Irish Examiner

Consumers pay hefty price for everything – Irish Examiner – 19th September

Jonathan deBurca Butler

In this busy fast-paced modern world we don’t always have the time to stop and think, never mind stop and look up a number. Though we have more access to the internet and therefore more access to information at the flick or an ape-like poke of a digit, busy people are still calling directory enquiries for that all important and immediately elusive phone number.

Undoubtedly, part of the genius of these companies is the catchy and usually awful jingle that rots itself into the consumer’s brain. If you need a number nifty, you can call eleven eight fifty or if you’re a fan of Pat Shortt you might dial ‘do-do-do-do-do one-eight-ninety’; sure a product that has a stupid jingle like that in it by your man from the tele isn’t going to charge you too much…or so the theory goes.

This week the Consumers Association published research on directory enquiries providers and found that getting connected to a line through such a service can cost up to €30 for a 10-minute call.

The group found that in some cases companies were charging three times more than  they were charging just four years ago and costumers were being charged up to €5.58 for a one-minute call.

As you might expect, reaction to the news online and in the media was one of muted outrage. Outrage because it’s patently far too expensive and muted…well…because we’ve been here so many times before that we’ve just come to expect it really.

Eurostat figures released in June this year showed that consumer prices in Ireland are 18% higher than the European Union average putting us in fifth place out of twenty-eight countries. Only Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and Finland are ahead of us but most of those countries offer free education and healthcare or at least a variation on it. Here we’ll charge you E100 for a visit to the hospital – even if it’s your five-month old baby (which happened me last week) or they’ll give you free university education but make you pay a – don’t make me laugh please – registration fee.

When it comes to cigarettes we are the most expensive E.U. nation by a country mile – or should that be kilometre seeing as it’s the E.U. – but perhaps that is no bad thing. But what about alcohol? On average, alcohol costs 78% more than in other E.U. Countries and it’s not like we don’t make any of it here. Of course most of that is tax and the government will argue that they are saving us from ourselves – probably over a couple of pints in the Dail bar.

There’s expensive booze and then there’s Temple Bar – a rumble if ever there was one.

Earlier this year, tweeter, Mike Hogan, posted a photo he had received in The Temple Bar at 12.08am on the 23rd July 2014. The time is significant because after eleven o’clock some bars in the so-called Cultural Quarter (hi) jack up their prices. For two pints of lager and two packets of crisps he was charged an alarming E19.90. The receipt had the audacity to boast that there is no cover charge for the live Irish music.

As any driver knows getting your car tanked up is also alarmingly expensive. In fact as of May this year, Ireland was the fourth most expensive country on the planet in which to fill a car. While it costs just under E140 to fill a Ford Transit with petrol in Denmark, the cost in Ireland is about E128. The cheapest country for petrol in the United Arab Emirates at E27 while in the United States you can do the same for E55.

And what about keeping the kids happy on those long journeys. What can they do as you speed up hills in fifth and shove the gear into neutral as you freewheel down to save petrol? Magazines of course. Think again. The most recent issue of Moshi Monsters, which is aimed at the age six-plus market, costs a fairly eye-popping E4.95. Yes this issue does come with a free hip-hop box but really. The colourful and rather thin looking Girl Talk comes in at E4.37. Might as well get the girls used to buying expensive mags while they’re young, eh? Because soon it will be Elle and Marie Claire with their advice on how to live bankrolled with a suspiciously large amount of advertising for beauty products. These products, with their ‘scientific research’ and their vapid models in their ‘I’m so wow’ adverts promise to make you look, smell and, most sinister of all, feel better but you’ll have to pay the price darling. Apart from having a longer name than some villages in Wales, Olay Regenerist Luminous Skin Tone Perfecting Day Cream for example will set you back E40. A smelly man can change his life and turn into a babe magnet with Jimmy Choo Man Eau de Toilette that will set him back a paltry E100 depending where you get it.

Yes everywhere you look people are ripping you off but what’s more alarming is that people go with it. Perhaps it’s time to talk to Joe. Better call elev…maybe not.

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