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SciTech Tuesday: Secret Shoppers Investigate Retail Prices

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Propaganda poster lists the seven “keys” to keep prices down. Image courtesy of The National WWII Museum.

Seventy years ago today, a story in the Reading Chronicle of Reading, Massachusetts described the local Ration and Price Control Board’s search for two women to investigate retail adherence to price ceilings.  In order to control rising costs as demand grew for items in short supply, the Office of Price Administration (OPA) set maximum prices for household goods.  Local boards informed retailers of the price ceilings and in some cases, sent shoppers to consult with the merchants.  It sounds like the board members had difficulty recruiting women to volunteer for the job, what we might call a secret shopper today, they called a snoop!

To learn about the math of shopping take a look at our lesson plan, Those Were the Days, My Friend: Comparing Prices and Percentages from WWII.

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Post by Annie Tête, STEM Education Coordinator

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