Before you rush out to your nearest department store to get mom that fancy espresso machine she’s been eyeing, do a little research. Your pocketbook will thank you.
The price of a Mother’s Day gift can vary as much as 71 percent depending on where it’s bought, according to a study by Costa Rica’s Economy Ministry (MEIC). Inspectors from MEIC’s Consumer Protection Office visited 192 businesses in the provinces of Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago and San José from July 28 to 31 and compiled prices of various gift options, including clothes, shoes, jewellery, home appliances, electronic devices and others.
Among items surveyed, MEIC inspectors evaluated prices of 204 models of nine appliances. In some cases the price of identical items — same product, same brand — varied hugely from store to store. For example, the price of a Proctor Silex coffeemaker ranged from ₡20.900 to ₡32.900 ($38.70 to $61) — a 71 percent difference.
Inspectors also compared similar products but different brands and found that price differences were even bigger. For example, inspectors surveyed the price of flat irons and found prices ranging from ₡4.624 ($9) for a Sankey model to ₡51.103 ($95) for a Remington — a 1,005 percent difference.
Economy Vice Minister Geannina Dinarte Romero said the study’s findings confirm the importance for consumers to visit various businesses and compare prices and deals, especially around holidays like Mother’s Day.
“Differences are so huge that we call on consumers to really take them into consideration in order to make an informed purchase decision,” she said.
MEIC’s study also included an analysis of information displayed at stores and deals advertised in print media. Inspectors looked at the accuracy and clarity of information on price tags and on store signs or banners, including before- and after-discount prices, warranty conditions, special offer restrictions and the exchange rate in prices displayed in dollars.
The results showed that 81 percent of businesses (156 of those surveyed) complied with Costa Rican laws regarding truth in advertising, an improvement over the previous year when a similar study found 72 percent compliance.
A total of 25 businesses were asked to immediately correct detected errors, while 11 of them were given a written warning that grants them 10 days to comply with the law. Stores that fail to comply can be slapped with monetary fines ranging from ₡2.5 million to ₡10.2 million ($4,680 to $18,773).
MEIC conducts price comparisons prior to holidays that boost sales, such as Christmas, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. The full report can be downloaded (Spanish only) on the ministry’s website.