During my recent visited St. Croix, I enjoyed the beautiful sight of the beaches, the sweet smell to the tan-tan bush, the fresh taste to Sister Tittle johnnycakes, and the gentle touch to the sea breeze. In fact, it was a pleasure to enjoy the things the makes St. Croix "Our Island, Our Home." In addition, however, I experienced the growing issues which Crucian consumers face everyday: the lack of consumer power to high prices and poor customer services.
High price issues: On one of my experiences, my mom and I visited a popular supermarket to purchase some quick groceries. Upon cashing, it totaled $30.40. I stood speechless for few minute analyzing her groceries (two boxes of corn flakes, two boxes of Triscuits, a pack of pretzels, two cans of milk and gallon of orange juice) as compared to the price. This was unbelievable. I questioned the cashier, hoping it was an error, and she sadly responded, "This is St. Croix price." Curiously, I priced the same items in Atlanta, and the total ranged from $9 to $12. Can one explain the big difference in price?
The customer no-service issues: On the very same day, I accompanied my mother to the Chevrolet dealer to address a defective tire issue. The dealer directed us to the Goodyear tire dealer, saying that, "GM has no warranty on tires. It is Goodyear who has the warranty." Okay, fine. We drove to the Goodyear dealer, where we were told, "It no us. The GM dealer has the warranty." They are playing the "round and around" games. Can one explain such irresponsibility?
My analysis: Seeking an answer to the reason for these high prices, I heard the many stories which are typically given to Crucians: transportation costs and government taxes.
Let us assume the transportation cost to St. Croix is high. One can quickly make the argument wondering why prices in Puerto Rico are much, much lower, but let us analyze this issue from a management science point of view. It is the business's responsibility to put in place the processes and technologies to ensure a satisfied customer. Many mainland businesses such as Wal-mart and Home Depot are doing just that. They uses technologies such as strategic distribution point, end-sale inventory, self-checkout system, competitive bidding, concurrent engineering, and economies of scale. By implementing these processes, businesses effectively reduce their expenses and thereby pass the savings to their customers.
As it stands, the transportation excuse is an extremely poor one, and it just "don't hold water." Here is my reasoning. Many private individuals travel to the mainland to purchase goods and use the very same transport medium, and as a result, their savings are exceptional. The bottom line is businesses must re-evaluate their operation processes and cut off all unnecessary areas, and then pass the savings to the consumer. Do it. Also, merchants have years of data which can be used to determine who buys, when they buys, and what they buys. Use it. They can use the data to develop statistical analyses and trends in their businesses to make better buying decisions. This in effect will cut costs and increase savings. Pass the saving to Crucians.
As for the customer no-service, Crucians, it is just simple: Cut them out, buy from their competitors, and return the buying power to you, the customer.
Some businesses, especially the supermarkets, have taken away your power of demanding the goods and services that you want. Instead, they give whatever they want, whenever they want, and at the price they want. Their extremely high profit margins choke the quality of life on St. Croix. This is bad for our island.
My solution: For the past five years, FedEx and UPS services have rapidly been increasing because of e-commerce. By ordering your items online, you can buy at stateside prices with minimum transportation costs. On some items, such as books and electronics, you can buy it online at half the stateside retail price. If you use e-commerce as your alternative shopping, you will return the buying power to you, and only then will businesses reduce their sky-high prices. Buy online and return the power to you.
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to [email protected].