On the radio, I hear advertisements, urging the consumer to wake up and realise that the Maximum Retail Price is printed on all kinds of products. Consumers are duped by dishonest shopkeepers simply because they do not know that they should look at the MRP.
I sometimes feel bad when I listen to these ads. I agree with the motive behind it, yes, but I feel bad because it was a shopkeeper who taught me to look at the MRP.
As a child in Bangalore, I often went with my sister across the road to a shop to buy all the little things children always need – pencils, crayons, gum . . .
The shopkeeper knew us, and always greeted us with a genuine smile, which we loved.
One day, when we went to buy some stuff, my father gave us a hundred rupee note, which, like all little children, we carried for the whole world to see.
“How much?” we asked the shopkeeper-uncle.
He saw the note. “Hundred rupees.”
Gullible and trusting, we gave him our note, ready to walk away.
I remember him laughing and stopping us. “If you don’t know how much something costs, you should look at it. It’s printed here, look.”
I think it was a box of crayons that cost ten rupees. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I remember how shocked I was at how easily we’d paid a hundred for something that cost so little. “What does this mean? ‘Inclusive of all taxes’?”
“It means that the shopkeeper is not allowed to charge you more than that for anything.”
“And if he does?”
“You should tell your parents.”
We gratefully took our money back. It’s a lesson I can still see in my head – dark shop, friendly shopkeeper-uncle, everything.