If you really want to know what inflation is all about, you just have to step on the streets of Bangalore. Be it an eatery or a retail mall or a cloth store or even the trader on the footpath on Commercial Street, everyone is out to fleece the hapless citizen.
Abdul Javad, a trader in Commercial Street says, “ If we try to keep the prices reasonable by charging a decent margin, the IT crowd feels that the material is not genuine. But if we charge higher, these geeks do not mind paying what we ask for. This sort of prestige pricing (or vanity pricing) is on full display in Bangalore where the higher you charge, the higher is the prospect of a successful sale transaction”.
Max Retail has launched a discount offer of up to 50% in the pre ID / Sankaranthi season. Up to 50% has a lot of meaning here. The discount starts from 5% and progressively increases. But is it worth it ? Mohit Kelkar, a resident of Cox Town, says, “ All the stock that is unsold during Diwali or Christmas is repackaged by retail malls and the offer is dressed up with attractive discounts. This is the situation across all retail malls in Bangalore”.
Subashree Panicker, a resident of Byrasandra, went to Mysore Saree Udygog to buy a saree for her daughter’s graduation day ceremony. Says Subashree, “ From the moment I said my range was from Rs.2500 to Rs.3000, the sales girl gave me a condescending look and she was so impatient that it was irritating. For her, I may be one among many customers. But for me, I am looking at value in my purchase. Eventually I was forced to purchase a chiffon saree for Rs.5500/-. I simply cannot believe it. There was considerable crowd in the shop located at Mahavir Mall, Kamaraj Road so obviously with foreigners around, the sales girls had little patience with others. I wouldn’t recommend this shop to people from middle class as the sarees are exorbitantly priced. Can you imagine a ready made blouse costs anywhere from Rs.1600 to Rs.16000. It may be affordable for the IT geeks from Silicon Valley who earn anywhere between Rs. 3 lacs to Rs. 10 lacs per month but for non IT persons, visiting such saree shops is a miserable experience. As a customer, you feel short changed. You pay through your nose and don’t get any treatment that you deserve as a customer. Sales persons with plastic smiles on their faces are an eye sore”.
Barely a hop from Mysore Saree Udyog is situated Tamilnadu Co optex. There are hardly any customers there even though Pongal is only a few days away. The 4 sales staff in the shop are incensed when you enter the shop. This shop belongs to the Tamil Nadu Government, so there is very little interest to convert prospect into sales. The two saleswomen give one a look of – “ You take it or get lost. Don’t ask us anything”. When we enquire about the sales offers regarding “Nakshatra “ sarees, the branch head says, “ The sarees are out of stock”. The same explanation was given last year too. The shop has attractive offers with models sporting colourful sarees with a discount tag of 30%. Ask the branch head about these offers, pat comes the reply, “ These sarees are out of stock.”
Woodys is supposedly a famous restaurant in Commercial Street. A famed Maddur vada costs Rs.50 while a masala dosa that costs Rs.60 is just not worth its value. On top of it, the restaurant has a self service model. No water is served. Used plates are not taken off immediately. A plate of pongal costs Rs.80. Not far from commercial street, the famed Adigas charges Rs.40 for a single vada. They add Rs.1 for charity. Customer has to bear all this with a grin. When a restaurant like Adigas charges something that is just not reasonable, it loses its credibility. A thali plate with limited options costs Rs.290 excluding taxes. I wonder how people who eat out in Bangalore are able to afford such exorbitant prices.
Naina Sarees, near Trinity Circle, has sarees where the minimum range starts from Rs.9000. Arpita Chawdhury, a resident of Ulsoor, says, “ I think the prices are far too steep. The sarees are not worth the price at all. It appears that the margin charged by them is anywhere between 40-75%”.
Lido Mall in Ulsoor has hiked the popcorn rates to Rs.250. There is a combo offer. You buy a popcorn and a can of coke for Rs.325 only ! Then the movie producers complain that people don’t come to the theatres to watch movies. It appears that theatres like Lido believe in Loss leadership pricing. They charge far too high for a hit movie so that they can recover the losses during slack season. “Dhoom” was one such movie where the price for a ticket ranged from Rs.850 to Rs.3200. Just look at how the value of money has got depreciated.
This is the story across Bangalore. Older residents are aghast. One of the popular Jewellers located near Safina Plaza, is one such jeweler, that believes only in aggressive marketing. The sales people there too are aggressive in the sense that they will literally force you to make a purchase. Not to forget the incessant reminders that they send via Emails and via text messages. Even if you buy Rs. 10 lacs worth of jewellery, for this Jeweller, it is peanuts. Says Amol Kerkar, who once went there to purchase gold bangles, “They don’t even have a decent bag to offer. Even the pack boxes are of such poor quality. Once bitten, twice shy. I will never venture there again. I agree that their gold quality is supreme but why should I pay something astronomical for that? I heard they charge a very high margin”.
Cost of living is so high in this city that even the mungfali wallah will not sell you anything below Rs.25.
So, prestige pricing or vanity pricing is ruling the roost in the Silicon Valley of India.