Pernicious pricing policies

Just what is it with this country that our prices on some things are so high?

Regular readers will know that I have referred to this once or twice in the past and what got me going this time, was the visit of an old friend, my oldest in fact, from Canada. He has made a life for himself and his family on Vancouver Island for the last decade and a half.

Our conversations wandered here, there and everywhere, over the course of four or five days, and I couldn’t help building up a picture of his life over there with the significant other, the mother, and three active teenagers sharing a house. Like most other people in cold climates, they spend quite a lot of time indoors each year, and they rely partly on electronics to keep them amused.

Their leisure time is preoccupied with six television sets and four computers, all of which are fed by a fat cable which comes into the house, and provides umpteen TV channels and more Internet bandwidth than you could shake a stick at. My friend, in fact, doesn’t know a how much bandwidth they all use, and he doesn’t care.

Their cable TV and Internet package sets him back CA $130 a month, about R910. When you add to that the fact that local landline calls are totally free, and they can phone South Africa at 6-8 Canadian cents a minute, it is clear that this bandwidth-intensive family is paying less than it costs me, alone, for my television, telephone, and meagre bandwidth allowance.

The college-going teenager has a part-time job, and an Apple iPhone, which he quite easily pays for himself. My friend has a Blackberry with unlimited e-mail, 200 minutes of talk time during business hours, free calls in the evenings and at the weekends, and all for CA $60, R420, a month.

Most readers by now will be nodding their heads and agreeing what swine our service providers are. From experience, however, I know that there will be a percentage of you who are thinking something along the lines of: “Whining again! Doesn’t he know that they have a bigger market than we do?”

Well, it turns out Canada has a population of 33 million people and, although we don’t know exactly how many South Africans there are at this point, SA Statistics’ best guess is that we are currently nearly 50 million.

So the naysayers can stick that in their pipes and smoke it! It’s not a small market we’ve got, so much as one that accepts whatever is dished out to it, and a government that is no help at all.

My friend mentioned that the significant other had just taken delivery of a Mazda 3 motor vehicle and I wondered how our prices would compare with their Canadian ones. A quick look online (and you were wondering where the online bit would come in this week) revealed that a Mazda 3 2.0L. was being offered by a South African dealer at R242,300.

In stark contrast, on Vancouver Island, Pacific Mazda at 1060 Yates Street in Victoria, was offering the same vehicle at $15,995 Canadian dollars, or about R113,000. And if you really want to feel miserable, just take a look at their listing of used cars. How about a black Subaru Impreza 2008 model for CA $16,990, or about R120,000?

To sign out this week, I’ll just repeat my opening question: ‘Just what is it with this country?’

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