<%-- Page Title--%> Musings <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 129 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

November 7, 2003

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The Diminishing Scoop


The world is getting smaller and so are the ice-cream scoops in Dhaka's 'exclusive' ice-cream parlours. The other day we went to one in Gulshan to treat our daughter to a long-promised double scoop of mint chocolate chip on chocolate. After ignoring the measly little scoops doled out by the attending salesman, something that I have been doing since the diminishing scoop syndrome began, I was just about to order my own scanty mint chocolate chip single scoop when a mini-drama unfolded.

An Indian couple had just ordered a scoop for their son and when they saw its size they gaped in disbelief. 'Why is the scoop so small?' the woman demanded. I couldn't resist a little revenge myself and slyly added “and they are getting smaller day by day” which seemed to egg them on. While the woman tried to reason with the 'scoop givers', her husband went virtually ballistic. “You are cheating us. I will report this to the newspapers…” Being a bit of a wimp when it came to handling a scene, I didn't reveal that indeed a newspaper representative was standing right next to him. (Well he might yell at me for not having the gumption to speak out before him instead of meekly accepting what was obviously a joke of a scoop).

The man demanded to see the manager who, when he appeared, looked ready to shrivel with embarrassment and lamely asked his staff 'ki thik moton dao nai?' (Didn't you give them the right way?). The 'scoop givers' meanwhile, remained quite calm and insisted that that indeed was the size of the scoop. The silly fellows could easily have blamed it on their employers but instead chose to defend the scoop size resulting in the gentleman getting even madder. He stomped out of the shop with something like “I will tell all my Indian friends not to come here”. I wanted to applaud with smugness and told the offenders that the gentleman's tirade had been perfectly justified.

Of course this did not increase the size of my daughter's scoop which was only a few licks away from extinction. I saw my kid savouring the last drops of the ice-cream that should have lasted so much longer and felt angry inside. These people were ripping us off, charging unbelievable prices (TK 60 per semi-scoop) while cutting down on the quantity.

I remember when I was a child there weren't too many places selling cone ice-creams but the ones that were available gave so much of the stuff in a single scoop that you almost got sick of it by the time the cone started dripping. Almost.

In present times the phenomenon of dwindling ice-cream scoops seems exclusive to the exclusive parlours of Dhaka. Just take a look at the scoop anywhere else in the world and you can see what a real scoop looks like, one that can be licked for long moments of introspection, escapism and pure joy. Even the shops selling imported ice-cream, when they first started out, gave decent scoops. This is what ticks off the ice-cream connoisseur. Before these designer ice-creams came to town, people were perfectly happy with the local, unassuming brands like Igloo and Polar. Then these fancy temptations come, get us pretty much hooked on their 'mint chocolate chips', 'praline and creams' and 'raspberry framboise' after which they start hiking up the prices and scrimping on the scoops. Now that's just ain't fair. Or ethical.

So what's the mystery behind the dwindling scoops? I once asked a salesman in one of these fancy places why the scoop had become smaller and he replied that 'a technical expert from Switzerland' had come to train them and had shown them what a scoop should be like and that they had been doing it all wrong all this time. It seems these 'technical experts' have different standards for different countries. Or maybe its because Bangladeshis, on average, are smaller in terms of physique, so maybe their threshold for 'ice-cream tolerance' is lower than their taller, larger, western counterparts!

Or--and this seems a lot closer to the truth these designer ice-cream joints are just going with the flow of many other commercial enterprises in this country which is to follow three simple rules: Get as much as possible out of the customer and give as little in return; The customer is never right; Slowly but steadily shoot up the prices while cutting on quantity or quality. Just go to any 'exclusive' restaurant selling at least three different 'authentic' cuisines. You will hardly find an item that doesn't cost at least Tk 200 (unless you want to go home just eating garlic bread or the steamed rice). Funny thing is, everyone copies everyone when it comes to pricing with absolutely no regard for keeping the standards uniformly high. So even the seedy little restaurants with their own versions of 'authentic' cuisine (in which the ratio of say, chicken pieces: onions is 5: 120) will follow the pricing of their 'upper class' cousins.

So here we are, destined to be duped, fated to be ripped off. Meanwhile I am seriously thinking of organising an 'ice-cream deprived persons forum' so that we can all picket outside these stingy designer ice-cream shops and demand that the scoop be restored to its original, dignified size. Mint chocolate chip, I guess, will just have to wait.



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