5 Things You Never Knew Had Outrageous Markups

Our Big Night Out

My wife and I had the honor of attending a gala recently for a non-profit organization with which we are both involved.  She got all dressed up, did her make-up, hair, and was looking great.  I shaved, put on my suit and tie, made myself look good enough to leave the house, and sat on the chair waiting for her to finish getting ready.  

When we arrived at the venue, checked in, and began to mingle with the other guests, my wife gave me the international sign for “I need a glass of wine”.  You know, that little tilt of the hand toward the mouth.  As a loyal and obedient servant, I made my way to the cash bar and ordered a glass of Riesling for my thirsty wife.

The bartender poured the glass of wine, smiled, and said, “That will be nine dollars please.”  I wasn’t sure if the look on my face matched what was going through my head, but if it did I can only imagine what the bartender was thinking.

I looked at the amount of wine in the glass, looked at the bartender, and then back down at the glass in confusion.  I was almost ready to tell him that I think he forgot to pour some of the wine into the glass or maybe he thought I wanted to buy the entire bottle.

Can I finance That?

After signing the loan documents for this glass of wine and putting down some collateral, I carefully carried it back to my wife making sure I didn’t spill a drop.  Yes, I exaggerated this action on purpose.  One, because I am an idiot and two, because I wanted her to know that this wine was like gold.

After giving me the traditional wife eye-roll, she asked me what I was doing.  I told her about the small personal loan I had to take out for her glass of wine and she told me that $9 is fairly normal for a glass of wine of that size.  

I am not a wine drinker.  I think it tastes like rubbing alcohol that has been strained through sweaty socks.  Beer is my drink of choice, so I tend to get my money’s worth out of my drink.  I know beer is still marked up, but wow!  

My mind did not stop thinking about this glass of wine all night.  I kept thinking to myself, “I wonder how much that glass of wine is marked up, and I wonder how much lots of other everyday things we buy are marked up.”  

Because I can never let anything go, and maybe because I wanted to prove to my wife that we should just take a bottle of wine to the next event, I began to do my research.  

What Did I Find?

The first thing I found is that, in general, a single glass of wine is typically priced at the wholesale cost of the entire bottle.  Did you read that last line?  You are typically paying what the establishment pays wholesale for an entire bottle of wine for one glass!

Let’s put that into numbers.  The $9 bottle of wine that I bought at this event would retail by the bottle for $12.  Let’s say that this particular bartender can get 4 glasses of wine from one bottle.  That means that this venue is getting $9×4=$36 per bottle, which only cost them $12.  That would be a $24, or 200% profit on every bottle of wine.  

What Else Are You Paying Way Too Much For?

Movie Theater Popcorn

If you still go to the theater to watch movies instead of streaming them, you can’t do it without buying popcorn.  It is a staple of the movie theater experience and the scourge of movie theater custodians everywhere, but how much is the theater really making on every bag or bucket of popcorn you chow down on?

When you look at the average wholesale price of a small popcorn, which is about $0.35, compared to the average of $6.50 they charge the consumer, you can see where movie theaters make most of their money.  Many people would argue that these markups allow the theaters to sell tickets at a lower price.

Bottled Water

This one seems pretty obvious, but it needs to be put on this list.  If you drink the fancy designer bottled water that claim to taste like a fashion model’s sweat or whatever, you are paying up to a 280,000% markup.  Did you see all those zeroes?  On water!  

Do you really need water that has a tropical rainforest on the side or claims that it is higher class than any other water out there?  It is water.  You are better off using a Brita Water Filter, paying a one-time price, and reaping the benefits.

Eyeglass Frames

I wear glasses, so this one directly affects me.  Usually, if you need to buy eyeglass frames, you buy them from the eye doctor.  Why do you do this?  Because you are already there and it is convenient.  You are standing in a big room full of eyeglass frames and they tell you to pick a pair and let your insurance figure it out.

Did you realize that those eyeglass frames are marked up around 500%?  

You can usually get eyeglass frames much cheaper online or at wholesale clubs like Costco or BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Coffee and Tea

It is no secret that I love my coffee.  I am not a huge fan of going to actual coffee shops like Starbucks or Dunkin’ however.  Whenever I drive by these establishments, the drive through line is always wrapped around the building, no matter what the time of day.  

Noting that the markup on the items at these places is anywhere from 250% to 400%, you can only imagine how much people are overpaying and how much money these places are making on a daily, if not hourly basis.

Brew your coffee at home and take it with you.  Would it really take you any longer than waiting in the line at Starbucks or Dunkin’?  There are so many ways to get the flavor and brew almost exactly the way the establishment does at home these days.


Going back to when my wife was getting ready for the gala event, she looked fantastic.  She doesn’t need a lot of make-up, but if she did, we would paying an incredible average 78% markup.

What makes this even harder to handle is that most cosmetics are made from a combination of dirt, oil, wax, and fragrance.  It makes you wonder exactly what you are paying for.  Oh, that’s right, the promises of never growing old and all of the celebrities they have to pay to promote their products.

Take advantage of free samples, compare prices, and join rewards clubs at your local stores to save some money on your cosmetics.


There are things in life that are purchased on a regular basis.  Things that are an integral part of your life and you think you can’t do without.  You pay for them without a thought because that is what you have always paid for them.  You never really thought about how much the markup really is on this particular product and what your alternative may be.

Do you really need to give up to 500% of your hard-earned money to companies for convenience or can you find alternatives such as different brands or making it at home?

We live in a society of instant gratification and convenience, which is what these businesses and marketing firms feed on.  People are not willing to do research and educate themselves about what exactly they are spending their money on.  Knowledge is key to understanding your finances and changing your habits.



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  • Ariel says:

    Isn’t it crazy that we ever pay these prices? And that most people pay them without even thinking about the mark-up? Sometimes I like to picture little demons on everyone’s shoulders rubbing their hands gleefully because they duped us into doing something really stupid. But that’s the world we live in! Maybe schools need to teach a class about this?

    Also, speaking of eyeglasses, I hope you have heard about http://www.zennioptical.com. They have glasses (frames AND lenses) starting at $6.95. The most I have ever paid is $29.95 for some awesome cat-eyes. I’m their #1 fan.

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