Remember, shoppers, it’s a jungle out there

The next two weeks are, without doubt, the market’s annual party, a time of increased consumption, both to meet real needs and, through giving presents, to express sociability, generosity or simply to fulfill conventional obligations. Whatever the case, the market’s ills are expressed in extreme form during the festive season, since on the one hand people buy more, and on the other are much more careless. Partly swept along by the festive atmosphere, partly due to the sheer volume of shopping, the consumer over the next fortnight resembles nothing so much as someone strolling through a minefield. That stroll – through the market – will take place, but it can be made with better results. Kathimerini spoke with two of the most important consumer organizations in the country who told us what people should watch out for. Perhaps the most evident, and the most important, problem is euro-driven inflation. But it’s also the most obvious. Price comparisons – and exercising the right not to buy anything exorbitantly costly – are known ways of tackling it. What should be done, however, about more difficult cases, when misleading advertising or the unsuitability of the product is hidden by the packaging? People have little information to guide them. Few, for example, know that irrespective of what firms say, guarantees for all products apply for a period of two years in all of Europe. But what protection is there when the government shrugs its shoulders helplessly in the face of the market, leaves consumers defenseless and does less to help than consumer organizations? The consumer’s best defense is to shun a spending flurry and exercise self-restraint when shopping. Overconsumption is a waste, squandering both individual and planetary resources.