Daylight Robbery!

Published: 20th January 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th January 2016 07:00 PM   |  A+A-

Watching movies or shopping for clothes is turning into an expensive affair, with malls and multiplexes fleecing customers with disdain  

Entertainment in Hyderabad is turning into a highly costly affair as people are having to shell out exorbitant amount of hard-earned money just to watch a movie, go shopping or visit a restaurant in malls. Even as Hyderabad attempts to boost its retail sector with the construction of expansive malls with state-of-the-art technology and quality infrastructure, many of the malls and multiplexes are fleecing citizens by charging unfairly high prices, leaving them no choice but to shell out more money for each visit – charging thrice the maximum retail price (MRP) for food and beverages, to fleecing customers with parking fees (which increases with every passing hour).

Helpless customers voice their despair at having to spend unfairly high amount of money while visiting malls. Take for example, the case of 26-year-old Rajith Kumar, a marketing analyst, who decided to visit Forum Sujana Mall in Kukatpally to collect a parcel, but was forced to pay parking for just a 10-minute pit stop. “I wanted to collect a parcel from Burger King, and since the only outlet within 20 kilometres is at the mall, I decided to go there.

I was there at the mall for not more than ten minutes but to my astonishment, I was asked to pay Rs 30 as parking fee. This is absolutely atrocious,” said a fuming Rajith. “To make things worse, I had only Rs 10 cash on person, so I requested the mall authorities to take it since I was there only for ten minutes. But they refused and forced me to go up three floors, withdraw cash and then pay them Rs 30. All this for just a simple take-away. This is nothing short of extortion,” he yelled, seething with rage. Rajith’s case is not an isolated one, as several citizens have come forward with similar instances of being hard-done by mall authorities when it comes to parking.

“Two weeks back, I wanted to buy bread and it so happened that the closest place was Inorbit mall, which also has a supermarket. I was in and out within 15 minutes with a packet of bread, but had to pay for parking. When big supermarkets across the city do not charge for parking, why is it that we have to pay for groceries only because it is in a mall?,” exclaimed N Parthu Chowdhary, who works in the IT sector.

Ironically, all commercial complexes and malls are supposed to provide mandatory parking free of cost and GHMC is the only body authorised agency to collect any parking fee within its limits. Inspite of this, all malls and shopping complexes continue to fleece customers with disdain. GHMC officials, quite obviously, have turned a blind eye towards this practice and have shown a predictably indifferent attitude towards this issue. When contacted, a senior GHMC official said, “As per the rules, it is mandatory for commercial complexes to provide parking for customers.

All buildings in the city must provide 40 per cent of their built-up area for parking and even allow space for visitors’ vehicles.” But when asked what action the civic-body is planning to take against the malls, who charge for parking, the official responded with an uninspiring, “We will look into the complaints”, remark. Needless to say, the paying public is furious with the despicable indifference of the civic authorities. “The authorities create such a ruckus when we park in a ‘No Parking’ zone and extract heavy fines from us. But yet, they turn a blind eye towards these malls who continue to fleece customers everyday.

What kind of double standards is this?,” fumed Shamit Singh, a city-based entrepreneur. Mall authorities, however, feel that charging for parking is justified, for the quality of technology and infrastructure that they provide. “This is part of the standard mall practice (charging for parking). Giving parking facility to the customers does cost to us and the entire infrastructure and technology that we provide costs money. Even the ticket holder (which gives the parking ticket) costs approximately Rs 1 per ticket. There is so much manpower involved in managing traffic, maintenance and also electricity in the parking area requires money. We don’t charge with the intention of earning any money from it, which is why we have kept it to a bare minimum,” clarifies a senior manager from Forum Sujana Mall, Kukatpally. Mall authorities are also concerned that if free parking would encourage citizens to leave their vehicles for long periods of time, a situation they want to avoid.

“If you don’t charge, then there is no seriousness. People will come and leave their vehicles and may not take it back for ten days. We don’t want to get into that kind of a scenario,” officials reasoned. According to mall authorities, a major factor for the ticketing system being in place at malls is to ensure security of the people. “Most importantly, there are security measures in place to make a note of each car that is entering the mall. This ticketing system helps us manage that. Otherwise tomorrow if a suspect vehicle is seen entering the mall, where there is free open parking, we might land in trouble if something happens in the mall,” the manager added.

The public, though have rubbished his claims as flimsy excuses and have pointed towards systems, like MORE supermarket in Nizampet and Big Cinemas in Ameerpet, where your parking fee will be reimbursed upon showing a bill of purchase. “As far as security is concerned, they can have a security system in place to note down the details of every car, but that doesn’t mean that they have to charge us for it,” retorted Hemanth Mendon, a Phd scholar.

Multiplex’pensive’ If there’s one thing that Hyderabadis love to do, it is watching movies. Unfortunately, the movie-watching experience is turing out to be an extremely costly affair, with multiplexes charging exorbitant prices for food and beverages in cinema halls. Underlining the extent of high pricing at multiplexes, Siddharth Rao, a movie-buff says, “I went to watch a movie at PVR Cinemas at 10:45 pm. Since it was a late night show, I had already finished with my dinner, and in the intermission I just wanted to have a glass of Pepsi. But when I went to the counter, they told me that only the large size Pepsi was available, when I could see smaller glasses in front of me. When I pointed that out to him, he said that the smaller size glass was available only with a Combo (which includes a popcorn) and if I had to buy just Pepsi, then I can only take the large size.

I bought large Pepsi, which contained 900 ml and cost Rs 180, which was even more than my movie ticket itself.” “How dare they decide the size of my drink? Would it kill them if they just take a smaller glass and give it to me and charge a more nominal price? It is absolutely pathetic,” Sanjay fumed. With multiplex and mall owners least bothered about the paying public and the GHMC indifferent towards the issue, be prepared to shell out some money if you’re visiting a mall.

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