Thursday, March 03, 2011

Sticker shock

We stock up on bread Saturday night so we're not caught short on Sunday, when, for religious reasons, we don't shop. The cashiers at the bakery know us pretty well (and sometimes even help us with our grammar!). So when we ordered 5 loaves, the cashier on duty stopped before she got them for us.

"The price went up you know."

In the US, regulation of prices, where it happens (milk, for example), is largely hidden from the consumer. But in much of the world, especially in former Soviet-sphere countries, that regulation is overt. Bread, since it is a staple, is one of the most commonly-regulated consumer items.

When we lived here before, every bakery charged 50 Bosnian cents for a loaf of bread (at the time, about 25 US cents). Four months ago, most bakeries charged 70 Bosnian cents (about 50 US cents). Now the price has gone up, literally overnight and across the board, to 1 Bosnian mark (about 70 US cents) for a loaf of bread.

It's still a great deal for fresh-baked bread (and walking out of the snow into the moist, delicious air of a bakery is nearly worth the cost by itself, to say nothing of the grammar help). But even for us, it has been a startling jump: a 43% price increase. And you can't shop around for a better deal since it's a price set for all the bakeries by the government.

I think I'll mull over the implications while I eat some bread and jam.


Laura said...

How interesting! It's a totally different mindset. It seems like it would be hard as a shopkeeper to find a balance between making a good product and getting the biggest profit you can - do you skimp on this ingredient or that? Or will it affect taste too much? I guess you'd have to do that here, too, but with much more wiggle room.

Annette said...

Laura--I hadn't thought about it from the producer's point of view, only from the consumer's (mine!). How interesting to think about that.