Robbed blind in broad daylight

2014-03-04 13:48

Lines have become so blurred that one is inclined to think that the only difference between business and politics is that businesses have license to steal. While both will try to worm their way out of trouble at all costs to avoid bad publicity,  businesses seem to fare better in sweeping matters under the carpet using their well developed financial muscle as the weapon of choice. Muscle that often flex to manipulate outcomes in politics and  and in some ways, the weather.

Robbed blind in broad daylight

Regardless of one’s level or quality of education we can all agree the cost of living continues to escalate while the buying power of many households continues to corrode. Hawk-eyed -seeking  for lower prices without compromising on value for money is a pastime many a consumer would immensely benefit from. However, this pastime does not come without its frustrations. Among the many frustrations of being a consumer, erudite or not, is the discovery that to a larger extent, businesses are just after money and the ownership of a license to operate ultimately legitimises swindling.

Browsing through the “specials brochures”, which have become a favoured form of literature, has become something akin to cattle being forced into a cattle handling pen. Once the consumer has being "straitjacketed" into the store through the alluring deals, what happens thereafter is out of the consumer’s power. The very least is being fleeced off of the hard earned meagre earnings left over from the taxman’s undue delving.

No shopping therapy for Chitty

Priced at R9.99 a piece, the "stretching every penny" concept seemed feasible with bars of bath soap upon the shelves of a chain supermarket. Noticing that one could get these very same bars on a “Buy 3 get 1 free” deal, one cannot help but do somersaults on the inside at the prospect of saving a whopping R9.99. The excitement is short-lived as the eyes fall away from the bold red letter purporting to offer a free extra bar to the smaller black and white sign underneth. "R34.99!", the tag  for the four-pack seemed to ejaculate, making Chitty Chitty Bang Bang seem more than a fable of childhood fancy but the life’s story of many a shopper.

“Chitty may not be able to make a dollar out of 15 cents but he/she knows better that R9.99 times three don’t make no R34.99, let alone does Chitty walk out the store with anything for free.” Had tables been turned and Chitty had walked into the store R5 short and tried to walk out without settling the full amount for his/her purchase, Chitty would have been frogmarched onto the pavement at the very least. Frustrated by the day to day  “feeding” of everyone else but him/herself as the consumer, Chitty has no will to fight this battle, concedes defeat, pays the price in Rands and trampled dignity.

Life’s not fair, deal with it?

"Business have bills to pay too!"

"The times are tough for them too!"

"They're under pressure to retain employees too!"

"They are trying to stay above water too!" etcetera etcetera etcetera.

However, what ails many a consumer is how the consumer has to bear the brunt of exorbitant prices on basic commodities simply because many  a business can get away with it and the consumer has no choice but to fork it out. Bread, a basic necessity many households cannot do without but would rather be better off without, wholesale price of between R3 to R3.50, yet on a good day the consumer has to pay at least R9. A piece of clothing produced at approximately R50, calling for the consumer to pay more than R250 once it hits the sales floors of retail stores. Factor breaking-even and making a profit on the part of the retailer, yet the sums don't add up given the quantity of a basic good such as bread to justify the final selling price.

It is baffling how the majority of businesses, primarily those dealing in basic consumer goods, can justify the prices on the bulk of the goods needed for day to day survival. Chitty’s voice is stifled on many occasions and Chitty just has too many daily struggles to contend with to pick a fight with a retailer whose line between ethics and profit has become so blurred. Pressed between a rock a hard place, Chitty often does not have it in him/her to fight against false advertising, unfair prices, misleading information or the lack of it thereof at the hands of retailers. As Chitty walks away, Chitty wonders if perhaps, the next Marvel comic will be a superhero possessing superpowers to plummet prices and obliterate unscrupulous businesses into oblivion. Better yet, Chitty wishes for a real life hero who will champion the cause of the consumer outside the humdrum of political campaigns and corporate branding exercises?

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