When customers at one San Francisco grocery store went to the checkout one day, they were outraged. The cost of their groceries had increased astronomically.
Look, we've all cringed once or twice while the cashier rings up the fancy yogurt we decided to get last minute because "screw it, I wanna eat fancy yogurt," but this wasn't a few pennies or dollars here and there. This was $25 for a box of spinach and $40 for a loaf of bread and some cigarettes.
The cost of their groceries had inflated. But why?
It was all part of a social experiment meant to show people what buying groceries is like for people living in poverty.
1 in 10 families in the Bay Area live on $24,300 or less per year, below the poverty line and well below the Bay Area average. The experiment was set up by Tipping Point Community, a poverty relief organization, which set up a register in a Nob Hill grocery store where customers checking out would be given "poverty line prices," or prices that were proportionally representative to living in poverty.
"If eggs cost $6 for someone living on the poverty line, or 1.4% of their weekly salary, the adjusted price would be $29.64 for someone living on the average San Francisco salary," TPC's website explains.
Imagine if your groceries, rent and college supplies were five times as expensive. For the 1 in 10 families living below the poverty line in the Bay Area, this is how it feels. Visit tippingpoint.org to calculate how expensive your basic needs would be if adjusted for #povertylineprices
A photo posted by Tipping Point Community (@tippingpoint) on
Tipping Point also set up a website where anyone can plug in their annual salary and see what grocery shopping would be like if they lived in poverty.
While those skyrocketed prices were temporarily frustrating for the people trying to buy groceries, the sticker shock they experienced is one millions of Americans face every day.
In 2015, over 43 million people in the United States were living in poverty. That's down 1.2% from 2014 but is still a massive number. Sticker shock doesn't just affect people below the poverty line either. According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, nearly half of all Americans are one financial shock — a job loss, a medical emergency, etc. — away from poverty. Feeling financial discomfort while you shop for basic needs is something that could happen to any of us.
If you had to pay $30 for cold medicine or $15 for a gallon of milk, you might be outraged like the folks in the video. Most of all though, you'd want to do something about it. You'd want somebody to recognize that it's an unfair burden on you and your family.
You'd want things to change.