Exploiting Poor and Aged Consumers: Paying More for Less?

The South African consumers, especially the poor and aged, are being exploited by many of our well-known retailers.

Last month, at a time my family and I were really cash strapped, I wanted to buy All Gold Tomato Sauce at our Pick n Pay. I picked the small 350ml bottle thinking that buying the smaller bottle obviously would have saved me some money. The price was already an expensive R17.89 for this 350ml bottle.

I always compare prices and noted that the twice larger 700ml bottle was marked R17.90. Could that be correct? Only one cent (c) difference? Yes, it was true that the double the size bigger 700ml All Gold Tomato Sauce was only 1c more expensive than the half sized 350ml bottle of the same make. As proof I’ve taken a photograph just to show you all.

While I was standing in front of this shelve, totally flabbergasted of what I have seen, an old lady took one of the 350ml bottles and put it inside her trolley. She had a grocery list and pen, clearly working on a fixed budget and only buying what she needs.

When I’ve showed her that the bigger bottle was only 1c more expensive, she told me that if I hadn’t showed her she would have as always wrongfully assumed that the smaller measurements are cheaper than the larger ones.

A couple of days ago I again went to the same Pick n Pay and wanted to buy a 2 litre (l) Coke. The 2l Coke plastic bottle was marked R16.49 while the bigger 2.5l Coke plastic bottle only cost an amazing R15.90! The bigger 2.5l Coke in fact cost 59c less than the smaller 2l Coke! Again I’ve taken a photograph just to show you all as proof.

These two types of products and Pick n Pay are not the only culprits I need to add. I’ve seen the same or similar pricing paradoxes at other retailers like Spar, Checkers and Shoprite, to name only few, too.

Working on a strict budget myself, I regularly go to Meat World on a Saturday to buy our meat products, finding that it is usually the most affordable butchery around the area where I live. The previous day I usually receive an SMS from Meat World to advertise its Weekend Specials.

With the ridiculous increase of meat products the past 10 months, steak simply became unafordable for us and when Meat World advertises that Tenderised Steak costs R59.99 per kilogram it is just obvious that it is definitely a great bargain.

When I get there, I am so disappointed to find that these packs had been bulk packed into large 3kg plus packs making the minimum R180 simply unafordable to me. Once I even went to the butcher to ask him whether he can’t half the pack for me, he told me that it was against their policy to do it.

Using these three real case scenarios as examples, I truly belief that retailers are in fact making more profit out of poor and aged consumers, than those consumers who can afford to buy bulk. From my own personal experience working regularly on a nonexistent budget, I automatically go for the smaller measurement assuming that it would be more affordable, just to find that smaller is not necessarily cheaper under most circumstances.

At times when I really only had R100 per day (or even much less) available to spend like so many other millions of poor people in our country, I found myself in situations where I could only spend no more than R20 on a product, for example, and even if the bigger measurement was only R2 more expensive than the smaller one I had no other alternative but to take the pro rata more expensive smaller unit otherwise was unable to buy the other necessities. Who else had been in this situation before or am I the only one?

Those who can afford buying in bulk are the ones who also benefit from this pricing exploitation. The poor and aged are the ones who will find themselves to actually be the group who profit the retailers more than the rich.

Liberty Fighters Movement has initiated a program to act against these pricing injustices and even specifically included it in our Interim Manifesto. We strongly belief that smaller measurements must be pro rata the same price for all products with similar wrapping. Anyone who had similar problems must please report it to us so that we can unite and combine our efforts to fight against this exploitative pricing.