Customer says ‘cheap’ options don’t exist anymore

@krystalclear013/TikTok Deemerwha studio/Adobe Stock (Licensed)

‘Applebee’s and McDonald’s pretty much cost the same now’: Customer says ‘cheap’ options don’t exist anymore. Here’s why

'It's just shocking to me ... how fast it has happened and how obvious it is.'


Phil West


Posted on Apr 6, 2024   Updated on Apr 6, 2024, 4:58 pm CDT

At least one consumer has noticed something that might have caught your attention lately: The cost of more typically inexpensive items is rising to the point where “cheap” options don’t really exist. Rather, what was once a significant gap between a budget item and a luxury item is narrowing—to the detriment of people who relied on those budget items.

That’s the observation of TikToker KrystalClear (@krystalclear013), who has drawn more than 326,000 views on her video going into it since she posted it last Saturday.

She starts by saying, “The prices on cheaper things are rising a lot faster than the prices on expensive things. This is something my friend and I have noticed with multiple different industries. The big one is restaurants.”

She then talks about pricing at what’s called a “normal” restaurant versus one for “an occasion,” and whereas the normal/occasion divide for an entree used to be $15 vs. $30 for an entree, and now it’s more like $22 vs. $32.

She also talks about makeup buying in the video, noting, “There’s this particular drugstore mascara that used to be, it was like $8.79 but it would always go on sale for $6.49 so reliably, like I could rely on the fact that it was going to be $7 for that mascara, but now it’s like $15 … and it doesn’t go on sale …. getting up to like the $19 to $22 price range I can get at, like, a Sephora, designer mascara that lasts longer and it’s better quality.”

She then observes, regarding fast food, “Fast food prices have just gotten so expensive. So it’s this weird thing also because now the cheap option essentially doesn’t exist.”

She says the expensive option seems like the one that makes the most sense as “it feels like it’s like a better deal for people who can afford to just go up the few dollars.”

She adds, “It’s just shocking to me … how fast it has happened and how obvious it is,” pegging it as a phenomenon that’s occurred over the last five years.

@krystalclear013 Remember 5 years ago when yoh could get a meal for $10??? I feel like an old granby saying back in my day but this has seriously exploded so fast. #costoflivingcrisis #capitalism #inflation ♬ Summer party (20 seconds) – TimTaj

This all tracked with what commenters were seeing out in the wild.

“Applebee’s and McDonald’s pretty much cost the same now,” one observed.

Another said, “Chili’s started advertising that they’re cheaper than fast food!” That’s a sentiment that’s been expressed in at least two prior Daily Dot stories from Mar. 12 and Mar. 9, with a Mar. 18 story from Restaurant Business calling that assertion “complicated.”

The author of that article determined, “Chili’s is not cheaper than McDonald’s. But it’s closer than maybe it should be. And Chili’s is now comparable with many of its fast-casual rivals.”

But a commenter on this video asserted that you get more bang for your buck with Chili’s, saying, “I door dashed Chili’s to work last week. I got 2 lunch portion meals, it fed me for 3 days and it was $23 including tip. Breakfast dashed from McD for 1 is $18 with tip.”

This all led one to observe cynically, “The middle class is rapidly disappearing.”

Another added, simply, “Drowning.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to the creator via email.

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*First Published: Apr 6, 2024, 6:00 pm CDT