ECONOMY

Canteens bend rules on price-regulated goods

Here’s another reason why so many Greeks strive to get elected to Parliament at every general election: Prices at the House’s cafeteria are extremely low, with a Greek coffee in a plastic cup setting deputies back no more than 15 euro cents, according to the price list issued in August. Sadly, other Greeks along with visitors to this country are not so lucky.

Complaints continue to come in concerning unjustifiably high prices at cafes and restaurants in places popular with tourists such as museums, airports and so on that mar the image of a hospitable and quality destination that Greece is desperate to project abroad.

The Development Ministry has issued a list of set-price commodities for cafes and snack bars in locations such as hospitals, passenger ferries, airports, trains and train stations, archaeological sites, universities, courts etc, where market rules needn’t apply as the operators of such catering establishments rarely face any competition.

The regulated prices this year are as follows: 35 euro cents for a 500 ml bottle of water, 50 cents for a 750 ml bottle of water, 1.35 euros for a ham and cheese sandwich (toasted or not), 1.15 euros for a cheese sandwich (toasted or not), 1.20 euros for a Greek or French coffee, 1.35 euros for an espresso, 1.20 euros for an instant coffee, and 1.20 euros for tea. There is a separate list for school canteens.

Nevertheless consumer associations complain that some cafes and snack bars hide the list of set-price goods that is supposed to be on public display. Worse, some managers of such establishments also tend to avoid selling these fixed-price items, offering instead similar products whose prices are not regulated – such as offering a filling of turkey and cheese in a toasted sandwich instead of ham and cheese.

The price list is usually revised by the ministry annually, and has in fact been increasingly adhered to by canteens and cafeterias in most cases. Monitoring authorities appear to have increased their inspections, especially in spots of tourism interest, although other locations still leave much to be desired.

Reader Stathis Divaris has informed Kathimerini English Edition that a single-serve freddo cappuccino set him back 4.90 euros this summer at the snack bar in Cephalonia Airport, near Argostoli, “which is even higher than at the most expensive cafeteria of Athens.”

Indeed, the impression a traveler receives at his or her departure airport can be a lasting one and these places ought to be carefully monitored for such practices. “Such prices at airports with international flights attribute a very negative image to Greece,” the reader told Kathimerini. Similar cases have been reported at the airports of Ioannina, Corfu and Kos, among others.

Caterers at theaters, cinemas and sports grounds also have to abide by the same list of price regulations, but they too tend to raise the prices of non-regulated items to offset what they see as lost revenues from those with set prices.

The Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Consumers accepts complaints on its hotline number 1520 and its website www.efpolis.gr, although the latter unfortunately is only in Greek. “All regulated goods have to be available for sale at all times. Any excuse on the part of the seller for their non-availability is illegal and would be liable to a penalty,” says the secretariat.

All this is of course a far cry from the prices that MPs pay at the cafeteria in Parliament. It’s a shame visitors to the Greek capital are not able to enjoy such a refreshing privilege too.