Greedy Corporations: Rising Prices and Record Profits

A few weeks ago, I wrote “A Tale of Two Talks: A Lesson in Biases.” It was about commencement speeches given by Harrison Butker and President Joe Biden. The gist of the article was this: most people commented without having listened to either speech. They simply piggybacked off of information that was being posted on social media that fed their confirmation bias.

I came across another post recently that’s worth sharing because it plays into the contrast phenomenon. This psychological concept alerts us to the reality that we can shape how people think about things, depending on what and how we present information.

The post I saw was being circulated on Facebook. It read, “Kroger‘s profit was up 35.6% from ‘22 to ‘23. Publix was up 49% from ‘22 to ‘23. That’s why food prices are so high!”

We’ve certainly lived through an inflationary period unlike any other over the last 40 years. Much of the ire is being directed against large corporations. The claims are price gouging, record profits, and exorbitant profit margin increases. As you might imagine, the post fanned the flames of angry grocery consumers.

While there’s always a chance that those factors are causing price increases, generally, free-market competition keeps prices down over the long haul. That’s because individuals and organizations enter markets where there are excessive profits. That entry tends to create more competition, which leads to lower prices, and profits tend to shrink.

The post aroused my curiosity, so I decided to look into the Kroger and Publix profits from 2022 to 2023.

Kroger’s profits rose from $2.2 billion in 2022 to $2.4 billion in 2023. That’s an increase of 9.1%, not 35.6%. Kroger could have invested their money in the stock market and likely made a better return than they did selling groceries. From a ChatGPT query:

  • 2021: Net income of $1.7 billion. (A decrease of nearly a billion dollars from the previous year)
  • 2022: Net income of $2.2 billion.
  • 2023: Net income of $2.4 billion.

What about Publix? The company did see a large increase from 2022 to 2023. Net earnings went from $2.9 billion to $4.3 billion. That’s a whopping 48% increase! However, a little digging showed why they saw such a big increase and should make you realize Publix is not gouging anyone. From a ChatGPT query:

  • 2021: Publix’s net earnings were approximately $4.4 billion, reflecting continued strong performance and growth​​.
  • 2022: Net earnings were about $2.9 billion, showing a decrease compared to the previous year. The decrease was influenced by higher costs and other operational challenges​.
  • 2023: Publix’s net earnings rose to $4.3 billion, a 49% increase from the previous year, due to improved operational efficiencies and increased sales​​.

The interesting thing about Publix is that the company is 80% owned by their employees. If you want to say Publix is gouging consumers, then you’d have to lay some of the blame on their workforce—regular consumers like you and me.

I scrolled through the Facebook post to look at the comments, and it was apparent that no one did any digging into the facts. It was a free-for-all pile-on about how greedy corporations are taking advantage of us during a rough economic time. Fortunately, that’s not true, at least with Kroger and Publix.

It does beg the question, why are food prices so high? There are too many factors to go into here, but certainly, supply chain interruptions, the cost of fuel, the higher cost of labor, and many other things are contributing to the rise in prices that we’re experiencing. However, that’s not the point of this post. As I encouraged you in the previous article, take a moment to do a little research on your own. When you find out the truth, you might want to alert people; otherwise, misinformation will continue to fan the flames of fires that we’re often starting ourselves.

Let’s open a discussion. Have you come across posts that made you curious enough to dig deeper? What surprising truths have you uncovered? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Edited with ChatGPT

Brian Ahearn

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE and a faculty member at the Cialdini Institute. An author, TEDx presenter, international speaker, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.
As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers in the world, Brian was personally trained and endorsed by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer, is a business parable designed to teach you how to use influence in everyday situations.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by over 700,000 people around the world and his TEDx Talk on pre-suasion has more than a million views!

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