Northern store says high-priced baby wipes a mistake

Retailer apologizes, offers refunds

The $31.29 pricetag on a package of 56 baby wipes in a Nunavut store is incorrect, claims a grocery chain official.

Mike Beaulieu, vice-president for Canada store operations with the North West Company, apologized for the mistake.

“I am committed to reimbursing all those affected by this error,” he told APTN News in an email.

The correct price for Pampers Aqua Pure 56’s in his company’s Arctic Bay Northern store is $9.19 and Pampers Aqua Pure 112’s is $14.99, Beaulieu said.

“Our pricing team picked up on the errors after seeing a post on Facebook and Twitter, which included the picture taken from our Northern Store in Arctic Bay.”

(Northern and Northmart across northern Canada are part of a network operated by North West Co. APTN file)

Nunavummiut pay some of the highest prices for groceries in Canada while earning some of the lowest wages. Their northern territory also has the highest unemployment rate in the country, according to Statistics Canada.

So the photo last week of the exorbitant wipes drew a lot of attention.

“This is fkn insane. Arctic Bay northern store,” said a female shopper in the post on Facebook.

The Northern is one of a network of stores operated by North West, and one of two grocery outlets in the northern Nunavut community of about 800 people. The retailer has other stores in northern communities and First Nations known as Northmart.

APTN forwarded the social media post to the retailer, which is based in Winnipeg, seeking an explanation because baby wipes are part of a category of pandemic supplies the Trudeau government lists on the Nutrition North page as protected from price increases.

(Shoppers line up outside a Northmart store. APTN file)

Beaulieu initially told APTN that “no customer in that store was ever charged $31.29 for the 56 pk format,” explaining the wrong sticker price had been posted.

He then followed up in a subsequent email noting an internal investigation had uncovered the error that occurred in July.

“A notice of apology will be posted shortly advising customers who may have purchased these two items to return to the store with the empty packaging or their receipt for a full refund,” Beaulieu added in the email.

The Nutrition North shipping subsidy is a multi-billion-dollar program run by the federal government to stabilize the cost of certain food and household goods to isolated and remote communities.

Winnipeg Liberal MP Dan Vandal, the minister of northern affairs, takes a dim view of stores charging more for needed items during the novel coronavirus crisis.

He told APTN in April an extra $25 million was being pumped into Nutrition North to keep supplies flowing and prices affordable.

“The targeted/highest subsidy level has been increased by 50 cents/kg, and the higher subsidy level has been increased by $1/kg,” his government explained in a statement to APTN, “and the addition of food and essential personal hygiene products, including baby wipes, at the low subsidy level.”

Investigative Reporter / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.