Readers of these pages will know that I get fed up with the perpetual ethos in the Gulf region of ripping people off at every conceivable opportunity. Not that it is just in this region, of course. My most lasting impression of Delhi will always be the way the entire population appears to target foreigners as rip off victims and inflate their prices accordingly, sometimes by many hundreds of percent.
But whereas in Delhi it is done quite openly – you know that if you are a foreigner the prices are actually posted up showing how much you are ripped off (!) – here in the UAE, stealth rip off is more the norm.
Now, maybe it’s because it is the holy month of Ramadhan, which – we are led to believe - is especially a month of generosity and giving – that the continuing antics at hypermarket giant Géant are rubbing me up the wrong way. The religious web sites would have us believe that during Ramadhan, charity and generosity toward fellow humans are akin to prayer.
رمضان كريم – Ramadhan Kareem, scream the posters from all over the store, as if somehow to get us into the mood and improve our joie de vivre.
Many of the products have special Ramadhan labels affixed – such as a special offer pack of three litres of Nada juice for a mere 10 dirhams. Oh what a bargain. They know how to tempt the cheapos like me into parting with our cash.
I check again. Yes. Sure enough. On the shelf itself is a pricing ticket confirming this bargain of the century.
How can I resist? Answer: I can’t. I grab a three-pack… fighting back the urge to take two or three to tide me over… and head off for the tills.
The Filipina checkout girl, well trained in the art of tempting cash from the hapless customers, asks if I would like a plastic bag. She doesn’t tell you that it will automatically add 25 fils to the overall price of your checkout trolley; but we’re all wise to that one by now. But wait – what is this? A large sign below the counter telling us to Say No to Plastic Bags.
I tell her that it would be churlish to accept a plastic bag when the store begs us not to. Filipina is not amused. Perhaps she has heard it too many times before.
She swipes my precious pack of Nada juice… Dhs10.50 please.
Errr, no. I think you mean 10.00.
No, it has come up as 10.50.
But it even says 10.00 on the pack.
Sorry. It’s 10.50
I start to explain to her that such a practice is actually illegal in Europe, but she doesn’t want to know.
Eventually a store manager comes over to see why the checkout queue is growing at such an alarming rate. This just isn’t right I explain to him patiently.
I agree with you, he replies. I will get a merchandiser to check it out straight away. (He has obviously been trained in the art of keeping the customer happy) and instructs the Filipina to charge me 10.00.
Two days later, having savoured the delicate taste of Nada Raspberry and Orange juices, I decide that I can hold back my desires no longer and hurry back to Géant for another pandering to my inbuilt gluttony. Yes, sure enough the offer is still there. I check the bottles. I check the pricing ticket.
I grab a 3-pack and head for the checkout once more.
Would you like a plastic bag sir?
Not today thank you.
Ok sir. That is 10.50 dirhams.
Oh no it’s not! It is 10.00
No sir. 10.50.
I point out once again that this is a mark up of five per cent on the published price, but again to no avail.
I tell her she can keep her Nada juice and storm out of the shop.
Well, storm is maybe not the right word; for this little game I play is a regular occurrence at the Géant store. This charade probably happens to me at least once a month – you get to the check out and find that the price posted bears no resemblance to the price they charge you.
I wonder how many other people check their till receipts at Géant?
But wait…. generosity and giving are the hallmarks of Ramadhan. Perhaps Géant is going through lean times itself? Maybe it is our charity and generosity that is missing?
Hmmm… I hadn’t thought of that.