Holiday toy and food prices found to be very flexible

Another survey by the economics ministry shows vast differences in the price of toys and also differences in the price of food products that go into the traditional Christmas tamal.

The toy survey took place at the beginning of November at 33 stores all over the country.

The ministry inspectors found toys that were similar differing in price up to 10 times. Identical toys also had variable prices. Some 583 toys were involved in the survey.

Inspectors found that in one store Mattel’s traditional Barbie sold for 3,995 colons or about $8. At another store the price was 6,350 colons or about 59 percent higher, the ministry said.

The ministry also said that price tags on 425 food products were defective. In some cases there was no information in Spanish. Others did not list the name and phone number of the distributor and others failed to show the country of origin, said the ministry. Only five stores had price tags that complied with the law, the ministry said.

The percentage of labels and price tags that were defective were some 81 percent of those studied, said the ministry.

The price difference in identical products ranged up to 9,115 colons or about $18.25.

The tamal survey involved 78 stores and took place between Nov. 17 and 23. Inspectors found a 263 percent increase in sweet peppers and 195 percent difference in top-grade potatoes.

Even banana leaves, the traditional wrapping of the Christmas tamales, showed differences of 125 per cent, according to the survey.

The ministry said that the locations with the best prices were the municipal markets in Grecia, Alajuela and Mercado Central in San José.

Some food products have prices fixed by the government.

Inspectors found five establishments, ranging from supermarkets to corner pulperias selling products higher than the established price. They also found stores where the shelf price was less than the price charged at checkout.

Stores found in violation of the law will have to answer to the Comisión Nacional de Consumidor, said the ministry.

The ministry has the full report of prices and products on its Web site.

The ministry conducts price surveys before various holidays. For example, prices of home appliances are checked before mother’s day. Some stores use loss leaders, products prices attractively to lure shoppers. These promotional prices sometimes can distort the ministry’s survey.

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