Argentinean Supermarkets Get Hip to Inflation with Digital Price Tags

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Jul 10, 2015, 11:30 am
Electronic labels are causing Argentinean consumers to worry about the possibility of hyperinflation.
Electronic labels are causing Argentinean consumers to worry about the possibility of hyperinflation. (@LaGuerrillaFood)

Español“I’m laughing to keep myself from crying,” a Walmart customer in Argentina told the PanAm Post. She was talking about the brand new digital price tags that large supermarkets in the South American country have begun using, making it easier for employees to mark up prices at a moment’s notice.

Both local and foreign-based chains, like Walmart, Coto, and Jumbo, have switched over to the new system, and far from being a passing fad, electronic price tags are here to stay.

Various customers told the PanAm Post that they believe it’s no coincidence the new system was put in place following eight years of high inflation in Argentina, where marking up prices has become routine. Most customers were similarly pessimistic about the economy’s future.

Current levels have placed Argentina behind only Venezuela as the country with the world’s highest inflation rate. Display racks in stores offering price-controlled products, or “Careful Prices,” are difficult to get, flirting between shortages and quotas.

Over the last month, the new digital labels have created a buzz on social media, where customers share pictures of a wide range of products, including soap, french fries, snack foods, coffee, towels, and milk.

The PanAm Post reached out to representatives of the Argentina-based Coto Supermarket, but they were unavailable for comment. A Walmart spokesman, however, said the labels were implemented “several months” ago and are currently installed only in select stores.
“No, there is no inflation… at Wal-Mart, they’re using digital price labels to change prices quickly.”

Bloomberg predicts Argentina will face an inflation rate of 22 percent in 2015. This means the country will remain among the list of nations with double-digit inflation: Venezuela (72.3 percent), Ukraine (17.5 percent), Ghana (13.2 percent), Russia (13 percent), and Egypt (10.6 percent).

Argentinean shopper Gabriel Drach says he has no doubt the digital price tags are a way for stores that must constantly update their prices to save time and money. “This is very useful in inflationary countries,” he says.

According to the Argentinean IPC Congress Index, inflation in May reached 2.02 percent.
According to the Argentinean IPC Congress Index, inflation in May reached 2.02 percent. (@LaGuerrillaFood)

Another frequent supermarket customer, Sebastián González, says the new devices will provide an “easy and instantaneous” way to update prices. “I guess this way they can change prices while the store is open and customers are still shopping. They won’t need to do it at night when they are restocking,” he says. “It’s ideal for inflationary times.”

Argentinean economist Alejandro Sala agrees. “I assume the prices can be changed by way of a central computer by a single person, who can do so quickly, rather than several people [changing labels by hand]. Furthermore, I think its usefulness is not limited to times of high inflation,” he says. “Even during more stable periods, supermarkets can adapt their prices to the changes in supply and demand.”

“We have ‘national pride,’ like our beloved Venezuela.”

The “Menu Cost” of Inflation

Iván Carrino, an economist and editor of the Monthly Economic Report of the Argentina-based economic research firm Inversor Global, says the electronic labels could become a way to reduce the amount of resources wasted on trying to keep up with the pace of inflation.

Problems with inflation, however, go beyond just the “menu cost,” says Carrino, and what’s more important is the issue of how newly printed money gets distributed.

“New money doesn’t just fall out of helicopter to everyone below in equal amounts. Some get it sooner than others, and those who get it first will benefit from being able to spend new money at old prices. Everyone else only gets it after prices have already gone up,” he explains.

“This is why inflation is considered a tax. The government (the first one to receive the money) increases its purchasing power at the public’s expense.”

Carrino adds that inflation yields uncertainty for the future of Argentina’s economy. “It complicates planning, and it’s impossible to think about the long term. It kills credit and investment, and the country ends up with worse living conditions, keeping the economy from developing.”

Translated by Adam Dubove and Guillermo Jimenez.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.

Donald Trump Is Wrong: Immigrants Commit Less Crime than US Natives

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Jul 10, 2015, 8:52 am

EspañolDonald Trump couldn't have been more wrong when he said Mexicans were bringing "drugs, crime, and their rapists" to the United States, according to the US-based American Immigration Council. Their latest study claims immigrants — both legal and illegal — are, in fact, less likely to commit a crime or be arrested than US-born Americans. The report published on Wednesday, July 8, says this holds true for every immigrant group, regardless of home country, education level, or legal status. The study's authors, Walter Ewing, Daniel Martínez, and Rubén Rumbaut, believe current US immigration policy relies more on stereotypes than facts, given their findings that the majority of migrants are not criminals "by any commonly accepted definition of the term." While lawmakers may claim that anti-immigration policies are part of a broader strategy to fight crime, the experts say criminality in the United States cannot be attributed to immigrants. "This is hardly surprising since immigrants come to the United States to pursue economic and educational opportunities not available in their home countries and to build better lives for themselves and their families. As a result, they have little to gain and much to lose by breaking the law," they claim. Nevertheless, US President Barack Obama has deported over 2 million people during his administration, breaking up families and communities in the process. “These are tragedies that could be prevented," the 28-page report notes, "if only Congress would choose to inject proportionality, discretion, and a little humanity back into the immigration system." The study further claims that deportation is designed to expel non-violent criminals, including legal residents who have worked and raised their children in the country for decades. The authors emphasize that prejudices often influence lawmakers' decisions when it comes to immigrants, and echo the words of psychologist Abraham Maslow: “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." One of the principal findings of the report is that historical increases in immigration rates in the United States correlate with decreases in crime rates. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of US residents who were born in another country swelled from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent, and the number of illegal immigrants in the country more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million, according to the survey. However, FBI data shows that over the same period violent crime rates (robbery, rape, and murder) dropped by 48 percent. Moreover, the report claims the US government applies a double standard with its "zero tolerance" policy towards migrants who commit minor infractions. "'Crimes' which might result in a fine or a suspended sentence for natives end up getting immigrants detained and deported. This represents a double standard of justice for immigrants in which the scale of the punishment (detention and deportation) far outweighs the severity of the crime (traffic offenses, for example)." "Open Up the Borders" Bart Frazier, program director at the Future of Freedom Foundation, told the PanAm Post that "the fact that immigrants are statistically less likely to engage in criminal activity is unsurprising." He says it is not an easy task to gain entry into the United States, and "immigrants who make the effort to get here are here to work, and work hard." "At the end of the day though, this is irrelevant. Suppose that immigrants were statistically more likely to be criminals. So what? People should be free to travel where they wish so long as their actions are peaceful, and individual rights should never be governed by cost-benefit analysis," he said. "Open up the borders." Translated by Adam Dubove and Guillermo Jimenez.

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