The Mystery and Shock of Market Price

Today I learned an important lesson about market price. And lobsters.

For the last few months I’ve heard several people rave about a restaurant in St. Louis called Peacemaker that specializes in upper East Coast seafood…and lobster rolls. I was particularly curious about the lobster rolls, especially after several friends talked about how amazing they were.

So I convinced a friend to go to lunch with me at Peacemaker today. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew I liked the place. The aesthetics were impeccable for this style of restaurant. Here are a few photos I took:

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The photos don’t do it justice. Maybe I should have added the Cape Cod Instagram filter to them.

There were two styles of lobster rolls on the menu: Connecticut and Maine. My friend and I decided to each get one.

Here’s the catch: The lobster rolls were listed at “market price.” Based on all the other sandwiches on the menu, we assumed it would be around $12-$14. That’s a lot to pay for a lunchtime sandwich, but we figured it’s lobster.

I went up to pay for the food (at Peacemaker you pay before you eat). I added a few sweet teas to the order and handed over my credit card.

“$15.80,” the clerk said.

Sweet, I thought. Today’s market price is much cheaper than I thought!

Then the clerk handed me the bill. I can’t quite describe the feeling that hit me, as I’ve never felt it before, but it was some cornucopia of panic, shock, and disbelief.

The clerk hadn’t said $15.80. He had said $58.

I clarified that I only wanted two sandwiches, and he said, “Yeah, each one is $23.”

I numbly walked back to my seat to reveal what had happened to my friend (who was quite pleased that I was picking up the bill).

My initial reaction was, I just paid $23 for a sandwich. My entire body rejected the idea.

But then I realized that it wasn’t about the price. I mean, it was, but it was really about expectations. If the menu had given me an approximate range for the market price (“market price: $18-$25”) than I would have known going into the purchase that I was about to spend $20. I would have been able to digest that information in advance and decide if it was right for me.

Now, yes, I could have asked about the market price in advance. But in the absence of any information about that price, the menu had set my expectations through the prices for the other sandwiches. Plus, no one likes asking for the price at restaurants. It’s these little things that create a better customer experience.

After I got over the panic/shock/disbelief, my next thought was, This better be a damn good sandwich.

And it was. It was delicious. The bread was perfectly buttered, and I’ve never eaten lobster chunks that big. The homemade chips were also excellent.

I only ate half, of course. If I’m going to pay $58 for lunch, I’m getting two meals out of it.

What do you think about the idea of listing a possible range for the market price? Do you think that provides a better experience for the customer? I have to say that it must be better than what I experienced. If the menu had those few words, this blog entry would solely be about the sandwich and the awesome decor (not to mention the clever hint of lavender in the sweet tea) instead of the sticker shock.

Here are a few photos of the sandwiches. Connecticut style is the one without the mayo.

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15 Responses to “The Mystery and Shock of Market Price”

  1. Allen Chang says:

    That’s the cost of a decent sized Euro board game! If I had to choose, I’d go for the board game any day of the week.

    The most overpriced consumable item I ever board was a $9 bottle of water at a theme park. I was not a happy camper.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      It tasted better than a board game, but in most circumstances you’re right–I would rather spend that money on a game. $9 on a bottle of water is outrageous!

  2. RodeoClown says:

    Welcome to the world of international purchases too 🙂
    When you see a $20US item, and then end up paying $30US to have it posted, and THEN you end up paying $50AUD after currency conversions. It’s painful!

  3. Jasmin says:

    Oh, it’s great to be your friend. Can I be that friend next time? *Start looking for a place with a menu that is all market price*

    Serious question: Which one is better? I never have a lobster roll and Maine is a little far. And I read Peacemaker as Pacemaker which would be what I need after hearing such a shocking market price. Expect $6-10 when actuality is $20-24. Yeah, heart attack definitely.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Ha ha…you want all market price? I’m definitely asking about that price next time!

      Both sandwiches were good. The bread was what made them great, actually–the meat might as well have been shrimp or crawfish. I think maybe I liked the Main style a little better?

  4. jewelyaz says:

    In my experience, Market price means twice the most expensive item on the menu, so you got out cheap. Also, my dad always said, if you have to ask, don’t order it, to which I add, unless you want an amazing meal and can just not give a damn about the bill.

    So sorry for the surprise, but I’m not surprised. Your server was remiss in not explaining those options and the price as that is commonly done. Good Yelp feedback for the restaurant.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Julia: They had a unique server setup. They basically just had a host and a cashier. Someone did check in at some point in the meal to see how we were doing and to get us some to-go boxes. I actually enjoyed the setup, as we didn’t need more help than that.

  5. Joe Babbitt says:

    Netflix has a special by the comedian Gary Gulman called “In this Economy” it’s a pretty decent hour, and has a bit on “Market Price” that I imagine you’ll appreciate. The good news about standup is that you don’t have to watch it either. Just put it on and turn up the volume and you can enjoy it while working on other things.

  6. Tolles says:

    This is exact same thing happened to me when I went, only Katie only told me the price on the way home. In my mind, back East a lobster roll in the summer (north of where I’m from) costs about 10 bucks, so I figured add in 2 or 3 bucks because it’s St. Louis. Oh well. Good sandwich though.

  7. JT says:

    Tip from someone who works in the restaurant industry: Market Price is usually a catch-all for “this will cost more than any other item on the menu.” It is not uncouth to ask “what’s the market price today?” If they answer “$23. They’re always $23.” Then they’re just using “Market Price” to mean “we want to give you a chance to a) show off and b) buy something really expensive without your date knowing it.”

    Also, seafood in St. Louis is pricey because if it’s fresh it has to be flown in, if it’s not fresh they’re comparing prices to the fresh stuff, and if it’s local you get intestinal parasites.

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