A Whanganui supermarket has been bombarded by threatening messages due to the price of one of its vegetables - even attracting attention from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
There were enough complaints about SuperValue Gonville's price of cauliflowers that the store received a call from the office of the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, which falls under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Owner Sagar Patel couldn't believe he was called at such a time.
"I'm surprised that a SuperValue in Whanganui in Gonville has reached the Prime Minister's office in the middle of a lockdown in the middle of a pandemic that's affecting the whole world."
Patel said they were checking to make sure no price gouging was going on to capitalise on the lockdown.
That logic seems flawed to Patel, who said they would have upped the price of bread or something more essential if they were looking to make a profit.
"Our sales for cauliflower represents less than 0.01 per cent of our weekly turnover, why would we try to price gouge on an item that is so insignificant to our business?"
Patel didn't understand why his store was receiving so much hate when the price of the product is set by the suppliers.
Cauliflower prices have continued to increase over the past week. This time last week, SuperValue had cauliflowers for $6.99. Today they sit at $12.99 with more increases likely.
Patel said this reflects the price suppliers give to them and other stores basically have the same price, and they have the same prices as their parent organisation
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Pak'nSave had cauliflowers for $12 earlier in the week, but has since dropped them to $10.
Patel was surprised how many people were seemingly affected by the price increase, and that nothing had been said about the 99 per cent of product prices that haven't changed.
"Cabbages are all the same price. Bananas, apples haven't changed, tomatoes, avocados, pineapples, nothing has changed."
SuperValue has even dropped some of its prices, including 2lt milk and 2kg bags of Royal Gala apples.
Patel said only two products in their range have gone up in price - cauliflower and garlic.
"New Zealand garlic is at $39.99 per kilo. Last week it was $26.99."
With people on lockdown and more time on their hands, Patel feels people are just jumping on the proverbial bandwagon.
"My theory is it is a stressful situation, it's something that has impacted a lot of people's lives and a lot of people have uncertain futures, and now they have time at home."
The store has had more turnover in the last three days than a full busy week and the abuse the staff received has been "simply unfair".
"My team is literally putting their bodies at risk every day.
"The team is going through enough already. We are working 13-14 hour days at the moment."
SuperValue Gonville is looking to take on casual staff to help ease the workload on current staff, but Patel said it may be difficult to get through the processes with the lockdown in place.
Patel said the store has cauliflower halves for $5.99 and was hoping to sell them all.
"I'm a bit over all this cauliflower talk if I'm honest."