You Say Tomato I Say Price Gouging

Every now and then my big sister sends me a two-liner email to make a suggestion or two on what I should be blogging about. Yesterday her latest email made me laugh. I paraphrase:


Write a post about price gouging in Jordan during Ramadan and how these store owners who are fasting while committing this sin “hope” to get into heaven.

Dad is on a rampage because the price of tomatoes went up 80%

It reminded me of an Emad Hajjaj caricature from this time last year that I used as part of a post entitled “The Cost of Ramadan” but with more of a social message behind it…

It’s a bit of a contradiction in priorities. The businessman can make a killing in Ramadan because after all, tis the season. At the same time a businessman who has any respect for religion would refrain from price gouging at the expense of his fellow Muslims during this holy month. From a business perspective it’s a legitimate opportunity, but it begs the question: do religious obligations trump business opportunities? Note, I don’t ask this question in the “should they” sense but rather in the “do they”.

This isn’t about the people who shop at C-Town or Safeway but the majority of the country that is relatively poor and tends to shop in the smaller shops. Moreover these people will also tend to save what little money they have during the year to spend during Ramadan. It used to be because they preferred to “spoil” themselves during this one-month but now I guess they have to do it out of necessity since all the prices go up. For one month the dinar gets devalued and everyone is spending more to afford the same things they used to buy last month.

It’s a sign of the times I suppose. What is the alternative, a return to policies of price controls and market regulation? The better alternative is to find a cheaper grocery store.

On another note: my father is not a cheap man he just loves, as many retired men his age do, to find a ‘good deal’. For fun he’ll drive outside Amman to as far as Madaba, Al-Ghor or what have you and buy a “boxet bandora” (box of tomatoes) for 80 piasters and will boast about it for days. I know, I know, the irony of the gas money making up for the cheap prices is not lost on me. I assure you it’s not lost on any of us. Nevertheless, it keeps the man happy and whenever I call home he’ll ask me how much tomatoes are in Canada and it doesn’t matter what price quote I give the answer I hear over the static will always be the same: “tsk tsk tsk”. Of course this drives my mother crazy who has no where to store the tomatoes or the eggplant or the cucumbers or whatever he’s brought home by the styrofoam truckload that day. What happens next is my mother makes us eat everything with tomatoes for a month and when all her “tomato recipes” are exhausted including tomato pie, and it’s still too much, my father will say “Give it to the neighbors”. And if there’s still a lot left over he’ll become angry with all of us for not “helping” him finish it. He’ll say something like “I bring this stuff for you people and you just leave it here”. And since the emotion of anger and my father’s frail heart don’t get along, we all placate his demands by eating the “food of the month” for a whole month. And when figs are in season, well suffice to say: God help us all.


  • Really loved this post – made me come out of my hideaway from blogging, and makes me want to sit on the floor crosslegged with your dad and dig into some fresh tomatos with warm bread and olive oil!

    🙂 No, seriously now, REALLY loved this post. 🙂

  • Shaden, i think you’re just surprised to discover i had a sense of humor (so to speak) 😀

    Hal, 2alayet bandora…on some nights I have nightmares about it. but yeah my dad is that kind of keraki who will sit crosslegged on the floor for such a meal. but he’s also the kind of man who will make veggie sandwiches by wrapping any fresh veggie with warm bread…tomatos, onions, what have you. it’s frightening sometimes.

    it really…

  • LOL,

    “What happens next is my mother makes us eat everything with tomatoes for a month and when all her â??tomato recipesâ? are exhausted including tomato pie, and itâ??s still too much, my father will say â??Give it to the neighborsâ?. ”

    Your dad should meet mine. Mine goes to Zarqa instead tho.

    In the states, we go to the farmers market and get the same cheap deals instead of the supermarket, but when we do we call other friends and split the Tomato box between 2 to 3 families. My friend Belal calls me and asks me
    Belal: ” Shu betsawy?”
    me: ” basa3ed Laila bilhomework, awamer?”
    Belal:”inzal ballah shway beddy eyaak be mawdoo3″
    me: ” Hayni nazel”

    Then Belal asks me to be discreat, and drags me to the trunk of his car like he is about to sell me illegal stuff.

    Then he goes: ” hay elboxeh beeny ew beenak ew been Abdullah”
    Ofcourse I have to call edakhleyeh to get the approval.
    Once its all kosher, I drag the rest of the box before somebody sees us.


  • Ofcourse I have to call edakhleyeh to get the approval.
    Once its all kosher, I drag the rest of the box before somebody sees us.

    lol, careful, you might be watched by big brother 😀

  • PF, dude, be careful. you know “americans” don’t buy tomatoes by the box and just like those kids caught buying 1000’s of cell phones, if the neighbors see all those tomatoes you could be getting a visit from the FBI. 🙂 The markup on tomatoes is something like 20 times!

  • Well, most Americans these days don’t by tomatoes by the box, but my family always grew up doing that. Whatever was in season, dad would buy crates of it, and take it home for Mom to can it, so we’d eat it for the rest of the year.
    Your Mom should make some big pots of tomato sauce and freeze it. Then all year long whenever Mom cooks something with tomato sauce, your dad can enjoy boasting about his find.

    (By the way, I did notice that the prices at the Souq a Juma’ had doubled this week, but the thought of price gouging didn’t occur to me.)

  • Tomatoe prices are easily the biggest cultural shock a Jordanian can be subjected to when visiting the states. One time a guy finds three fist size tomatoes in bag that says (Tomatoe on the vine) for $2.99. and he was about to pass out right there at the store. He took a photo next to it, printed it out and nailed it to the wall, as motivation…

  • LoL 😀

    I’ve lived through this scenario of your mom and dad here in our house all my life… Dad just loves going to the 7isbeh to buy fruits and vegetables, and he just loves ‘a good deal’, and mom hates the days he goes there because she really doesn’t know where to store everything and what to do with it! When he buys lots of apples though we get weeks of apple pie, which is never a bad thing 😉

Your Two Piasters: