By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: Baqalas (grocery stores) are the place to buy most necessary things when you don’t want to bother dressing up to go shopping. Most – if not all – baqalas offer delivery service to your doorstep, and are open till late in the night. Also, many of them offer credit facilities (to pay at the end of the month).
A few years ago, baqalas were shut down in all residential areas except in zones providing services (near the co-op branch). In commercial areas with much larger populations, baqalas are very popular, and even people from outside the area may buy from them as they pass by in their vehicles.
Some people depend on baqalas more than supermarkets. “During the partial curfew, I bought most of my food needs from the baqala. I noticed that since the curfew and lockdown were imposed, my baqala had a much broader selection of fresh vegetables as well as dairy products. The one near my house is big and has almost everything,” said Sawsan, an expat who lives in Salmiya.
“I know some of the products are a bit more expensive at the baqala, but that didn’t bother me because it was easier than getting a permit and going to the supermarket. Since we are only two people in the house, the price difference didn’t affect us too much,” she added. “The one product that I did notice was much more expensive was coconut water – at my baqala it’s 500 fils, while at the supermarkets it’s only 320 fils. But other than that one specific product, I didn’t notice a huge difference,” explained Sawsan.
It’s known that baqalas are more expensive than co-ops or other big supermarkets, as they run small businesses with lower revenues. For big families, buying from baqalas is noticeably dearer, so they resort to them only when it’s necessary.
According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, there are no fixed prices for goods and foodstuff, so each store can set the price they consider suitable. “Kuwait is an open market, and stores can set the prices they want. But they have to obtain permission from the ministry to increase the prices once set. For instance, bottled water is sold for KD 1 at cinemas, so it’s normal to see the same item with a different price at the baqala,” Abdullah from the ministry’s customer protection department told Kuwait Times.
Customers can always file a complaint. “If the customer notices any price hike in items sold at the baqala, they can always complain at the department with the receipt. Baqalas usually don’t give receipts, but if the customer asks for it, the vendor has to give him one even if it is handwritten. If the salesman refuses to provide a receipt, then the customer can also complain of being denied a receipt,” Abdullah added.