Antitrust Commissioner Dror Strum is currently looking over offers to buy Clubmarket. Strum would like a small, private chain to acquire the troubled supermarket to increase competition in the field. However, Supersol submitted the highest bid by far. It seems Nochi Dankner and company are prepared to pay a premium for the advantage of being the leading chain in the country with a 35 percent market share.

It looks like Strum will give in. He can't stand up to the pressure of the suppliers and the banks that want to marginalize the damage from Clubmarket's collapse. So, we have only one modest request: to remember the customers.

We haven't forgotten that Supersol led the war against price labelling, in tandem with the remaining chains and the major food producers. Even now they want to return to the good old days of using the code method, when no customer knew the price of any product, allowing them to repeatedly raise prices without control.

Thus, Drum must demand as part and parcel of approving the deal that Supersol and Dankner promise to label prices fully on every product, without any reservation. Likewise, they should withdraw from the battle to amend the law. It's crucial to competition and to consumers.

Cutting breaks to the banks

The Banks Supervisor Yoav Lehman awarded the banks last week a full one-year extension in executing the directives regarding customers who exceed their overdraft limits. The basic idea of Lehman was to eliminate the destructive phenomenon of exceeding overdraft limits because it's bad for customers and dangerous to the banks.

However, the banks failed to take action. They did not deal with their clients, nor did they open up an awareness campaign. Instead, they lobbied the supervisor to give them an extension, and he gave in.

They always manage to obtain extensions, with the "package deal" concerning transaction fees and with implementing the Bachar report. But what about the customers? Why give a whole year? Isn't three months enough? As such, 2006 will also be a year of exceeding limits - bad for customers and good for bank profits.

Supergas 410

Supergas is one of the four biggest companies in the field. It supplies some 20 percent of the country's gas, that is to say it has many clients, whom, it turns out, it doesn't really like.

One client came home one day and found the number 410 prominently and offensively scrawled across his house's entrance and the cover of his gas balloons. Fairly shocked, he quickly called the Supergas customer service center, taking some effort to reach a clerk named Amir. He complained about the anonymous gas distributor.

Amir didn't believe it. "I want to check with the delivery man," he said, and kept the gentleman on hold. Finally, he came back on the line and said, "Correct. The delivery man wrote down the numbers. I don't know why."

It was agreed the delivery man would come and clean up the mess and that Amir would inform branch manager Avigdor Perl. Amir repeated the promise three days later, "the delivery man will come within a week and clean up what he did." Four weeks then passed, but the graffiti remained.

A little more than a year ago the same client had complained that the delivery man didn't leave any bills and no sign on the canister, such that the client could not know which balloon was new and which one was old. Supergas didn't give a hoot then, either.

We have long gotten used to dirty gas balloons, broken spigots and crumpled bills thrown on the ground. But why make a promise and not keep it? It's also interesting why Avigdor Perl doesn't care. Perhaps Supergas CEO Moshe Oldak will care, for he knows that customers can switch companies.