Exacting a price

H N Ananda, Feb 12 2018, 23:55 IST

What is exact? The dictionary says: strictly accurate or correct, and precise, as opposed to approximate.

Not sure if this hotel in Mylapore, Chennai went through these definitions while fixing the rates for its dishes, but one glance at its menu card will convince customers, like me, that it has followed the dictionary meaning to be exact.

If not why a humble idli should cost Rs 38.10 a piece? If you order two, the bill is Rs 76.20, no concession. No, I am not complaining that it is overpriced, in fact I should, but I am puzzled by the exactness of the rate!

This is not limited to just idlis but to all the 100-odd dishes listed on the menu card which looks like a page from a tabloid. A masala dosa, which costs about Rs 40 in our darshinis, costs a bomb there - Rs 95.24 to be, again, exact. A butter dosa costs the same but if it is butter masala dosa the price jumps to Rs 104.77 and this particular rate applies to 14 other dishes like rava masala dosa, uttappa, adai and avial, basundi, badam halwa and the like.

Fascinated by the rate structure, I pinched a menu card from the hotel and poured over it in the train on my way back to Bengaluru. This delightful exercise bared the fact that the cheapest item there was the mineral water bottle which costs Rs 19.05 each, while the dish that topped the price structure was Kashmiri or cashew pulao rated at Rs 190.48.

Between Rs 19.05 and Rs 190.48, figured others whose price band varied from Rs 38.10 to Rs 180.96. Eighteen items were priced at Rs 180.96 each, which included dishes like palak paneer, mutter paneer, malai kofta with kaju gravy, and navaratna korma. Next, in the descending order were paneer fried rice, dal fry etc at Rs. 171.43.

For Rs 161.39 one can order chilli potato, kadai vegetable, channa bhatura, veg noodles or four other items. Carrying a price tag of Rs 152.39 were four North Indian dishes; only two dishes carried a price of Rs 142.86 while 21 items stood out in the price bracket of Rs 95.24.

If you have just Rs 85.72 in your pocket you have 10 dishes to choose from; if you are willing to spend Rs 104.77 you can place an order for one of the 14 items available and four items are priced at Rs 114.29 a piece. The hotel holds the price line at Rs 190.48. No item hits the Rs 200 mark.

Which cost structure formula helped the hotel to arrive at these "strictly accurate" prices?

An email inquiry solicited the reply that this exactness was to meet the problem of coin scarcity. Adding tax to these rates while billing helped in arriving at a hasslefree
round figure.

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