The View From Here – Price-fixing on bread is a transgression for which $25 gift cards do not adequately compensate

Tom Henihan

There is nothing more symbolic of the sustenance of human life than bread.

Its significance is so vital that its symbolism reaches into matters of faith and bread is referenced across cultures as the essence of life.

Its connotations is both humble and profound.

Throughout the world and through millennia bread is connected to both spiritual and mortal existence:

Give us our daily bread – bread is the staff of life – cast bread upon the waters and so on.

To break bread with others represents the idea of kinship and an act of social communion.

Only water is as highly suggestive of the essence of life, so to think that Loblaws and Weston’s have colluded for fourteen years in a price-fixing scheme to keep the price of bread artificially high is a serious violation of long established norms.

To inflate the price of something as essential as bread is deeply anti-social, it is a breach of an unspoken covenant that bread being essential to all is therefore sacrosanct and off limits to profiteering and unfettered greed.

To engage in the price-fixing of bread for over fourteen years is evidence of a remorseless corporate attitude that preys voraciously on everything, even the food that we eat.

Bread is not a luxury item, it is not a discretionary purchase and for Loblaws to attempt the easy fix of offering customers a $25 gift card to compensate for cheating for well over a decade is further evidence of its mercenary conduct.

Besides, it is widely agreed that the gift card initiative does not provide anything close to adequate compensation and it is likely that the gift cards are a ploy to have customers sign away any additional right to compensation.

It is also a possible ruse to attract customers into its stores, as the $25 gift cards are only redeemable at Loblaws.

Of course, from any perspective, criminal and immoral behaviour should not just go away with a sweeping self-serving strategy masquerading as a gesture of compensation and goodwill.

Fortunately, there are at least two class-action lawsuits underway, one in Quebec and one led by an anti-poverty activist in Ontario seeking $1 billion in damages from Loblaw, George Weston and a number of other companies.

Apart from compensation and class action lawsuits, Loblaws, Weston’s and all other players involved in this swindle should have to account for their actions before the law.

When a common criminal is caught stealing he or she are not just held to account for the amount they stole but they are also punished for their crime. Big businesses and corporations should be held to the same level of accountability.

We are well aware of the dubiousness of banks, insurance companies and entities of that ilk and we are learning to never be complacent or blindly trust their pitch.

However, to have to shop for groceries in a defensive mindset means that there is no corner left where the consumer is not a target of corporate greed.

Now that this shameful price-fixing scheme between Loblaws and Westons has been exposed, consumers – that is ordinary citizens – should express their outrage loud enough that grocery chains will feel censured and reassure Canadians that this kind of breach of trust and abuse of people at such a fundamental level will never happen again.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

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