Whenever visitors baulk at the high price of a coffee, a hotel room or a lamb cutlet, the Swiss are always quick to respond: we provide quality. This may be true to a point. It is certainly the argument of the Swiss taxi cartel to justify its incredibly high rates or Swiss airlines in its efforts to re-establish the once praised Swissair image of the past (see stories on other pages).
But is Switzerland really offering quality at good value? All too many restaurants charge ever-higher prices but without the value – or service – one expects. The agricultural industry is complaining that more open markets with the EU and US means that Swiss farmers will be penalized. Migros, Manor and Coop also remonstrate against shoppers crossing into France or Germany to buy cheaper produce.
But can consumers be faulted? People want quality but also value for money. If new competition succeeds in breaking the cartels and results in cheaper, better services, then why not? Responding to client dissatisfaction might also encourage the restaurant association to persuade its members to focus more on quality than trying to get away with meals that are really not worth it. The public seem more sympathetic to farmers. But farmers need to explain why local seasonal products, even if expensive, are good quality and more environmentally sustainable than the bland greenhouse strawberries or tomatoes from Spain tainted with chemicals and low wages. It’s all about better communication.
Edward Girardet, Editor@lenews.ch