Monday, 20 December 2010

short of fred-dough

There are times in one’s life when one needs chocolate. Certain crises can only be abated with its liberal application, and the absence of its placating qualities can, in some cases, prove fatal.

Such an occasion arose on a recent visit to London, but with only a few coppers in my wallet, the circumstances were looking rather desperate. Until, that is, I remembered that great childhood friend: the Freddo bar. At ten pence a pop, the measly contents of my purse could just about stretch that far. So off I took myself to Sainsbury’s, content in the knowledge that the unassuming brown frog would soon come to my rescue.

But when I got to the confectionery aisle, I discovered – to my utmost horror – that Freddos now cost an extortionate 17 pence! This wasn’t just a threat to the surmounting of my sugar cravings – oh no, it goes far deeper than that. Freddos have always been marketed as a pocket-money treat for children, who can exchange a single silver coin for a piece of chocolatey yumminess. And now Cadbury’s have changed all that. 17 pence is a ridiculously awkward amount – you’ve either got to scratch about for an extra five pence piece and a two pence coin, or hand over a twenty pence and end up with unwanted coppers. If they’re going to be that mean, they might as well just charge twenty pence and be done with it.

You may look disarmingly friendly, mister, but your looks won’t fool me from recognising your mercenary motives.

I know that inflation makes price increases inevitable. And I know that, alas, times have changed since my long-gone childhood. But the notion of pocket money makes no sense if children must now go around with coppers clanging about their person. And it’s not even as if they could dispense with this change by buying a few penny sweets, because even they now cost two pence.

In fact, this epidemic seems to be spreading to even more favourite childhood foods. The good old Happy Meal, once a straightforward £1.99, now costs £2.29. In fairness, that’s probably not such a bad thing, given the supposedly dangerously obese generation of children we’re currently raising, but it’s nonetheless an increase that looks to be infiltrating other products. Even Chomps have fallen to the same fate as their batrachian companions, also sharing the 17p price tag. Scandalous.

It’s not just me getting pent up about this issue either. Look at the wealth of Facebook groups contesting the increases. Even my dependable Sainsbury’s Basics chocolate bars have risen from 25p to 30p – that works out as a whole row of chocolate at the original price. At this rate, I’m going to have to consider trying to curb my irrational chocolate addiction before the habit gets me into serious debt.

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