Inflation or Price-Gouging? TikToker Questions Walmart's Prices

A woman on TikTok shared Walmart's food inflation in the last two years via price comparison of essential groceries she has bought.

Kathryn Underwood - Author

May 1 2023, Updated 4:23 p.m. ET

Receipts from TikTok user documenting how prices went up at Walmart over two years.
Source: TikTok/@amywaytosave

Users on TikTok are flocking to a video shared by creator Amy @amywaytosave to comment on a recent price comparison she did on groceries. Amy posted a brief video explaining what she bought and when, and noted how much prices have gone up over the past two-plus years. Amy sharing Walmart's food inflation prompted heated discussion.

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There's no question that Americans are frustrated with the cost of everyday items, as the price of virtually everything we buy has gone up since 2020. Economists and the Consumer Price Index indicated a record 40-year inflation high in 2022. But is inflation truly to blame for the higher cost to consumers?

TikToker Amy shows the food she purchased at Walmart and the change she received after paying.
Source: TikTok/@amywaytosave

TikToker Amy compares food prices at Walmart over the past three years.

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What does the Walmart inflation video on TikTok say?

According to @amywaytosave, she conducted a grocery cost experiment between 2020 and 2023. She explains in the 30-second video that she bought a selection of essential groceries late in 2020 for a total of $10.09. She repeated the identical purchases at the same store (Walmart) again in 2022 and early in 2023.

This shopper indicates that she was buying only the basics such as eggs, milk, flour, and other staples in order to make meals for a week for one person. She explains that she went to the same Walmart each time, bought the same brands and sizes of every item (including the weight of produce), and then offered the receipts as a price comparison.

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Amy showed that by February 2022, the cost of her identical grocery cart went up by approximately 10 percent. That's still a significant increase to many people, considering the official 7.9 percent inflation rate between February 2021 and February 2022.

However, the increase in the cost of these staple ingredients by January 2023 would likely shock consumers with the impact on their wallets. The total this TikToker spent on the latest purchases (of the same items) was $15.10, or approximately 50 percent higher than the same items in 2020.

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Why are groceries so expensive?

There's always a wide range of causes impacting the price of everyday items including groceries. For example, the war in Ukraine has impacted grain prices since a large percentage of the world's grain comes from Ukraine.

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Extreme weather can also damage and destroy valuable crops, driving up the prices as supply levels drop. Crop diseases (and animal-related diseases like bird flu) can also impact food supply and cause higher prices.

However, as shown by many who commented on @amywaytosave's TikTok video, public sentiment is that corporate greed has something to do with the higher prices. Many commenters complained that mere budgeting simply isn't enough, and that companies like Walmart must be price-gouging. Even with this evidence, Walmart is among the cheapest grocery stores.

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More than a dozen white eggs sit in an egg crate.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The price of eggs is partly to blame for higher grocery costs, but not the only factor.

How did TikTok respond to the Walmart food inflation video?

The TikTok video, which had over 2.2 million views as of May 1, continues to rack up views and comments. One commenter had the most popular reaction: 'Its not inflation anymore its price gouging" (sic).

Another commenter stated: "I think it's important to note that this isn't just inflation, this is corporations intentionally raising prices and posting record profits."

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Plenty of other viewers noted that while economists continue to say inflation is around 8 percent–9 percent, for many of them prices are closer to 50 percent higher. For example, one user said: "I’m not sure why they say inflation is only 9 percent. I’m seeing 50 percent–100 percent mark up on foods."

Some people on the TikTok thread pointed out that the skyrocketing price of eggs was the worst offender in terms of increased cost. Amy, the video's creator, replied, "Excluding the eggs, it’s a 38 percent increase in prices from 2020."

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