Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Guess the Price of This Milk.

On the way home from work today I decided to pull into my infamous neighborhood corner gas station and fill up the gas tank. Judging from the price I paid, it was most likely the most expensive gas in town. As usual.

Now even though my local corner gas station is the last place you’d want to go if you were looking for cheap gas, it does have a few perks. The first one is that I can sometimes get a couple hot dogs — with all the fixins — for 99 cents. I know. But please spare me the “Nightmare on Elm Street” lecture on wiener ingredients because it won’t work; I don’t care if they’re made with chicken beaks, cow teats and/or pig’s eyelids. In fact, if that’s really true, somebody pass me a big bowl of teats, would ya? Pretty please with a chicken beak on top. (And yes, for the record, I’m a Spam lover too.)

The other perk that my gas station provides are the occasional puzzles next to the gas pumps — presumably to distract those of us who choose to fill up our tanks from observing the rapidly escalating price.

So, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

This week’s gas station puzzle was a real doozy. In fact, it was so tough I really couldn’t figure it out at all. Take a look at what I am talking about:

Sorry for the poor photo resolution, but I took this with my cell phone camera and it’s the best I could do. Here is the entire ad (including the very fine print at the bottom):

2% Milk
$3.50 each
when you
buy 2
One at regular price.
Limited time offer.
Limit 2 per customer.
Plus tax if applicable. While supplies last.

Admittedly, I can be slow at times but, are you as confused by that advertisement as I am? Is this some kind of sick joke?

How can a gallon of 2% milk be $3.50 each if there is a limit of two per customer — but I have to buy one at the regular price? And I thought my previous 5th grade question was difficult.

What am I missing here? Could this be one of those ridiculously difficult Mensa questions? You know, something akin to this: “A guy walks into a bar, pulls a didgeridoo out of his pants, and then orders a beer.” (The answer, by the way, is six. At least I think it is.)

Anyway, if anybody out there wants to take a crack at this and tell me what the final bill would be for two gallons of my local gas station’s 2% milk, please let me know by leaving your answer in the comments below. For full credit, don’t forget to show your work — and no peeking at any other comments (assuming I get some) before giving your answer.

To help you out, let’s make the math easier by assuming a gallon of 2% milk at the regular price is $5.00. Thankfully, there is no tax — but please don’t tell my local politicians that. We don’t need to make this puzzle any harder than it already is.


  1. 1

    Chris Eaker says

    I read this to mean that if you buy one gallon, you pay full price. If you buy two gallons, you pay $3.50 each. But you can’t buy more than two gallons at that price.

  2. 2

    CMT says

    While I read that the same way Chris did, I should be exempt from this question as $3.50/gallon is less than the state minimum for 2% milk where I live.

  3. 3


    Yeah, my guess was that the regular price is higher, say $4.50. If you bought just one, you pay $4.50. But if you buy two, they’ll charge you $4.50 for the first and $2.50 for the second, averaging to the $3.50/ea advertisement. And that’s all your allowed to buy at those prices, any extra gallons you might want would be $4.50 each.

    It made sense in the end, but getting there was a longer process than it should have been.

  4. 4

    Sheila says

    If you buy only one gallon, it’s $5. If you buy two gallons, you get each for $3.50. $5 for one gallon, $7 for two.

  5. 5

    Rachel says

    When stores have buy 2 (or more) at a certain price, they are required by law to indicate if one item is at the advertised price or at full price. For example, my local grocery store does 10 for $10 sales all the time. If you get 1 item it’s a $1. If you could only get the $1 price if you purchased 10 items, they would have to include a similar line that said something to the effect of “Single item at regular price.”

  6. 6


    The ad doesn’t say how much the regular price is for one gallon but, if you buy 2, you’ll pay $7. Expensive milk for around these parts.

  7. 7

    Olivia says

    As everyone else noted, if you buy only one gallon of 2% milk you pay full price for it. About $3.90 in these parts. (Though the ad doesn’t say.) If you buy 2 gallons of 2% milk you only pay $3.50 each. Thus saving 80 cents total.

    Now if you’re of the coupon queen mindset, and if “per customer” actually means “per shopping trip”, you can go back numerous times. Take some milk out of each gallon and freeze them. Thus, theoretically, saving serious cash.

  8. 8

    sheila hicks says

    This makes no sense to me either! The sentence that seems to mess things up is “one at reg. price”. If I had to guess, I’d say it is $8.50 for two. But who knows?

  9. 9


    C’mon Len, gas station hot dogs are nasty.

    Seven bucks for two gallons of milk is no deal. Especially, when you can get a single gallon at Trader Joe’s for $2.99 and it won’t have any rBST.

    I guess they figure anyone would overpay for gas then eat the hot dogs probably can’t add either. :-)


  10. 10


    I think the total would be $7 for two gallons. One would ring up at regular price and the other would ring up at 7 minus regular price. That’s an awful sign and not a great price for milk either. We buy a single gallon for $2.79.

  11. 12


    I love how the numbers on the sign for the price of milk are changeable, just like they are for gas.

    Len, I’m concerned. Here we are worrying about milk, but did you remember to:

    -not smoke?
    -turn off your engine?
    -turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices?
    -fill your portable containers on the ground?
    -discharge your static electricity before fueling?
    -not allow your children to use the pump?
    -not leave your pump unattended?
    -avoid prolonged breathing of vapors?
    -keep your face away from the nozzle and gas tank?
    -keep away from eyes and skin?
    -not siphon by mouth?

  12. 13

    StuckintheCold says

    If you buy one gallon, it is regular price for $5. If you buy 2 gallons, they are $3.50 each, so they are 2 for $7. You cannot buy 4 gallons for $14.0O, because the limit is 2. Four gallons would cost $17.00 – 2 for $7 and then $5 for each of the next two

  13. 14

    Len Penzo says

    Upon further reflection, I think the consensus opinion makes the most sense. However, why couldn’t they have just said this:

    $5 each or $7 for two. (Limit 2)

  14. 16

    WB says

    Ok, we’re getting robbed in my neck of the woods. The store brand milk is 3.69 and name brand is nearly $4. This is not at a corner station either, it’s at the huge store that everyone loves to hate.

  15. 18

    Hex says

    If you are willing to participate in the gas station’s exercise program, you can get any even-number gallons of milk at the $3.50 each price: go into the store, buy 2 gallons, take them out to the car, go back in and buy two more gallons, repeat as desired. Each time you leave the store and go back in, it should qualify as a separate visit. 😀

    As a variation, take the wife, kids and neighbor’s kids with you. Give each $7.00 and everyone buys 2 gallons. Go home and load up the fridge in the garage with more milk than you can drink before it goes bad.

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