Palo Alto High School's Social Activism Publication

Annelise Balentine

Palo Alto High School senior Eliza Mutz picks up lunch from the sandwich and salad section at Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s prices, as with most prices at Town and Country, have increased as inflation has risen. “I think [the prices] used to be a lot cheaper,” Mutz said.

Real cost of inflation

How inflation affects Paly students

April 19, 2023

As customers wait in line at CVS at Town and Country, a few grumble or complain about the rising prices and inflation. This isn’t an unfamiliar occurrence for Anna van Riesen, a Palo Alto High School junior and former retail employee at Town and Country. 

“When I take off tags and put tags back on, I’ve noticed increasing prices,” van Riesen said. “I’ve also seen prices going up when I’m working check-out.”

The topic of “inflation” has almost become a buzzword. These words are ubiquitous in the news and are associated with everything — gas prices, groceries prices, more expensive hygiene products, medications, and more. Food prices almost doubled nationally during the pandemic, according to Harvard Public Health. 

The effects are tangible at Town and Country Village, across the street from Paly, where students say they have seen big increases in food and product prices.. 

Van Riesen has seen inflation, especially with cough medicine and paper products, and has experienced customers’ frustration with it over her past few months. 

“When I’m doing check-out for people, a lot of times, customers say out loud ‘Oh my God, why is this so expensive’” van Riesen said. “I understand why they’re frustrated, but it’s just as frustrating for me when they then go and aggressively voice their frustrations out to service workers or retail workers when we have no control over it.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn Gonzalez has noticed inflation in another product category—female hygiene products.

“When I’ve tried to get pads or tampons for my period or haircare and skincare from CVS — things that I need for my hygiene — it can get too expensive,” Gonzalez said. “I used to be able to go to other stores for cheaper prices but inflation is everywhere.”

Already being affected by the “Pink Tax,” female hygiene products have also been affected by the recent inflation. The average unit price of tampons in the U.S. was over 10% higher in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to Bloomberg.

When I’ve tried to get pads or tampons for my period or haircare and skincare from CVS — things that I need for my hygiene — it can get too expensive. I used to be able to go to other stores for cheaper prices but inflation is everywhere.

— Kaitlyn Gonzalez, Paly sophomore

Paly students have been finding ways to deal with the price hikes of food at Town and Country. One popular approach is taking advantage of the free lunch at school, which was recently expanded to every public school student in California.

“I started to get school lunch a lot more often if I wasn’t able to bring something from home,” sophomore Vit Do said. “I just steered clear of getting lunch at Town and Country as often because I started noticing that it way too expensive and hard to get lunch below $10.”

Looking at recent inflation trends, it’s unlikely that prices will be reaching pre-pandemic levels any time soon. The Paly and Palo Alto community just have to find ways to respond and adjust their purchasing habits.

“Hearing something about the government shut-down, you might not see your day-to-day life impacted, but gas and food prices are a lot more tangible,” said Van Risen. “People should just keep in mind that the people checking them out are their neighbors, their friends, people as well, and instead of unfairly letting our frustrations out about the economy on a retail worker, we should all adjust our daily lifestyle and spending.”

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