Book fair apologizes for prices, removes violating vendors
Dewanti A. Wardhani
The Jakarta Post
The Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Publishers Association (Ikapi), along with the organizer of the 2015 Jakarta Book Fair, offered a formal apology on Tuesday to the public, and especially to the fair's first day patrons, for unintentionally letting some exhibitors sell school necessities for vastly inflated prices.
'We apologize for the inconvenience and thank the governor [Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama] for the reprimand,' Ikapi Jakarta head Afrizal Sinaro told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday at Senayan in Central Jakarta.
The 2015 Jakarta Book Fair committee head, Tatang Sudensyah, said that the exhibitors who overpriced were those selling school necessities other than textbooks, such as bags, stationary and shoes.
'We have investigated all our exhibitors and, so far, found two exhibitors breaking exhibition rules,' said Tatang.
This is the first year, after 24 years, Tatang said, that the annual book fair accepted exhibitors selling school necessities other than textbooks. Textbook sellers, which are the publishers themselves, occupied only 40 percent of the 246 stands at the exhibition this year.
The event cooperated with city-owned Bank DKI and the city administration to provide Jakarta Smart Card (KJP) holders with a bonus Rp 500,000 (US$37) on their cards for spending on educational necessities. The deposit is not transferable for cash and can only be used to purchase school needs at appointed vendors.
Tatang said that before the exhibition started, the organizer and exhibitors had signed an agreement letter stating that the goods sold must be cheaper than those in regular stores.
On Monday, however, the first day of the book fair, which runs until Aug. 3, several visitors complaining that textbooks were more expensive than at regular stores.
The complaints shocked Governor Ahok.
'I sent several staffers to visit the book fair to check on prices and I was shocked [...] I thought that books sold directly from printing companies would be discounted,' Ahok told reporters on Tuesday at City Hall.
He said that he would seek the cooperation of printing companies and book stores such as Gramedia to give discounts to KJP holders to buy their school necessities.
'At book fairs like this, the goods are supposed to be sold at a much cheaper price [...] Therefore I will no longer ask teachers to take KJP holders to the book fair to purchase school necessities,' Ahok said.
Meanwhile, Tatang claimed that the organizer had checked the goods on offer and their prices a week before the fair started, and found everything was fine. 'But surprisingly, the facts in the field were different. We were also shocked,' he added.
The organizer, he said, would put those who were found contravening the agreement on an exhibitor blacklist.
To avoid such matters during the book fair, Ikapi Jakarta legal advisory Ahmad Nidad suggested that the committee and the exhibitors make an official agreement wherein those found to have sold goods for higher-than-regular-store prices be required to pay compensation.
'This problem serves as a warning for the organizer to be more careful in the future,' Ahmad said.
Despite the issue, the book fair still attracted hundreds of visitors on Tuesday, day two, most of them KJP holders from low-income families.
Among them was 42-year-old Aisyah, a resident of Pondok Kelapa in East Jakarta, who came with her sons, aged 5 and 7. She said that she did not know about discounts offered and claimed that the prices were too expensive for her.
'It would have been better for me to buy at markets,' she said while queueing to pay for a school bag.
Aisyah was willing to queue up, however, to take advantage of the money that the government had sent to her son's KJP account. (foy)
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