Most of my comments below are things that I’ve been saying for the past 5 years. It’s almost deja vu all over again in some ways. Things never changed 5 years ago at the original height of the perceived “rip off Ireland” – well, they did, we got the fuckers* – an “independent government agency” who were going to sort everything out for us consumers.
Yet, here we are, 5 years down the road of the perception that we’re living in “rip off Ireland”, and 1 year down the road of the fuckers* being in charge of consumer affairs in the country, and we’re still in a situation where consumers are complaining, and there’s nothing that can be really done about the situation we’re in.
Let me just clarify firstly – I don’t believe there is any such thing as “rip off Ireland”. High prices are not a rip off, they’re just high, expensive, prices. It’s down to us consumers as to whether we pay these prices, or chose to either shop else where or just not make the purchase.
And back to the dual priced items we’re now hearing so much about. We’ve always had the choice whether to buy these items or not. In fairness, the retailers are providing full information – here’s the Euro price, and here’s what it would cost you in Newry or wherever in the UK.
The choice, buy it in the shop now and bring it home with you, or wait for your next trip to Newry or to London or wherever in a couple of weeks or months, and buy it there – and go home empty handed right now.
But it’s that particular point, I’m afraid, is why these shops got away with this dual pricing up until now, and will continue to do so in the future when the current hype dies down, even despite the uproar at the moment.
Irish shoppers want stuff now! There’s rarely any shopping around. There’s no research into prices and checking out of alternatives. Shopping and purchasing inertia is why the perception of “rip off Ireland” took hold in the past, and despite all the intitiatives and government grandstanding (NCA) and newspaper articles, it still exists. We (up until very recently) have had all the money that we want, and we’ll buy whatever we want whenever we want, and most of the time, damn the price – I want my stuff now!
In a free market such as Ireland, with consumers who have placed a higher worth on having stuff than having money, why wouldn’t retailers, insurance companies, mobile phone companies, banks etc, from both Irish and UK charge Irish consumers as much as their willing to pay for services and stuff.
And so to the UK retailers who have taken advantage of this – they have callously come to our shores and ripped us off – or have they just arrived here, offered their goods for sale at a certain price, and like lambs to the slaughter or lemmings to the cliffs, we Irish have shelled out our cash for their bright shiny trinkets.
There’s no coincidence that the arrival of the Celtic Tiger heralded the arrival of the British chains to Ireland – Dixons, Currys, PC World, B&Q, Debenhams, Boots, Carphone Warehouse, Halifax Bank of Scotland, Harvey Nichols, Next, Top Shop and so on, and the expansion of Marks & Spencers and Tesco. These multiples have always been aware of the “cost of doing business in Ireland” (this isn’t a new thing), and yet they arrive here in their droves. Why? Because we Irish are shelling out our cash to buy their schlock to beat the band.
Please don’t get caught up in some of the hype of the moment. None of these shops provide necesseties that our poor and weak are forced into buying – they’re providers of luxury items that we do have the option of either shopping for elsewhere, or of doing without (what, do without? my parents had to do that in the mid-80’s so I’m damn well not going to now!!) And these shops are not in isolated places where the poor and the weak don’t have a choice of where to shop – these shops exist in large shopping centres and on our main streets. They are not the only alternatives – so again, there are other options.
And what of the government response! Calling in the National Consumer Agency – the watchdog for the consumers. Spayed poodle more like. In response to the questioning from the Tanaiste, the fuckers* answered a completely different question and told her that their grocery price survey had done something sometime in the past. Big deal – I don’t believe that dual pricing of groceries is the primary issue here.
The truth is that there is nothing within existing laws that can change what’s currently happening with regards to dual pricing and the euro price being more expensive than the sterling price. There’s nothing that the UK multiples (and some Irish ones too – take note Dunnes Stores, we know you’re doing it too) are doing that is illegal or in contravention of consumer law. So, what we’re seeing is a whole to-do about nothing. The government are jumping up and down about this, the opposition are taken up with it, and the media are pushing the whole bandwagon along about something that it’s only us consumers can really do anything about.
If this was something that we all (the WHOLE country) thought was of major importance and was something that our government should be taking time to address (rather than the health service, or child welfare, or rising unemployment, or our public transport system etc), then we should be able to get our shit together enough to boycott these stores until they reduce their prices to an acceptable level.
But therein lies the weakness of the consumer in this country. While there are certain people who have strong believes about certain things, in general as long as the consumer gets what the consumer wants, the buying will continue – no matter what the price.
* according to An Taoiseach 🙂