2009-04-17 / Letters

Gluttonous Exploitation

Dear Editor,

How old were we when we heard the saying, what goes up must come down? Who remembers the exact age; but, we do remember we were able to prove it with a Spaulding or Pensy Pinky? I am here to disprove this ageold principle by relating it to three things in our economy: oil and groceries, and Rockaway food prices. Hold onto your wallets, this should be quite a trip.

The price of oil last summer rose to above $200 a barrel which translated to over $4.00 per gallon gasoline at the pump. Ow! As we witnessed this historic gluttonous exploitation by the oil cartel, we were flabbergasted at the gall of those companies taking unconscionable profits unconcerned as to the effects such greed would and did have on the world economy. We linked this highway oil robbery to Bush2 and his cozy relationship with Big Oil. We demeaned Bush for the loss of jobs during his presidency. However, we failed to see he obviously created an entirely new job and quite a busy one at that: that of sign price changer at gas stations.

Mathematically, when the price of crude went from $200 to $50 per barrel, shouldn't the price of gasoline have gone from $4.00 to $1.00 a gallon? It did not. When the price of oil plummeted to under $50 per barrel, did manufacturers and purveyors (M & P's) reduce the price of their goods and services? Not at all! Surely they had an excuse for raising prices, in some cases outlandishly; but, what is the M & P excuse for not lowering food prices when the price of oil hit the lowest level in years? What goes up in the case of M & P's stays up.

As if the increase in prices was not enough to damage us in our pocketbooks, unscrupulous M & P's had the temerity to decrease the amount of product weight while retaining the former packaging. So, to the untrained eye, a pound of coffee was still in the same size pound container only it was now 13 ounces and a dollar more expensive. You can use this information as a riddle with your children or grandchildren: i.e. When is a pound not a pound? Adding insult to injury, some manufacturers have even gone so far as blatantly reducing the size of containers to their reduced product while raising prices because they know they have a captive audience and they don't care what hardship such a deceptive move has on the public. In this case, what prices go up go even higher.

We all, begrudgingly, witnessed prices of goods and services go up commensurate with the price of oil and we understood. We understood that transportation, packaging and utilities skyrocketed and fully expected an increase in the price of food. Have any Rockaway food merchants reduced their prices to reflect lower gasoline prices because they feel our pain? I hope you are not holding your breath.

Rockaway food prices, in many instances, are way out of line. Cavatelli, a pasta, selling for $3.99 a pound in Rockaway is $.99 a package in Brooklyn. The peninsula proprietor's excuse for the price discrepancy used to be the price of gasoline and the bridge toll. When the price of gasoline was cut in half, did the Rockaway price of Cavatelli follow? Negativo! In fact, it increased a dollar per package. Don't expect that which went up, Rockaway Cavatelli, for example, to come down.

Brooklyn, on the other hand (Rockaway merchants take note), gives the consumer a fairer shake at the cash register. Fruits and veggies, price gouged by everyone who deals with fruits and veggies on the peninsula, are 25 percent to 50 percent cheaper in Brooklyn. The discrepancy in price is so dramatic that by buying fruits and veggies in Brooklyn you can pay for the toll both ways, pay for gas (at least 15 cents cheaper per gallon), eat Sushi and come out with money in your pocket. This puts a literal slant on that old sign outside the roadside restaurant, "Eat here, get gas." A case in point with regard to sushi is there are rolls that are $4.00 more per roll in Rockaway than in Brooklyn; and, that's no fish story. The only way Rockaway sushi prices will come down is, like Brooklyn, with competition. If not, prices are up to stay.

Always an advocate of shopping locally, thus supporting our local merchants, I have become a staunch advocate of saving money (Don't call me cheap!). Always a supporter of free enterprise, I am now an advocate of protective consumerism. That is, getting the best bang for my buck. Never a physicist but always a realist, I feel I have disproved the principle that what goes up must come down because under " certain circumstances, what goes up stays there. No doubt, it's the gravity of the situation.

JOAN METTLER

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