- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

ZURICH — Switzerland, the land of $14 movie tickets and $24 compact discs, has hit a new high in sticker shock: the $20 newspaper.

Attempting to satisfy desperate expatriates, one of Zurich’s most prominent English-language bookshops is selling the Sunday edition of the New York Times each week for 26 Swiss francs, or $19.93.

That’s about $5 more than the 1,040-page 2003 almanac, also sold in the pricey Orell Fuessli bookstore. And the newspaper comes a day late, arriving each Monday morning.

One customer uttered an expletive when she saw the price. “For yesterday’s news?” she asked.

An almost apologetic sales clerk acknowledged the outrageous price, attributing it to the cost of flying a bundle of the papers from New York each week. Few are willing to pay the high price, she said.

“We know it’s expensive, and we’re trying to get the price down,” said Andrew Rushton, the sales and marketing manager. “We’re not making huge amounts of money on this, but at the same time, we don’t want to make huge losses.”

Mr. Rushton, who noted that his is the only store in Switzerland to sell the paper, orders 10 copies a week from an agent and sells five to 10. Some readers, he said, are thankful for their paper, even in the age of the Internet.

Zurich, which enjoys one of the world’s highest standards of living, often appears on lists of the 10 most expensive cities. A survey released this week by Mercer Human Resource Consulting ranked the city No. 9 (Tokyo was No. 1).

The Swiss city ranked sixth in the latest survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), higher than London and New York, the cost-of-living leader in the United States.

Bill Ridgers, editor of that list, said even the African nation of Gabon, where just about everything is imported for a few wealthy expatriates, doesn’t have $20 newspapers.

“It sounds quite remarkable,” he said. “I can’t ever remember seeing something that expensive.”

The Economist magazine, a sister company to the EIU, recently updated its long-standing “Big Mac index,” which compares the prices of Big Macs in 118 countries to determine whether currencies are under- or overvalued. Switzerland’s price topped the list at $4.52.

Other over-the-top costs in Zurich include more than $21 for an hour of bowling, almost $3.25 for a “tall” coffee at Starbucks and about $8 for a McDonald’s Value Meal, which includes a sandwich, medium drink and medium fries.

No wonder Swiss residents fortunate enough to live near France, Germany or Italy head over the border to buy their groceries and luxury goods.

As for the expensive newspaper, the New York Times didn’t have a comment, though one staffer said it was news to her.

There is some comfort for those not willing to fork over $20 for American news. The International Herald Tribune, a Monday-through-Saturday daily published by the New York Times and printed in Switzerland, costs a comparatively inexpensive $2.88. Or just head into a Starbucks, look for a free copy in the newspaper bin and recoup some of the cost of that coffee.

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