Some businesses are exploiting consumers

Dear Editor,

On Action Line the evening before last a resident of West Demerara called to complain about the uneven and unfair rate structure being applied by taxi drivers. His plea was for an intervention by the government. The Moderator spent some time explaining the realities of a free open market economy, and that there was nothing that could be done in the circumstances. I understand the point the Moderator was making, but don’t agree that citizens or consumers must accept meekly what appear to be unfair practices by others.

Sections of our media have been exposing, attacking and criticising perceived missteps, mistakes and alleged misdemeanours by the governmental apparatus at several levels. This is their right and their duty which should neither be denied nor throttled.

In passing I must state as a known supporter of President David Granger and the coalition that the government needs to do much more in the area of public relations including keeping citizens informed on all aspects of the administration’s activity that ought to be of public interest. This must be done in a timely manner and there should be no waiting to react when matters of interest are brought to the fore by others.

Having said that there is an area which requires urgent attention by the media and civil society. It comes under the rubric of Consumer Protection. The need for both the Consumers Association and the Bureau of Standards to be more aggressive exists. Editor, I share with you three worrisome recent experiences:

Recently, I purchased a mop bucket and mop stick to replace the ones used in the house for several years. Some I saw in three stores were made of slender plastic that clearly could not last more than a few weeks. There were mops with a few strands of cotton which were described by an aide as a joke. I asked the salesperson whether people bought what were clearly inferior and near useless plastic items. With a smirk on her face she said “yes”: poor people buy them all the time. It’s the old story of penny wise pound foolish.

Next, I purchased an electric iron from a popular store in Regent Street, in late September, 2017. Co-incidentally, while listening to the Action Line programme, I plugged in the iron and after attempts at several points, discovered that the iron was dead. When I reported this to my wife today, she reminded me that whilst in Miami last week, she purchased an iron for use in Trinidad, but I refused saying that I had recently purchased one in Guyana. Earlier, I was cautioned about buying certain items in Guyana, but I am a patriot.

Next, in August, I purchased a certain eye-drop and paid eight thousand dollars for a 10ml vial. Yesterday the agents were out of stock since they do not bring in large supplies of that particular item, but advised that a pharmacy in the middle of the city, should have supplies. I called to enquire and yes, they had it, but the price was thirteen thousand dollars for the same 10ml vial. I called a second time and asked to speak with the manager, confident that the price quoted was an error.

The person who answered the second time insisted that the price was right, ($13,000) and the tone of the salesperson clearly insinuated take it or leave it.  I am now making arrangements to have the drops sent to me from Trinidad where it’s available at a lesser cost.

It is clear to me that there is in Guyana, a group of business people I have dealt with who are reasonable and offer quality goods at acceptable prices. However, clearly we have in our midst those who are exploiters and care little about jacking up prices knowing fully well that the item may be in short supply. But is this the price the consumer and citizens must pay for a free open economy?

I must be forgiven, but as a youngster, I grew up in Guyana where the British had a Price Control Unit that disallowed the kind of rampant exploitation evident in the pharmacy that has put on a five thousand dollars mark-up on a single item.

I call on the Chamber of Commerce and other business and industrial associations to come to the rescue of the so far silent majority, the victims of those whose only concern is maximising profit. Editor, speaking we must do something about this rape of the poor.

Yours faithfully,

Hamilton Green

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