Dear A.M. Costa Rica;
The piece on supermarkets was interesting. There are some other matters we should be concerned about.
Experience from investigating supermarkets in other countries showed that managers and staff are often penalized for stock losses or alternatively incentivized on net margins. This leads to problems for the customer.
Stock losses originate from: thefts, internal and external; spoilage, especially in produce such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables; damaged products and from marked down stock.
An illegal but widespread way of rectifying this problem is for the store manager to have the staff add more to the price at the tills. As till staff are often penalized for shortages on their till, they might also seek to do this on their own account or just to take home any surplus.
Obviously, a way of minimizing the spoilage on produce and other products is to sell it when it is already deteriorating. Maybe that is why in a country with wonderful fresh produce the supermarkets are selling deteriorating products. Selling goods beyond sell-by dates is another common trick.
Now ask yourself about your experience in Costa Rica. Widespread, illegibly faded print on the till receipts is a warning that all is not right. We see this all the time. The number of times you spot an item rung up incorrectly can be worrying, especially as it usually is in the supermarket’s favor. When checking sell-by dates, are they easy to read and how often are they out of date?
The answer of course is consumer protection legislation. This is of no use without proper enforcement. We cannot therefore expect any changes in Costa Rica any time soon.