CHENNAI:Half-closed shutters, desperate crowds and triple the rates. No, it isn’t clandestine liquor sales before a dry day spell. We are talking about helmets. A day after the mad rush to acquire helmets emptied stocks across the city, prices of the head gear more than tripled — desperate crowds even stooping to pay more than Rs 800 for a seven year old broken piece of head gear.
“I don’t have a choice. I was stopped today and I don’t want to end up losing my license tomorrow,” said S Chandrasekhar, with an old beaten up helmet in his hand. The helmet, for which he paid Rs 850, had no visor, had a crack in the back and had a date stamp seven years old. “It was either this or shell out Rs 2000 for a better one. I did not have that much money,” Chandrasekhar said.
Two days ago, unbranded ones were selling for around Rs 750 on the retail market. “The same shop, sold me the same helmet for Rs 700 a week ago. Now he says it’s Rs 2000, take it or leave,” complained Ramesh H, who had come to get his wife a helmet. Women’s and kids’ helmets have become impossible to find however.
The sharp rise in prices began during the last few hours of Tuesday evening’s rush, emptying stocks despite doubling of price. Wednesday afternoon saw the crowd abate and traffic snarls easing.
But prices continued to go up by almost three times. Rs 2000 was the going price for a new unbranded helmet in most of the city’s shops. “I was selling helmets for Rs 1500 Tuesday night but I ran out of stock,” a shop keeper on General Patters Road said curtly. “The next morning wholesalers began hiking prices again and I had no choice but to sell them for more. Shell out the Rs 2000 or if you don’t have the money get the used ones,” this reporter was told.
Wholesalers, when enquired by Express, said they had increased prices because stocks were dangerously low. Helmets on wholesale were selling at a cool Rs 1000 per piece for shops. Customers who managed to find their way to a wholesaler’s office were informed that if they were willing to buy around five or six, they would get for Rs 1300. Many complied by gathering together a few more desperate helmet seekers. Wholesalers were also unrepentant about the escalated prices. “Demand and supply are setting the market and unless stocks go up again, prices are likely to remain the same,” said G Ahmed while waving away arguments on MRP.
Second Sale Pays High on OLX, quickr
The insane increase in helmet prices have not been confined to the streets of the city. A brief search through the classified sites like OLX and Quickr threw up several entries advertising used helmets, some as high as Rs 2600. One advertisement even said “Avoid action from gov. Use Helmet” while asking Rs 500 for it. The offer was the cheapest of several on the net. When Express contacted a seller, who had advertised asking Rs 2000 for a two-year-old helmet, we were informed that he had already sold it on Wednesday morning for Rs 2400.