A Cook's Diary

Filipino shopping habits and the “tingi” culture

casaveneracion.com tingi

In Philippine markets, it is possible to buy cooking oil by the cup. In Philippine neighborhood sari-sari (literally, variety) stores, it is possible to buy cigarettes by the stick, shampoo and coffee by the sachet, garlic in packs containing as few as four cloves or peppercorns in packs equal to about a teaspoonful. We call it “tingi” — the practice of selling and buying goods in amounts less than the smallest retail packaging.

What’s behind the practice? The average income is low and majority of the people have to budget carefully. While it may be cheaper in the long run to buy in bulk, I suppose it just doesn’t work with a lot of people. It is more realistic for them to buy only what they need for the moment. Immediacy, I think, is the proper word.

To cater to the segment of society who can only afford to buy basic goods in the “tingi” manner, sellers repackage everything into smaller amounts — from sugar to cooking oil to laundry detergent to every imaginable thing.

The irony is that the “tingi” packaging raises the price of the goods by as much as a hundred per cent. While the lower-priced small package may be more affordable for the masses, in effect, they are paying so much more.

The system seems to work though.

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