Smart People Buy Generic

Nine times out of ten, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists buy generic aspirin instead of the Aspirin with a capital A produced by Bayer.

In other words, smart people buy generic stuff instead of brand-name stuff, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Based in the US, researchers estimate that Americans spend something like $44 billion on brand name goods that have a cheaper generic equivalent. They tracked 77 million shopping trips for close to 125,000 households.

For example, a bottle of Tylenol runs about $22 at the drugstore ‘round our corner. A bottle of generic acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in Tylenol, is $14—and the difference can add up quickly.

The research suggests that healthcare professionals almost never buy brand-names, university-educated consumers are less likely to, and the average consumer is the most likely to buy brand-name goods when there’s a cheaper generic available.

The trend isn’t limited to medicine. Professional chefs only buy brand-name sugar, salt, and baking powder 20% of the time, compared to 40% for regular households.

The Takeaway

Try generic. There aren’t many products where there’s a perceivable quality difference (store brand soda, or contact lens solution, for example), so it can’t hurt to lower that grocery bill.



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