Saudi supermarkets pull a Ramadan ponzi scheme
With Ramadan shopping season in full swing, retail stores all over the Kingdom are offering special discounts and sales to attract customers. But according to a report in Al-Watan daily, shoppers may not be getting the bargains they expect.
A tour by Al-Watan reporters in several regions of the Kingdom revealed noticeable increase in prices — sometimes by as much as 40 percent — of basic commodities. Yet, despite the price increases, many products were still being sold with discount stickers. Such misleading practices by retailers has prompted many consumers to call the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to take punitive measures against businesses that take advantage of the holy month to raise prices.
In the Kingdom’s capital, prices of a number of commodities especially vegetables and fruits have increased by up to 30 percent. In Dammam, meat prices have seen similar increases. In Makkah, malls and supermarkets are increasing prices of basic commodities on a regular basis and critics say the increases are an attempt to make big profits during the holy month due to high demand.
Several employees and consumers were interviewed to get their opinions on the matter. Salesmen Jushaim Abdul Haq attributed the rise in prices to Ramadan because consumer’s needs increase. “The rise in prices are small and never exceed a few riyals,” he said.
Mubarak Al-Rahman, who works as an accountant at a foodstuffs center, said businessmen are keen to profit of high demand in Ramadan. “Just as building owners increase rents during the holidays, retailers are following a similar path,” he said.
Saudi national Saleh Al-Otaibi said his expenditures in Ramadan grow multifold due to the greed of some businessmen. He demanded the Ministry of Commerce and Industry intensify its efforts throughout the holy month so as to protect the consumer from exploitation by retailers who increase prices on a whim.
Abu Humood, a resident of A’rar, said compared to previous years, prices are increasing rapidly. “Something that used to cost SR10, now costs SR20. Food items have been affected the most,” he said.
Akram, an accountant at a supermarket, said wholesale prices have increased, which means retailers also have to increase prices.
“We’re buying foodstuffs and other items at higher prices and unfortunately we have to pass on this increase to consumers. We have commitments too such as rent, electricity bills and others so we have no other option but to increase prices,” he said.
In recent statements to the press, the Minister of Commerce and Industry Tawfiq Al-Rabeeah said: “We are present in the markets to ensure the availability of commodities at suitable and just prices. We are keen to monitor the prices of commodities during the seasons, especially Ramadan.”
Citizens and residents look forward to seeing these promises being fulfilled especially since the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has infused confidence in the consumer about its role in supervising retail markets.