The Blessing of Overpriced Orange Juice

Ben Franklin, the American statesman, inventor, and all-around interesting person gets credit for a lot of things, and a lot of quotes. For example, he’s often cited as the guy who coined the phrase (pardon the pun) “a penny saved is a penny earned.” But he never said that; according to the Franklin Institute, the actual phrase he used was “a penny saved is two pence clear.” The idea is the same, though — if you have a couple of extra dollars in your pocket, it really doesn’t matter if it’s because you saved a couple of bucks at the grocery store or if you worked an extra hour and got paid a bit more.

And no one knows that better than Tayeb Souami.

In 2018, the then-55-year-old accountant drove from his home in Northern New Jersey, on his way to a ShopRite grocery store about five minutes away. When he arrived there, he did what most people do at such places — he went grocery shopping. We don’t know what was on his shopping list, but we do know that Souami was supposed to be as frugal as possible — as the Washington Post reported, his was “a family that had just refinanced its home and had a daughter headed to college.” But he made the mistake almost all of us have made in the past: he didn’t check to see if the products he was buying were on sale elsewhere. (Gasp!) But his wife had. And that, momentarily, was a problem.

When Souami returned home, his wife informed him that the orange juice he had purchased — at the price of $5 for the bottle (the size of the bottle has gone unreported, but we can assume it was a pretty big bottle at that price) — was, in fact, on sale elsewhere for $2.50. Same brand and everything. And, as Ben Franklin didn’t say, a penny saved is a penny earned; therefore, 250 pennies saved is 250 pennies earned. Souami’s wife sent him back to the store to return the juice and earn those 250 pennies.

Souami obliged, perhaps under protest. (As one reddit user determined, the errand probably cost the family 63 cents in gas and Mr. Souami about 20 minutes of his day.) And maybe that was his motivation when he made his next decision: to waste his savings, and then some. On the way out of ShopRite, with $5 in hand from his refunded orange juice, Souami noticed that the Powerball lottery had a grand prize of $306 million. That was too tempting to pass up, so Souami took four of his five dollars — thereby precluding himself from purchasing the on-sale OJ — and bought a pair of lottery tickets instead. 

And of course, he won. (Otherwise, this wouldn’t be much of a story, right?) The next day, he went to get his car washed when he passed by a 7-Eleven, and remembered he had the tickets in his pocket. The first ticket was a loser but the second one was the only winning ticket issued for that lottery pull. After spending about two hours on the road trying to overcome the shock, he finally made his way home to tell his wife what had happened. Per ABC News, she was elated, even though he had spent their orange juice money on something other than discount OJ.

Bonus fact: In 2008, Tropicana — probably the best known orange juice brand — changed its package design, dropping the “orange with a straw in it” schtick in favor of a sleeker, more modern look, seen right  (via the Branding Journal). The design didn’t prove popular. According to Business Insider, sales fell off by 20% nearly immediately after the new packaging rolled out. Tropicana decided to cut their losses and revert to the old design.

From the Archives: Juiced: The orange juice you buy in the grocery store goes through a weird manufacturing process.  Also, if you ever wondered why OJ tastes weird after you brush your teeth, the bonus item is for you.