The Rs. 50 Rip-Off

Popcorn – Rs. 50. Vegetable sandwich – Rs. 50. A small paper cup of cola – Rs. 50. A small paper cup of mineral water – Rs. 50!
And that’s when I balked. We are so used to getting ripped off in cinema houses, theaters and concerts as far as food and beverages are concerned that most of us have stopped reacting to markups, even when exorbitant. We no longer bat an eyelid when the instant coffee machine cup that costs Rs. 10 outside the airport is sold to us for Rs. 25 or 30 inside the airport, or when the same cola is sold to us from a soda-fountain at twice the price of a bottle bought from a retail shop.
But Rs. 50 for a paper cup of water?
My son and I were at the Bryan Adams concert at the MMRDA grounds in Bandra-Kurla, last Saturday. No bottle of any kind was allowed inside. We reached just after 7.00 PM and assuming that the show would start by 7.30 PM and get over by 9.00 PM or so, we thought we could manage without having to buy any food or drink within the grounds.
Unfortunately, by the time Mr. Shiamak Daver finished his renditions of a few popular rock numbers during a session whose high point came when the female dancers removed their shirts to reveal shiny red brassiere tops, it was already past 7.00pm. And by the time Bryan Adams got on stage it was past 8.00PM and my son was unable to hold back his thirst and hunger.
After buying some popcorn and a sandwich for Rs. 50 each, we decided to get some water to drink. The only water available was at a counter where small paper cups were being filled from large bottles of mineral water. And each paper cup was priced at Rs. 50.
The law of the land apparently does not allow any consumable retail item to be sold for more than the MRP listed on the item. But then in our country, when did that stop anyone!
Event organizers and stall-owners often complain that there are costs involved in providing snacks, water and other liquids, which force them to charge additional amounts, over and above the MRP. Perhaps! And perhaps a 10-20% markup might just about be acceptable.
But what were the organizers thinking in this case? The paper cup of water that I bought must have held about 200 ml of water at best. A one-liter bottle of water costs around Rs. 10-15, depending on the brand. A 200 ml cup should cost at the most Rs. 3-4. A 1200% markup? This was absolutely preposterous!
I was all ready to create a scene. But my 11-years old son was with me and both my kids now get embarrassed whenever I kick up a fuss in public. Moreover we had come to have fun and to rock with Mr. Adams and I didn’t really want to spoil the mood. Eventually, we picked up one cup and shared it between us, drinking up all that precious, expensive water without wasting a single drop and then settled down for the concert to start. It was good training for the times in the future when we won’t have cheap water to drink and will need to save every last drop all the time.
I wonder if the organizers were trying to make up for less-than-usual ticket sales, but I wouldn’t know. Or maybe they just needed some extra cash.
The concert was fun. The price gouging was not!

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