Appliance stores test the capabilities of shoppers

The jungle has nothing on appliance stores. It’s a jungle there, too, according to the most recent survey by the economics ministry.

Surveyors looked at refrigerators and found vast price differences. But they also found that buying a major appliance like that on time would triple the price. The survey was done by the consumer division of the Ministerio de Economia, Industria y Comercia.

The survey is relevant to expats who frequently move here with few goods and have to buy major appliances.

The surveyors found a 36 percent difference in the price of a 25-cubic-foot Whirlpool. The refrigerator sold for 999,995 colons in Pricemart, Tres Ríos. That’s about $2,028. Agencia Carlos Jiménez in Alajuela, priced the same refrigerator at 1,360,000 colons, about $2,769.

A  more modest Atlas 12-cubic-foot model sold for 270,964 colons or about $550 at Arelec in Alajuela while the same machine was priced 27 percent higher at the same Agencia Carlos Jiménez store at 343,800 or about $697.

A 14-cubic-foot Frigidaire model sold for 349,900 colons, about $710, in Play at Paseo de Las Flores, Heredia. At Cemaco in Zapote, the same refrigerator was 434,861 colons or $882, the survey results said, adding that the difference was 24 percent.

In fact, the same Play store was lowest for two other models, and Cemaco was highest for the same two.

The differences in price were much greater for refrigerators with different brand names but with the same internal volume, said the survey.

A 26-cubic-foot Mabe refrigerator at La Curacao in Alajuea sold for 553,300 colons or about $1,122. A Samsung refrigerator of the same size was 1,449,990 colons or about $2,941, a difference computed by the ministry workers to be 162 percent. Other differences ranged from 71 to 127 percent for similar models.

The price at Cemaco was 137 percent higher for a 21-cubic-foot machine when compared to the price at the Play store. But Play was 126 percent higher than Artelec for an 18-cubic-foot model, the survey said.
The percentage of differences in the price seemed to decrease as the size of the refrigerator decreased, according to the survey.

The interest rates on time purchases showed less difference, with most stores seeking abut 25 percent of the price as a down payment with interest rates ranging from 42 to 58 percent for terms of 36 to 48 months. Even with 20 percent down consumers would end up paying from 618,266 colons (about $1,254) to 780,593 colons (about $1,583)  in interest and remaining principal on refrigerators of from 325,000 to 356,400 colons (about $660 to $723) over the life of the loan, the survey said. The survey results are online at the ministry Web site.

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