Saturday, September 11, 1999

Sounding off about prices in paradise

What Price Paradise?Readers responded with nearly 100 letters to the Star-Bulletin's special report, "What Price Paradise?" (Sept. 1-2), that found Hawaii shoppers pay as much as 200 percent more for consumer goods than residents on the West Coast. Some were angry, some added to our examples of price gouging, some expatriates chimed in to say "told you so," and a couple turned the tables on us and asked why newspaper ads cost so much.

What Price Paradise?


Bullet 'Ahhhh, so refreshing to read of greed, gouging, excessive pricing, err, I mean the 'aloha spirit' of the businesses of Hawaii.'

Bob Cassidy
Visalia, Calif.
Via the Internet

Bullet 'I guess your much-needed series just proves that Hawaii is a great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live here.'

James Ko
Via the Internet

Bullet 'Like other Hawaiians, I had to leave to live a wholesome and prosperous life...Yes, Hawaii is a paradise, but is it the right place to raise a family?'

Loren Labrador
Bradenton, Fla.
Via the Internet

Bullet I used to feel so sorry for the poor local retailers when the onslaught of mainland companies began to arrive. Now I see that many of those retailers have been ripping us off for years, and that the Costcos, Walmarts and the like were really playing quite fair.

Mind you, we haven't seen much relief on Molokai -- where the price of $2 gas, $6 milk and $3.50 bread is even worse than on Oahu.

John Sprinzel
Kaunakakai, Molokai
Via the Internet

Bullet You put numbers to something we all know. It is definitely a step toward getting reasonable prices, provided all of this is not just forgotten.

The question is will our elected officials and big business now do anything about it? The next step is for all of us to keep the pressure on them.

Ben King
Via the Internet

Bullet Two of my friends on Maui recently were in the market for cars. One of them purchased her new car through the Internet because, even adding $1,500 in shipping charges, she saved $2,300 over the Maui dealership's best price.

The other purchased a used car from another resident because the dealership wanted to charge her dock and handling fees on a five-year-old previously owned car!

T. Favilla
Via the Internet

Bullet Since Costco came to the Big Island, we have seen substantial reductions in grocery prices in Waimea. We have also seen Sure Save file Chapter 11, with one surviving store in Keaau, about as far away from Costco as it is possible to get on this island.

Unfortunately for many retailers here, island folks are not stupid, nor do we suffer from problems in our long-term memory. For years, we did not have a choice and paid the price. My kids grew up thinking breakfast cereal was a special treat!

My pet peeve? Why is gas in Waimea 20-25 cents higher per gallon than in Hilo and 50 cents or more higher than on Oahu?

Theresa Beerman
Kamuela, Hawaii
Via the Internet

Bullet I was born and raised in Hawaii. All I can say is, it's about time someone finally did a comparison of costs between Hawaii and the mainland.

I never questioned the high prices because, like everyone else, I thought it came with the territory. Maybe this will wake up Hawaii residents that prices can and should be lowered, especially now that the economy is down.

Al Bunda
Victorville, Calif.
Via the Internet

Bullet How about comparing the cost for newspaper classified advertising on the West Coast with the Advertiser/Star-Bulletin newspaper monopoly in Hawaii?

I have run the same want ad for the same duration in the local papers and in the San Jose Mercury News. The price of the local ad was twice as high as the one that ran in California.

Maybe the cost of the ink?

Ken Welch
Via the Internet

Bullet Finally, the sacred cow is tackled! When I told my best friend in Kailua what I spent on my 4-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,000-square-foot home in Missouri, she wanted to tear my eyes out.

Friends in the Midwest constantly ask us why we aren't living in Hawaii. Our answer: the outrageous cost of living that is even higher than in New York City.

If there is so much price-gouging in Hawaii, could this be due to prejudice? Could a case be made for discrimination, since it is the only state with a predominantly minority population, and these companies are headquartered on the mainland?

Sounds like islanders are getting ripped off -- again.

Leilani Haywood
Columbia, Mo.
Via the Internet

Bullet Why is it smaller stores like Tamura's in Wahiawa can sell its groceries for such lower prices? A gallon of VIVA 2 percent milk is only $3.89, but the same size and brand at Foodland is almost twice the cost. Bread, eggs and other staples are also substantially higher at the supermarket.

I know that Foodland workers probably get paid more, but is it THAT much more? It's a shame, because I live within walking distance of Foodland but I go all the way to Tamura's. Even with the effort and distance, the drive is worth it.

Pohai Cuaresma
Via the Internet

Bullet I moved here from Seattle seven months ago and I can tell you there is a vast difference. Some things are MUCH higher in Seattle -- the cost of car registration, garbage collection, clothing, property taxes, sales tax, gasoline.

Safeway is way out of line with its prices, even on the mainland. A steak at Safeway here costs $11; at a competitive store it was under $5.

There is tremendous gouging in Hawaii by food retailers. They have a captive audience and they charge whatever they want.

Thank God for the swap meet. It brings much needed competition.

Debi Castle
Ewa Beach
Via the Internet

Bullet I have to wonder what is the matter with Hawaii residents who complain about higher prices. Yes, it is true that things are more expensive in the islands, as I was there on vacation in July. But when I awoke up this morning, it was 46 degrees outside.

Stop bitching. You live where it is almost always warm and sunny, and the population is virtually unaware of smog.

I plan to move there when I finish my degree, as I want to live where the weather is beautiful. I can survive the higher prices.

Alan Cummings
Port Angeles, Wash.
Via the Internet

Bullet In response to the idea that the big box retailers will kill off the little guys, we might all do better to think further down the road. If small, high-service retailers can't make it in their current locations, that's bad news for their landlords.

Yes, it will take time for the retail revolution to cycle back to land prices, but the writing is on the wall. Discounters inevitably mean lower property values in our traditional retail districts.

Also, the big box retailers don't need distribution warehouses to keep them supplied. Accordingly, there is less demand for warehouse space. Why not take this up with landlords right now?

Bill Jardine
Kamuela, Hawaii
Via the Internet

Bullet I lived in Hawaii in the early 1980s; I have also lived in Japan and San Francisco. The odd thing about Hawaii is the living expenses are high, but the wage structure is not.

In Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, costs are high but so are wages in relative terms. The fact that they are relatively low in Honolulu only worsens the situation.

Don Green
Seattle, Wash.
Via the Internet

Bullet This a great opportunity for our state to invest in locally grown food, especially vegetables and dairy products. Indeed, if agriculture were heavily promoted and encouraged on the Big Island, we could provide enough food for residents as well as provide new jobs.

Thousands of fertile, former sugar cane lands can be put to good use. More than lip-service is needed from our leaders; this must become a high priority.

Consumers can fight back by buying their fresh produce at local farmer's markets and even growing vegetables themselves.

Pua Tokumoto
Hilo, Hawaii
Via the Internet

Bullet Has Safeway ever considered that broccoli crowns may be more of a "specialty item, with longer shelf life and more spoilage," because we won't pay $2.39 a pound for it?

Lynn Reedell
Via the Internet

Bullet Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart and Eagle have given local residents a chance to get some real price competition. Whenever I go to the mainland, I check out these chains and they generally have the same prices as their branches in Hawaii.

For what it's worth, I think the local mom-and-pop places will soon be a thing of the past.

On a more positive note, eating out and entertainment are better values in Hawaii. Movie and good restaurant prices are competitive with mainland prices. So I guess paradise has some advantages.

Roger Chung
Via the Internet

Bullet We, the people, have the power to choose. I have the list now, and I won't patronize these merchants.

Maritza Aberouette
Via the Internet

Bullet I recently priced business cards to be printed locally: 5,000 cards, color stock, single blue ink, raised lettering. The cheapest quote I got was $250, with a 3-5 day turnaround time.

The same cards printed in Wisconsin would run $85, including shipping costs and no sales tax. The turnaround time, including shipping, was 5 days.

We're told to spend our money in the community to fuel the economy. So I buy local eggs, chicken and produce, even though it costs a little more. But, sometimes, the bottom line prevails.

Wade Yamamoto
Ewa Beach
Via the Internet

What Price Paradise?

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