Paying a price for cooling

Beating Heat

You know the heat is going to be extreme, when you are penalised for feeling it. This is exactly what ‘cooling charges’, a colloquial term, does. The charge is an added expense of a few rupees that one must incur while buying carbonated drinks at most provision stores in the City due to the fact that it has been chilled for consuming pleasure.

The most important question to be asked here is, why are consumers bearing these additional charges when an MRP is clearly printed? Shopkeeper Ajay Nair explains this vagary, “Carbonated drinks have a very low profit margin which is below Rs 1.50. One can’t even purchase a matchbox in this age with that kind of money.” Shopkeepers claim electricity costs for refrigeration as their main excuse.

‘Cooling Charges’ also seem to be a generic term to include any inconvenience that shopkeepers want compensated. Says Firoz, owner of Super Market at 5th Avenue, “I have had to appoint one person just to open the bottle crowns, put a straw in and keep the bottles safe to return to the factory for refilling.”

The charge may also be a result of an economic cycle, says Saleem of Bluemoon Cafeteria, “We wanted a shop on M G Road, but the rent here is Rs 40,000. However, we know that people who shop here can afford a cooling charge.”

To further the cause of cooling, Ummar, who works at a local supermarket, tells us that supermarkets enjoy much higher profit margins on the same products than provision stores do. “We provide greater security to distributors. We buy in bulk and sell it fast.” Thus, shop owners seem to take out their frustration via cooling charges.

The next surprise comes in the responses of customers who have been found paying this charge. “I wasn’t aware that I was paying an increased price. However, I’m thirsty and so I’ll just buy it,” says Nahaz, an interior designer, visiting the City.

Head of Marketing Operations at Indavest, Glen sheds some light on the economics of the situation. He says, “Profits on a single bottle of carbonated drink is a minimum of 800 per cent for manufacturers. What we are paying for is the advertising expenses that these giant MNCs incur in their attempt to outbeat each other.”

Gifting Instinct is one shop that doesn’t charge for cooling. “School children come here everyday and they can’t afford it,” says Anto, who runs the shop.

Prem Koshy, owner of the store advises, “If the profitability on the product is too low, one should either stop selling it, or consider increasing prices on other products like bakery items. But the consumer always deserves to buy products at its MRP.”

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