, I digress. We should always look for the cheapest ways to receive similar goods. Hence, there are generics and name-branded goods. Walmart’s Cheese Squares tastes very different than Cheez-its, but if they didn’t I would of course opt for the least expensive alternative, just as you do with your wine.
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Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter June 28, 2012 at 10:29 PM

Sorry you are getting flack. I drink with friends over at each other’s homes on the weekends. I like Moscato – technically, I like CHEAP Moscato, lol. Yep, we just want something sweet that’ll get us tipsy. Woodbridge is like $5.50 a bottle, yummy (especially with fruit juice), and gets the job done. :-) I can’t tell the difference between pricey stuff and not pricey stuff, so I just keep trying cheap stuff until I find my favorites.
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Ashley BK July 2, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Tell ‘em how you really feel!! What you like (and don’t like) is your prerogative, and you are entitled to that! As long as you are happy, that’s all that matters!

I’ve tasted expensive wines, and they were ok… However, I drank $6 wine from Whole Foods and it was some of the best tasting wine I ever had! Everyone has different taste buds; that is what makes us all unique and beautiful! What tastes good to some may be not so tasteful to others. It also depends on what you hold valuable. Some people really like expensive wines – it’s just their thing – while others value things such as well-made (read: expensive) shoes, property, etc. Doesn’t make anyone wrong, just holds different things at different values.


American Debt Project July 2, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Way to go putting a self-righteous “wino” in their place. What about the trend of everything being “artisanal” and hand-crafted and therefore 10x the price? Except this artisanal peanut butter I had the other day, DAMN that was good. But I probably wouldn’t be in debt right if I wasn’t so susceptible to marketing. It’s not all marketing, but a certain type of lifestyle, aspirational marketing used to get me every time. Not so much anymore :)
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Rona July 20, 2012 at 4:25 PM

This really made me laugh. Now don’t get me wrong I share your opinion for the most part but once I was going to a party and bought a bottle of Papov vodka cheapest stuff I could find because I like you was of the belief that its the same old crap. I’m not a real drinker but do partake of the occasional screwdriver or fruity drink. I served myself up a drink and this stuff tasted like straight up charcoal no OJ was going to mask that taste.. I’m straight up picky but it has nothing to do with what something cost it has to do with if I like it…. pure and simple. I will pay more for something if I personally can tell the difference however its not based on what people think its all about me. I will also buy the cheapest junk on the shelf just depends on my experience.


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