It’s not unusual to find a line of people stretching through the door at Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End, waiting for the bakery’s famous cannolis and other Italian treats. Although customers can be reasonably assured of what they’ll get when its their turn to order, there’s one thing they won’t find out until it’s time to pay: The price.
No matter how hard you look, you won’t find a price anywhere. Not for cookies. Not for cupcakes. Not for the cannoli.
So, how much is a cannoli? $3? $3.50? $4? The answer: All of them. It depends on which one you order.
A Consumer Alert reader irked by the invisible price list asked: “Is it legal for a store to have absolutely no prices shown? There is no way to know what you will be spending beforehand. I own a retail store and cannot imagine not pricing items. The customers would be at my mercy for whatever I wanted to price it at.”
That’s particularly tricky for customers at Mike’s -- a cash-only business when you’re ordering in-person. There is a small sign noting cash is king there.
General Manager Angelo Papa said he was surprised someone was put off by the longstanding practice of not disclosing prices upfront. “I never knew we were supposed to,” he said. “It’s the first time in over 60 years someone has questioned us on it.”
Although most bakeries are exempt from the state’s grocery store item pricing law – the one that requires a price sticker on most items – they are required to display a price near an item for sale, according to the state Office of Consumer Affairs. The office said it has not received any complaints in the past two years about Mike’s failure to post prices. But the law is there – one most establishments follow.
“I love cannoli,” said state Consumer Affairs chief Barbara Anthony, “and I want to know how much they are before I buy them.”
Papa wouldn’t commit to changing. He said there are too many different items to do a proper menu with all the prices. But, he added, “We have them written down for the employees.”
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com