Sticker Shock on the Rock



Bermuda is not for the faint-hearted when it comes to the pocketbook.

This island may be a magnet for international high finance, but after your first trip to the grocery store, you will question whether you’re actually earning enough. Tax free or not.

My first round of sticker shock occurred upon selecting a large, lovely chicken for a dinner party. The price was $42. I couldn’t believe it. I then looked at a smaller one, weighing about 4 pounds, and found it was still priced inordinately high at $38.

sticker shock_WWLOR

I love to eat. I never miss a meal. It’s the best guilty pleasure I know. My dad always questioned whether it was more expensive to clothe me or feed me (jury’s still out there). Three squares aside, there are also all those other delicious little snacks and nibbly bits to indulge in all day long. Eating is among those rarest of sensual pleasures that can be engaged in endlessly throughout any 24-hour period. How amazing is that? You can’t buy a new dress as often as you can visit your own refrigerator, can you now? So understand – I don’t mind emptying my wallet for a tasty morsel… but not my whole bank account.

What’s more, once you’ve loaded up your grocery cart, having estimated its contents to be equivalent to a small country’s national debt, you are then confronted with that audacious little ATM machine inquiring, “Is $481 okay?”

“Huh? Actually, it is NOT!” I want to scream.

I told that to my checkout clerk, who just laughed, saying, “I know girl, but you gotta eat.” She’s right, of course, and steep prices are to be expected when you live on an island where everything has to be shipped in, but it does take some getting used to.

Like when my husband wanted to buy a towel warmer (yes, in the Caribbean…), which I’ll admit, was a fancy towel warmer. To be exact, it was the Mercedes Benz of towel warmers. And it caused a little choking sound to rise in his throat when he heard the cost of keeping his fluffy Supima towels dry: $6,200. Suffice it to say, the internet was soon our friend and did supply us with an exact replica from the States for much less money but far more hassle. You have to pick your battles.

Valentine’s Day was not one of them. Sadly, I neglected to purchase any expression of spousal affection on the day and felt such a sting of guilt the morning after that I didn’t even blink at the price of the most magnificently perfumed candle I had ever encountered. It doesn’t sound like much. But my husband appreciates nose-gratifying aromas. We always kid that he is the best-smelling man on the Continent. And why wouldn’t he be, with an exotic collection of 25 different colognes occupying more than half of our available bathroom counter space. So I bought that woodsy, giant, gorgeous-smelling, and, yes, overpriced candle without so much as a backward glance. I was desperate. Happily, it was a big hit at home, so I went online to order more of those $65 pillars of scented perfection and was shocked when I found them there for just $17.99. I don’t care how heavy they are. For one-third the price, I’ll hand carry them in, pay duty, and still come out ahead!

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A few other sticker-shock, high-watermark moments will include the arrival of your first electric bill. It will absolutely be more than you have ever paid anywhere in the world.

And don’t even get me going on the price of fresh flowers here. I have been forced to purchase silk ones, which lack the luxury of natural blooms but last a very, very long time.

So you see, you can adapt. There’s a learning curve here that encourages you to waste less. I don’t let precious water run too long from the tap for one thing. I buy only what I need most of the time and a little less of what I just want. And, like all things, you ultimately put island sticker shock into perspective. What is the price of paradise anyway? Is it what you’re willing to pay, or what it’s worth to you?

Interestingly, we have found that the cost of liquor is quite reasonable on the island. Now that’s the kind of thing that can take the sting out of a lot of other expenditures.

Best advice: stock up.

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Do you have any memories of the most comically expensive thing you’ve ever bought on an island out of desperation?

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11 thoughts on “Sticker Shock on the Rock

  1. Before I moved to “my rock”, I was a “Florida Girl”. Florida Girl still buys her $7.00 Tropicana orange juice ….. it’s good with rum too and about the same price as Coke.

  2. I was stunned at the price of Super Glue. On Amazon, 6 little one-use vials of Super Glue are priced at $6 – US dollars. On my rock, they are still priced at $6, but these are EC dollars – LESS than 4/10 the price of Amazon – and it is even the exact same package. I’ve been treasuring that moment for months.

  3. Paradise sure isn’t cheap. We are spending about $75.00 a week to feed our 6 dogs, granted, we buy the more expensive food (Kirkland, a Costco brand) because you can feed them less of it but we still supplement with cooked chicken, rice, zucchini, carrots and green beans. We spend on average $250.00 a week on groceries and we still have nothing to eat!!

  4. I have lived on my rock for over 40 years so the sticker shock isn’t that bad anymore. When my parents lived here my mom told me “you have to eat and some meals are made to be enjoyed so just don’t look at the price and buy it”. That has worked of me over the years. As a kid my parents belonged to a co-op and most of the people on Water island would chip in for the container to be shipped to St Thomas and we would fill it full of can goods, paper towels Tp, etc. and the day it came in my Dad and I would race to see who got the case of Franco- American first. Yes my Dad and I loved Franco and to this day I still do and think fondly of my dad every time I have a can. We never bought windex since vodka was .85 a bottle, ( windex was 2.75) that and newspaper and you had some clean windows.
    Over the years the stores have become much better and the selections are amazing from 40 years ago. We still complain about the rising prices and veggies that rot it seems in 10 minutes. We have learned to grow our own when we can, doesn’t work well in a drought. We are hoping to start again in the fall and hopefully get back to our short showers every day.

  5. From my island we go to the big city of St Thomas about twice a year to stock up on vitamins & other unavailable things. But no I don’t make that once a month trip as some do for paper towels & TP. Especially not since it now costs nearly $100 just to make the round trip plus $3 a bag or box to bring whatever you get back. But I did have the occasion to go to rhe health food store once & jumped at getting a whole pint of virgin coconut oil. However I nearly gagged when I got home & realised I’d paid $32 for it! And coconuts grow everywhere here!

  6. I liked your great sense of humor.We need it here!!
    I do keep trying to think of advantages of being 70+ — one is — on our island, ferries cost much less and medical care is free, which certainly came in handy the last two says when I had to go to the clinic two nights in a row because of a cabinet door that dropped on my big toe. ( another thing about island life is that nails rot and handy men aren’t always so handy..). But food! Yikes!!We have mango and lime and starfruit and plantain and one new coconut tree(s), fever bush (lemon grass) etc. but we can’t live on fruit plus I hate to figure out how much the water costs to make them grow, especially in a drought year like this when our too small cistern lies fallow , and the cost of the gardener increases. My many “free limes” probably really cost $100.00 each!But we love it here.Even with a tropical storm on its way to frighten us, the white water sure is gorgeous sparking on the sea, the two rainbows this morning were beautiful, the mists, the waving fronds, –no matter what, gorgeousness surrounds us and small town life with caring people and loving neighbors has many pluses.

  7. OK fair enough about the prices. But its not just shipping. There are a whole lot of other factors/over heads, staff wages etc. And of course sometimes you can bring it in cheaper. Most retailers here can’t land it for less than what its being SolD retail in the US. But you biggest NoNo in this whole article is…… WE ARE NOT IN THE Caribbean!!!!! WE ARE IN FACT CLOSER TO CANADA THAN THE CARRIBEAN!!!!!! Please do not lump us in to the Caribbean.

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