Value Village pricing secrets exposed; What’s really in your food?: CBC’s Marketplace cheat sheet

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Former employees speak out about Value Village’s pricing system and why it’s costing consumers

Two small pet food dishes with price tags on them.
The pet food dish on the left was purchased from Value Village for $4.49. The seemingly identical pet food dish on the right was purchased for $2 from Dollarama. (Jenny Cowley/CBC News)

After an onslaught of viral posts showing Value Village pricing items higher than they retail for new, Marketplace connected with more than a dozen current and former employees, many who say the chain’s pricing practices are based on a system that often charges consumers more than what an item is worth.

Employees say clothing would be ranked by brand and quality, with a computer setting a predetermined price. In some cases, that computer system suggested prices for home goods that were higher than what the product could be sold for brand new. 

Multiple employees tell Marketplace they were instructed to remove or cover up original price tags so they could price items higher. Others describe daily quotas to assess and then price around 2,000 items a day, and say they were reprimanded for failing to do so.

Marketplace found a number of items for sale at Value Village that were priced higher than what they cost new at other popular retailers.

For example, a George tank top with original hang tags was selling at Value Village for $5.49. The original price had been removed, however, the team found the same tank top in a different colour at Walmart for just $5.

“Absolutely egregious,” said Markus Giesler, a consumer sociologist. He noted that it’s particularly unfair to expect low-income shoppers to pay more for items under the guise of getting a good deal.

Giesler was also concerned about how these pricing examples impact consumers who chose to shop at thrift stores for sustainability reasons.

“This is the kind of material experience that consumers have every day where cynicism builds up and they say, ‘You know what? Why should I care about sustainability if I’m constantly being misled and deceived by capitalism?’ ” he said.

Value Village did not respond to Marketplace’s request for an on-camera interview, but previously told CBC News that their goal is to provide great value and selection. They admitted their staff “might not always get it right,” but they said they invite customers to chat with a manager if they think something has been mispriced.

Giesler argues customers shouldn’t have to be responsible for ensuring Value Village’s items are priced fairly.  “We as consumers are navigating and juggling a whole lot of different responsibilities under time [and] resource constraints … we are not supercomputers.”

You can watch the full Marketplace investigation, “What’s the deal with Value Village?” plus an investigation into food additives anytime on Youtube and CBC Gem.

It’s banned in Europe, so why is this controversial ingredient allowed in foods here?

A bag of nerds, skittles, and m&m's next to european versions of the same candy.
Marketplace ordered snacks from Europe that are also sold in Canada to see how the synthetic additives differ. (David MacIntosh/CBC News)

A CBC Marketplace investigation found some food manufacturers are producing snack foods for the Canadian market that contain an ingredient banned in Europe. 

That additive, titanium dioxide, was banned in the European Union after a May 2021 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) review couldn’t rule out that it may cause DNA or chromosomal damage in humans.

“What we concluded was that we could not really exclude the possibility that titanium dioxide can damage the DNA material, the genetic material in the cells,” Camilla Smeraldi, team leader for EFSA’s food additive and flavourings team, told Marketplace in an interview from her office in Parma, Italy. “It’s not something that we should intentionally add to foods.”

Marketplace ordered some popular internationally sold snack foods from Europe to see how the ingredients differ from what’s being sold in Canada.

The team found manufacturers are making different versions of the same snacks — one for sale in Canada and the other in Europe. 

The order included Skittles Fruits, Nerds Fruits, Nerds Gummy Clusters Rainbow and chocolate M&Ms. There is no titanium dioxide in the versions ordered from Europe, but the additive is in the snacks sold to Canadians.

Health Canada published a review of titanium dioxide studies in June 2022, which found there is no conclusive scientific evidence that the food additive is a concern for human health. 

Marketplace asked the manufacturers why they don’t sell titanium dioxide-free versions of these snacks in Canada like they do in Europe. 

Mars Wrigley, the company that makes Skittles and M&Ms, said all of its products “are safe and manufactured in compliance with strict quality and safety requirements established by food safety regulators.”

The maker of the two Nerds products, Ferrara Candy Company, said it complies “with all laws and regulations related to our products and will continue to do so in the future,” and uses ingredients that “are safe to consume.” Read More

You can watch the full investigation anytime on Youtube and CBC Gem


What else is going on?

Air Canada has been found liable for a chatbot giving bad advice on their website
The airline tried to argue the online tool was “a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions.”

A Lululemon marketing complaint could be a test of Canada’s greenwashing laws, according to one expert
A non-profit says the athleisure brand is misleading consumers about its environmental practices. 

For the first time, Mike Holmes has responded publicly to a CBC News story about demolished ‘Holmes Approved Holmes’
Holmes said his company had no access to the development’s houses during construction, so it was unable to “assist in verifying or identifying potential problems.”


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