Approach the register at any of the 109 Plaid Pantry stores across Portland, and it's like a tag sale at the Willy Wonka factory. Ghirardelli chocolates are three for a dollar, while "organic energy bars" might go for only a quarter. Meat sticks come in two-packs for a buck, and for a shiny 50-cent piece you can discover experimental flavors of Combos and Kettle Chips you're very sure should not exist.
The deals aren't overstock, and the candy is not out of date: It turns out Plaid puts its entire marketing budget into subsidizing impossibly good deals on weirdball junk food.
"We do no billboards, no radio ads, no television ads," says CEO Jonathan Polonsky. "Vendors have marketing money for stores. Snickers will have X amount of dollars, and they'll say, 'You're gonna partner with us. Can we pay for a radio spot?' We say no. We'd rather get it in markdown money."
In other cases, candy companies like Nestlé might have new types of candy they want to try out on an unsuspecting public: like maybe Twix eggs months before Easter. In they go to the Plaid bargain bin at 50 cents a king-size bar.
The deals come in at the first of every month, and the best deals are often gone fast to die-hard Plaid Pantry bargain hunters. "They call us up on the first of the month asking what deals there are," says Polonsky, "Last month, we gave away 10,000 free Snickers bars. We used coupons. They lasted three hours."