PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney blasted the CEO of half a dozen Shop Rite supermarkets in Philly Monday, accusing the stores of raising the price of sweetened beverages above and beyond the amount of the city’s new “soda tax.”
During an interview with Good Day Philadelphia, Kenney took aim at Jeff Brown and others, who are already saying they will lay off workers because of plummeting sales linked to the new tax.
"Jeff Brown and some of those groups out there jacked up prices beyond what the tax calls for,” said Kenney. “They started collecting the tax four days before the tax went into effect. They've been stockpiling product from June to January. They are charging the tax at point-of-sale, which it was never intended to do. And they're putting the money in their pockets."
Kenney has made that first claim before: that some stores have raised prices well beyond the penny-and-a-half per ounce tax, presumably to increase the sticker shock and lead customers to demand an end to the levy.
At the Shop Rite at 24th and Oregon streets, beverage shelves carry signs explaining the higher prices: in one example, “beverage tax recovery of 51 cents included in (the) pricing (of a 33.8 ounce beverage.)"
Of course, that doesn't prove it was the only amount added to the final price.
Sure enough, Fox 29's Bruce Gordon found customers outside the store who believe prices have risen by more than the amount of the tax.
“The Power Ade, the Gator Ade…they actually raised the price of the product on top of the soda tax," said one woman.
"Seems like it's beyond that level," said another man, when asked if he thought the new soda prices reflected just the additional tax.
“I don't know if the numbers are exact,” said yet another man, “but it does seem to me like it's more than they're saying it is."
Fox 29 was told Mr. Brown was unavailable for an on-camera comment, but in a written statement, a spokeswoman called it “unfortunate” that the mayor would single out Brown and Shop Rite for criticism. She called any suggestion of price gouging, “unfounded and unfair.”