Norwegian babies may have been born under a lucky – and rich – star, but as supermarket rivalry drives nappy prices down, shops are being raided by Eastern European customers for “the world’s cheapest” disposable diapers, leaving the little ones in Norway short of a basic necessity.
“A couple of times every month they arrive with their big trucks,” Øyvind Pedersen at food chain Rema 1000 in Sandnes, told regional newspaper Aftenbladet. “They raid the store for diapers. They plan to resell them. Norwegian diapers are the world’s cheapest.”
Customs authorities (Tollvesenet) have uncovered five attempts to smuggle large amounts of diapers out of the country so far this year. Not one incident was reported in 2012, according to assistant manager Alf Røgeberg at Tollvesenet, who said diapers that cost around NOK 20 (USD 3.70) in Norway, can be resold for NOK 100 (USD 18.40) in Lithuania.
Losing money to attract customers
“Diapers are smuggled to avoid paying taxes in their home country,” Røgeberg said. “But also because they are so cheap in Norway.” Although Norway is among the most expensive countries in the world, stores charge relatively low prices for disposable diapers and often operate with large discounts. Some shops even sell them at a loss to attract customers, according to Røgeberg.
Pedersen at Rema 1000 has experienced days where shelves have been stripped completely empty and said he knows of other stores that have had the same problem. He said they are now limiting sales of disposable diapers to three packages at a time.
It is fully legal to buy Norwegian nappies as long as they are declared to tax authorities, so not all of the raids are necessarily illegal. However, Thomas Angell at Virke, a trade and service organization in Norway, said it is likely that this is smuggling since they are buying directly from the shop. Angell believes shops shouldn’t prevent these customers from buying large amounts of nappies, but added that they aren’t breaking any rules if they choose to do so.
“That Eastern Europeans are buying such large quantities may be a sign of shortages or high prices in their home country,” Angell said. “The stores need to make sure they have enough nappies for other customers as well.”
Views and News from Norway/Aasa Christine Stoltz
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