The sale season is upon us. We are bombarded with persistent, fancy exhortations to splurge at the shops in the city square and other sectors.
A pretty good deal, one would presume, but a ‘sharp’ business practice could sour the mood. For the past three seasons at least, traders and shopkeepers, have been inserting a fine print in their advertisements that say VAT extra. The Value Added Tax, for the uninitiated, is an indirect tax on sales levied at each successive stage of value-added till the service or the product reaches the endconsumer.
VAT is supposed to part of the MRP. It happens to be a ‘brilliantly’ devilish idea on shopkeepers’ part to assume that just because he is compelled to dispose of stock twice a year, he can get away with claiming a sale of 40% when the actual discount will be much less. A Rs 2,000 trouser at 40% off should be sold for Rs 1,200. But, under the new ‘sale’, you pay Rs 1,200 and an additional VAT% on either Rs 2,000 or Rs 1,200, depending on the trader’s mood. For most items, this is supposed to be 5%, but stretches up to 12.5%.
The practice is misleading, but companies and brands claim that as the final price is within the MRP, there is no illegality. However, in January this year, the local authorities did penalise a shop in Jammu for precisely this practice.
The VAT extra joke, I believe, has been a brazen step taken knowingly in the hope that the tricity’s gentry would fall for it and they were not wrong.
This is even as most shops agree to drop the levy on the faintest of protests. In my shopping sprees, a hint at the media connection has ensured that the VAT extra condition is consigned to the dustbin. You can try this too and be surprised by saving a few bucks.
HOW DOES THE TRICITY SHOP?
Continuing on the topic, I have divided tricity shoppers into three categories on two parameters: the time taken at the shop before a deal and the quality of interaction with the shopkeeper.
The angry young man: Snappy, he wants the shopkeeper to be fast, witty and supply him with his demands in a jiffy. Usually, his temper ensures that he cannot come out of the shop before spending a good hour snapping and arguing with the staff. Even without wanting to, he buys a lot of unnecessary stuff and is a delight for the shop owner.
The hurried cash-burner: Spends very little time at the shop and has a lot of cash to burn. He can be easily won over with the minimum of attention to his ego and voila, the shopkeeper can pass off a lot of the unsalable stuff, at a premium.
The adolescent (age immaterial): With little practice and no inclination to shop, their mood dictates the outcome of the transaction, even when the bill is in thousands. Can sometimes weigh all alternatives and be difficult for the shopkeeper. His confusion and indecisiveness seems to have allowed traders to see if they can get away with the VAT extra charade. A lot of the new young generation seems to belong here.