It always amazes me how erratic, variable and unstable the prices of some groceries are at supermarkets and stores within walking distance of each other in Metro-Manila. I realize in a free market, there are absolutely no price controls; however, in a competitive market, prices should naturally reach a justifiable/equilibrium level where supply and demand intersect. In the latter example, intelligent, rational and informed consumers are the “police” of the system. And only if the buying public acts on price distortions will retailers be more careful about how they price their goods, and in some cases, practically fool the consuming public. Take red seedless crimson grapes, for example. Not exactly a day to day commodity, but something that many readers might at one time or another have purchased or consumed. I suspect it is just about after the peak of the table grape harvest in California, and a bijillion kilos of grapes are making their way to markets all over Asia, including the Philippines. I have taken to making grape shakes at home once a day or so. They are a part of my self-designed diet, and with 15-20 grapes per shake they make a refreshing, naturally sweet drink that costs less than a can of Diet Coke…
Surprisingly, grape prices in Manila are wildly variable, and if you don’t constantly frequent several groceries in Manila, you might not have noticed it. So here is my little post on “grape arbitrage” and I do wish there was a blog out there that only posted comparative prices of various groceries from stores around Manila. Last weekend, at the FTI Taguig market, one of my fruit sukis offered me red seedless Crimson grapes at PHP180 a kilo. After a bit of posturing, they brought the price down to PHP170, but I didn’t bite. Why? I had just seen the grapes on a special offer at SM grocery Makati at PHP118, a real steal, considering the same grapes in a California grocery are currently priced at $0.99 a pound or roughly PHP93 a kilo. That means that even with freight imputed, the grapes were well-priced. Imagine if ripe Cebu mangoes (currently roughly PHP90 a kilo in Manila, were exported to California? I sincerely doubt they would be at a Vans or Kroger’s for say PHP130 a kilo! Then today, I went back to SM and the prices had gone up, and the special was over, but the grapes were still a reasonable PHP154 a kilo. A little later, I happened to go to Rustan’s at Rockwell to pick up a beef mechado, with the lard inserted into the middle, and I spied aggressive signage around the crimson red seedless grapes and it very proudly screamed : “Buy One Take One, PHP399.95 per kilo!” In case you don’t have a calculator, that is PHP 199.97 a kilo, or 30% higher than SM, AND you have to buy 2 kilos to boot! And really now, are their grapes normally PHP399.95 per kilo, or did they just double the price for the promo. Egads, there should be laws against that type of pricing/promotion…
Frankly, I find it incredibly annoying.
Rustan’s : PHP199.97 a kilo (but you have to buy two kilos)
Market Suki : PHP170 a kilo
SM Grocery : PHP 154 a kilo
And don’t get me started on the fruit retailer at the basement of Rockwell, or the ones at Salcedo market, either of which might be charging up to PHP240+ per kilo for exactly the same grapes that probably were flown or shipped over in the exact same container. So buyers beware. Know your prices or get royally shafted. :(
Note: October 26 and I just checked prices again:
Rustan’s Rockwell PHP279.95 a kilo
Basement Fruit Vendor, Rockwell, PHP250.00
So there can be as much as an 80%! difference in price within just minutes of each store, all in upscale, mall settings. Outrageous!