Grocery survey shows buyer better be alert in stores

The phrase ‘It pays to shop around” is a gross understatement if the data collected by the country’s consumer agency is taken into account.

The survey of basic foodstuffs and supplies uncovered differences in price up to 258 percent between stores. The agency also said that there did not seem to be any geographically based variables.

At Maxi Bodega in both Liberia and Desamparados the surveyors found a 250-gram package of whole wheat spaghetti priced at 200 colons or about 40 cents. A similar brand of the same quantity was 715 colons at Súper Corona in Pérez Zeledón. That’s $1.44 at the current rate of exchange.

Even something as basic as a kilo of first quality potatoes varied from 670 colons at Diboyco in Turrialba to 1,953 colons at Más x Menos in Alajuela. That is from $1.36 to $2.60, a difference of 191.49 percent, said the survey report.

Identical articles, such as toilet paper and spaghetti, varied as much as 73 percent between stores, and even papaya varied by as much as 203 percent, the survey showed. There

were variances among the stores of the same chains, too, said the report.

White sandwich bread was 746 colons ($1.51) in Más x Menos in Hatillo, but in Súper Plaza Liberia the same product under a different brand was 1,850 colons ($3.73).

The surveyors compiled a basic basket of 38 typical products and found that the price varied from 70,002 colons ($141.53) to 86,855 colons ($175.64) depending on the location and the brand. That is a difference of $34.11.

The price study took place from Feb. 7 to 16. The Ministerio de Economía, Industry y Comercio conducts a series of studies each year and also looks for technical errors such as failure to provide labels in Spanish.

In this study the ministry said that 59 pricing errors were found, including 22 cases of overpriced rice, a Costa Rican staple. Costa Rica also is subject to a price established by the state, so the locations where the prices were higher are facing sanctions.

The ministry said that its Commission Nacional de Consumador has received 31 formal complaints as a result of the study. Fines can be as high as 220,000 colons or about $445.

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