OPINION

Profiteering mars sporting celebration

On Wednesday morning, ahead of the Champions League soccer final in Athens, the center of the capital was a sea of Liverpool fans in red and white. Bottles of water and beer were disappearing from the fridges of street kiosks. On Athinas Street, a kiosk owner was stunned when managers of other kiosks in the area approached him and demanded why he had not raised his prices, as they had. «The bottle of water should be 2 euros, the soft drink 3 euros, the can of beer 5 euros,» they told him, totally disregarding the price ceiling for such products (50 cents for a small bottle of water, 1 euro for a can of beer, etc.) The besieged kiosk owner is indignant – 5 euros for a can of beer! He knows that the robbery in broad daylight began the day before when an enterprising firm started offering a «deal» (cap, beer and cup) for 4 euros; the craftiest of the kiosk owners saw the opportunity to hike their beer prices up to 4 euros and then «rounded off» the price to 5 euros. The super-keen Britons were snapping up 24-packs (bargain size) for 100 or even 120 euros, instead of 24 euros. Maybe some of them even realized how severely they were being exploited. During television coverage, reporters insisted that crooks – such as the taxi driver who punched a British man and drove off with his luggage (including match tickets) – are a minority. One would hope that this is the case, but the experience of everyday citizens would suggest otherwise. It appears, actually, that given the chance, most people will grab the opportunity to make an easy profit at someone else’s expense. Think about the kiosk owner who sold you aspirin for 4 euros, or the cafe owner who suddenly raised his prices when the tourists came to town. What about the canteen manager at school who never gives your kids their change? Then there is the taxi driver who overcharges 2 euros here and 3 euros there during his evening runs. We are all victims to these crooks, not just the tourists. And what is to blame? First of all our social outlook, which is tragically backward. Secondly, our unbelievable egotism: There is no other race, we think, that is smarter than we are. In this overcrowded city, where we jump queues and park on pedestrian crossings, where we all tread on each other to get things done and to get ahead, there is only our cunning little selves. Also to blame is a total lack of self-respect and self-discipline – we only have a conscience when it comes to our own rights, our own freedom. There is also a total lack of fear about the consequences of legal transgressions. But then again why should the kiosk owner worry about selling his beers for 5 euros apiece? Is there any system of cracking down on profiteering that will punish him? The consumer too is to blame – for getting angry but not reporting such crimes.