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Iceland Mag

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Small town café in N. Iceland fights an avalanche of criticism over overpriced sandwich

By Staff

  • The sandwiches The "Ham and cheese sandwich" at the café Gamli Baukurinn in Húsavík costs 1190 ISK (11.30 USD/10.2 EUR). Photo/Þórður Sigurjónsson.

A café in the small town of Húsavík in North Iceland is facing a firestorm of criticism in local media after a photo which was circulated on Icelandic social media showed the café is selling ham and cheese sandwiches for 1190 Icelandic Króna. At the current exchange rate that comes to 11.30 US Dollars or 10.20 Euro. The sandwich has become the symbol of price gouging which many feel has become too common in recent years.

Viral story
A photo of the sandwich was first shared in a Facebook group for local travel guides and other people in the Icelandic tourism industry. The caption argued it was no wonder foreign travellers were increasingly shunning restaurants during their stay in Iceland in favor of supermarkets if simple sandwiches were being sold for the price of a nice meal at restaurants in Europe. 

The post was quickly picked up by local media, sparking a nation-wide discussion about the effect of rising prices on the travel habits and spending by foreign visitors.

Rising prices a concern
The appreciation of the Icelandic Króna has raised prices in Iceland for foreign visitors, as the same goods now cost more in Dollars or Euros, even if domestic inflation has been negligible. At the same time, however, many have voiced concern that some restaurants and businesses which cater to tourists have been guilty of price gouging. 

Read more: Fewer foreign travellers visiting Eastfjords, as visitors taking shorter trips during Iceland stay

The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, pointed out that a similar ham and cheese sandwich cost 520 ISK (5 USD/4.45 EUR) at a café in the town of Akureyri, the nearest urban center to Húsavík. Numerous locals shared this story, arguing that a price difference of 129%.

Among those who have criticized the café is Helga Árnadóttir, the manager of the Iceland Travel Industry Association. In an interview with the local radio station Bylgjan Helga said that the story of the overpriced sandwich seemed like an example of a company which had allowed the hope of short term profits to overshadow the need to look ahead. Prices for goods and services had to go hand in hand with quality.

Café denies charges of price gouging
The manager of the café has denied the charges of price gouging, maintaining the media coverage is both unfair and misleading. She told the local news site Vísir that the sandwich roll is not a regular bread roll, but a ciabatta. "Bread rolls are 40-50 g (1.4-1.8 oz), while ciabatta breads are 100 g (3.5 oz). Furthermore, the sandwich contains ham, cheese, vegetables and sauce." She added that she felt the sandwich is quite generous and a good meal. 

Read more: A tip on saving money on treats to bring home: Don't buy whimsical candy at a souvenir store!

Asked whether the café would reconsider its prices following the avalanche of criticism and controversy she said the management had not yet had time to look into the matter, but added that "but it's always good to reevaluate your prices."

 

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