Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kuwaiti Supermarket Chain Has Problem With Hebrew--And A Far Bigger One With The US Government

From the Arab world, where it is important to take a principled stand on matters involving Israel:
And though the coffee filters you seek may be German and not Israeli -- Melitta in this instance -- it apparently makes no difference to the Lebanese branch of a major Kuwaiti supermarket chain, The Sultan Center, known by its acronym T.S.C.

At least one T.S.C. supermarket nestled in the quaint, largely Francophone neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh in Beirut recently sent back its shipment of Melitta coffee filters after discovering that the boxes had Hebrew script on the side.

“We saw that they are from Israel so we sent them back," one of the retail assistants said to a customer. "Don’t worry. We will be getting Melitta’s from America instead."
Actually, as it turns out, the filters are not made in Israel at all--they're made in Germany. It just so happens that the side of the box lists the distributors of the filter, one of whom is in Israel.

As it turns out, however, TSC is taking a lot of heat for overcharging--something about which it is not quite as principled: not only overcharging its customers in Beirut, but also in the US, as in the US government:
In August 2008, Lebanese mourned T.S.C.'s takeover of the local branches of Monoprix, a midscale French supermarket chain. Locals frequently lament that prices have since skyrocketed.

A similar complaint of overcharging has been echoed by the U.S. government. The U.S. Department of Justice in November indicted T.S.C. and its parent company, the Public Warehousing Co., a Kuwaiti corporation known as PWC, for allegedly scamming the U.S. Department of Defense out of $8.5 billion.

The U.S. government alleges that T.S.C., in cahoots with PWC, inflated the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables in their contracts with the Pentagon. After PWC paid T.S.C.’s inflated invoice, T.S.C. paid a kickback to PWC in the form of a 10% rebate.

PWC and T.S.C. have provided U.S. troops in the Middle East with food supplies since 2003.
Let's see whose products get sent back now.

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