SHILLONG, April 25 � Ever wondered how sweets, or its North Korean currency equivalent, can leave a bitter taste on the spirit? Try shopping or marketing in the �Scotland of the East� � Shillong.
Business houses, large or small, here in the State capital have discovered an ingenious but illegal way of short-changing gullible customers. Shopkeepers seldom return money worth Rs 5 or below as changes here, but hand over sweets instead.
It is not entirely true that coins in the denomination of rupee one to five are not available, which shopkeepers shrug as an excuse, but handing candies is the way out for these shopkeepers to laugh their way to the bank.
�I despise candies. Therefore, candies are as good as a North Korean currency for me. However, I was forced to take them, not once, but each time I shopped in Shillong,� Debjani Saikia, a tourist from Assam, said about her bitter marketing experience in Police Bazar.
Departmental stores in the city all have a neat candy box near the cash counter. �I saw a person handing Rs 75 to the cashier, but he refused to give me Rs 5 as change and instead handed me a milky bar, which I refused to take and was then rudely asked to hand back the items purchased,� Saikia said.
There are other shops which illegally hand over a stamped coupon instead of coins to be redeemed later at the same shop. �We have a shortage of five rupee coins,� claimed a large store in Police Bazar justifying the stamped coupons worth five rupees.
If Rs one to five currency � as made to believe � is in short supply, fifty paise is an absolute no-no. Not a single shop would accept fifty paise coins leaving many tourists here amused at this extravagancy.
�The public must complain to the Deputy Commissioner�s office about this illegal practises and then we can act,� East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner, Jopthiaw Lyngdoh said. But, it�s difficult for tourist like Saikia to bring up such complaints to the district administration.
There was no immediate assurance of taking suo-moto action against these errant shopkeepers by Lyngdoh. He nonetheless said that soon his office would convene a meeting with East Khasi Hills Superintendent of Police, AR Mawthoh on this issue.
�We would inquire from the Reserve Bank of India if circulation of coins is short in the State or the shortage has been artificially created or there is no shortage. We would then take action based on the findings,� he promised.
Apart from shops, city taxi drivers are notorious for not returning money changes at all. �Be prepared to lose Rs one to five if you don�t carry the necessary changes in a local taxi,� a daily taxi commuter bitterly advised.