The prices we deserve

When Calvin Klein was young, his father had a grocery store in Harlem. There the designer learned his first lesson in marketing. «I would see grapefruits in the fruit-and-vegetable department, and some of them were 29 cents a pound and others were 49 cents,» he recalls in a recent issue of Vanity Fair. «What’s the difference between the two?» he asked his father. «Some people like to pay 29 cents and some like to pay 49 cents,» his father replied. Leo Klein satisfied the broadest possible clientele by offering the same goods at different prices. In Greece, it seems that bitter experience of endemic poverty and the proverbial cunning of our merchants have made everyone wary of cheap goods. «Cheap meat goes to the dogs,» old-timers would say. Only the desperate would buy cheap things, knowing they were being cheated by buying overpriced rubbish. When the Greeks finally got some money they went after «good things» with a vengeance. And the «good» was also expensive, be it food, clothing, cars, houses or loans. Traditional generosity and the memory of hunger resulted in Greeks being amazed at citizens of richer countries buying a slice of cheese rather than a whole pound, or asking for just a watermelon slice. Merchants – from multinationals to neighborhood grocers – invested in this largess. We reached the point where multinationals closed their factories here and then sold us their goods at higher prices than they do elsewhere. And we, with lower salaries than other Europeans, bought everything, without a second thought. But today our appetite and reality clash: We cannot have what we want nor can we pay the prices they ask. It’s time for everyone, especially consumers, to act. When we show just how much we are prepared to pay, when we demand quality at lower prices, then we will have the products and services we deserve.