Members of the Supermarkets Association of Trinidad and Tobago have suggested the only way they can erase the public's perception that they are a bunch of greedy merchants, interested solely in profit, is to keep the public well informed about the issues they face.
Many of them lamented that since the announcement of the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from food items, their buyers immediately expected a 15 per cent drop in their grocery bill.
They also said when a supplier raises their price, the increased cost had to be passed on to the consumer but because they (consumers) were not privy to such information they usually blamed the supermarkets.
"I tired get cuss, as we get the brunt of irate customers who face the prices charged by the grocery," said Feeroz Khan, the Association's public relations officer.
The Association held a very spirited meeting at the China Palace Restaurant at Ellersie Plaza, Maraval, on Thursday night, when they discussed the removal of VAT on a list of still-to-be-decided food items.
Trade and Industry Minister Vasant Bharath was supposed to address the group, but was said to be locked in a high-level Cabinet meeting at that time.
Bharath sent Nyron Mohammed, head of the Policy Unit in the Trade Ministry, who explained that the 15 per cent decrease in prices now being expected by consumers was not going to happen immediately.
He said "at this time" the Ministry is working "feverishly" on deciding which goods are to be added to the list of non-VAT items and those which remain taxed.
Mohammed said the consensus within the Ministry was that alcohol and candy were items where VAT remains.
He also said there was a lot of confusion over which goods could be considered luxury items, after which the several supermarket owners spent almost five minutes attempting to determine whether ice-cream could be considered a luxury item.
The general consensus was that it was.
Khan explained to Mohammed, as well as his fellow members, that they were faced with a public that immediately expected a "15 per cent drop in price", but when the supplier gets a high price for a basic item, such as rice, the consumer would find himself paying only slightly less, and then gets angry at the supermarkets.
Khan along with Supermarkets Association vice-president Dr Yunis Ibrahim said these issues need to be aired in the public forum so that consumers would understand why things were the way they were.