Since 1902

In defence of Nakumatt's pricing goof

The social media has been abuzz over concerns relating to price discrepancies in leading local supermarkets.

In their usual ebullience, many subscribers have shared their experiences and complaints with much gusto.

Without doubt, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Local retailers may not escape the wrath of the customers who may have suffered a plethora of customer service related problems. However, that’s not to say that the retailers are deliberately out to fleece customers.

I am increasingly getting concerned that we are fast emerging as the most quarrelsome country in the world. Many a simple matters bordering on personal preferences’ are now ending up on the social media trend lines for the flimsiest reason.

Take the example of the #NakumattonTrial case. Had we really exhausted normal avenues of finding out how price changes are effected at the shop floor before turning to the social media platforms to vent and seek solace?

I am a regular shopper in many supermarkets, corner shops and even a loyal customer in a couple of pubs. In all these establishments, I respect the fact that the final price is what I pay at the till or counter if you may. My solace in accepting this home truth is the fact that such a price paid at the till is also the final consideration remitted to the tax man.

From where I sit, I am still struggling to appreciate how price discrepancies’ arising from the mistake of a few careless Nakumatt workers could turn out to be a topic of discussion in a country struggling to maintain its single cancer treatment machine. Honestly, I think we have bigger problems to face, perhaps debate and engage about in our beloved motherland.

Turning ourselves into cyber mob justice hounds cannot be justified. Even worse, the response by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) leaves a lot to be desired.

That said, I did take some time to understand how price changes at Nakumatt among many other supermarket chains are done. It came as a shocker for me to find out that supermarkets this season are conducting almost 3,000 price changes a week. That means more than 200 stickers are printed almost every other morning and dispatched to the shop floor to replace outdated copies.

Why 3,000 price changes?

Largely because most of the items on offer are imported and the respective suppliers are facing dollar losses as the shilling continues to lose its ground against the dollar. Oil prices may have come down at some point but on the other hand the dollar is now tottering on the Sh96/97range which presents some complication for many importers.

Even in the most efficient system, this manual change of stickers is bound to go wrong at one point or the other. Even worse, confusion may creep in with the right sticker finding its way on the wrong shelf. Trust me, if passenger luggage in the most efficient airports gets misplaced, chances of misplacing and sticking wrong stickers at Nakumatt are not remote.

In the case of the Mala milk at Nakumatt, I was also able to find out that the price change for the product had been effected way back in March. However, it seems the correct sticker for that one product otherwise referred to as a store keeping unit in the retailers’ parlance had been stuck and seemingly fell off leaving the older value. That’s not to mean that Nakumatt had set off to fleece you of your hard earned three to five shillings.

I may not be considered too wise, but I am willing to bet that cyber bullying will not deliver us manna from heaven.

No it won’t, logical consumer engagement will.