Consumer still king but must spend wisely

Consumer still king but must spend wisely

It now costs $1 for a cup of kopi-o in this coffee shop I frequent. The operator attributes the 10-cent mark-up to factors ranging from the rising cost of sugar to higher manpower bills.

Since I retain the power to go elsewhere, I am not crying "Unfair!" Besides, I cannot resist the food sold by some of the stalls here.

While Singapore has been described as the world's most expensive city to live in by the Economist Intelligence Unit, my friends and I also believe that there are many costs - apart from fairly inflexible ones such as housing, medical and transport - that can be managed to some extent.

That is why we feel that the Consumers Association of Singapore - which has done good work in shaming errant travel agents and IT shops, among others - should not have bothered to survey coffee shops recently to find out what they were charging for beer, after the Government raised taxes.

Some kopitiam jacked up prices well beyond the amount resulting from the tax hike, and Case declared that profiteering.

It may have a case but unless the item in question is a controlled product or sold only by a certain number of retailers with no substitutes in sight, the issue of profiteering will be resolved by who blinks first - retailer or customer.

I will bet that most retailers hiking up prices too much will soon lose customers, and will have to do a swift U-turn. But if their customers are prepared to pay more, well, that is the free market at work, isn't it?

The point is that, amid rising prices and inflation, the consumer can be king too but everyone also has to manage his budget well and keep an eye out for affordable options and alternatives.

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