This is a story of how two bananas shook the hotel industry in India.
Not literally. However, it did cause a storm in the teacup called ‘social media’.
An Actor Orders Bananas at JW Marriott
Rahul Bose in an Indian actor and director. With 1.9 million followers on Twitter, he has quite a bit of fan following. On July 22, 2019, Rahul posted this video on Twitter
You have to see this to believe it. Who said fruit wasn’t harmful to your existence? Ask the wonderful folks at @JWMarriottChd #goingbananas #howtogetfitandgobroke #potassiumforkings pic.twitter.com/SNJvecHvZB
— Rahul Bose (@RahulBose1) July 22, 2019
In his own words,
“So I am shooting in Chandigarh (a city in India) and I am staying at this beautiful suite at JW Marriott. Where they give you all these elegant freebies like these chocolate cookies. And god knows how much these flowers must have cost.
But get this, I was in the Gym and I asked for two bananas while I was working out. And of course, I got those two bananas.
(Sarcastically) Check the bill out! They are just too good for me! Well done JW Marriott Chandigarh.”
This is a screen grab of the bill / invoice
So the reason for this outrage is probably twofold. First, two bananas aren’t food platter. Second, two bananas will cost less than 50 cents at a supermarket in India. Rahul was charged Rs. 442 ($6).
Sure it is funny. But hardly unusual. Premium hotels across the world are like that and India is no exception. Sometimes they give you expensive things for free – be it branded toiletries, flowers, sweets etc. Other times they charge for silly stuff. In fact, many hotels in Europe will charge additional Euro 10 for in-room dining. That is 4 bananas at JW Marriott Chandigarh’s value 🙂
I always check for the price when I order anything off-menu. But then again, I am no Rahul Bose.
At last count, this post was retweeted 5.6K times and got 20.5K likes. That is about one-fourth of what Donald Trump gets for his tweets. Not bad at all!
JW Marriott faced massive trolling from Twitterati over this issue. Some of it was also addressed towards Rahul. The trolling was not limited to sundry individuals. Western Railways – a branch of Indian Railways – got into the act as well with this gem.
Western Railway can take you at many tourist spots around the western zone of India. Travel easy with WR at an affordable price (approx. fare for Sleeper class). #RahulBoseMoment #WRKiSawari pic.twitter.com/El6iap7vpN
— Western Railway (@WesternRly) July 26, 2019
The post says, ‘Rather than buying 2 bananas at Rs. 442, add Rs. 3 more and visit a historic place with Western Railways’.
But wait there is more to the story.
Enter Taj Hotels
In a sly dig at JW Marriott, some people posted this message from Taj Hotels – an Indian luxury hotel chain.
Meanwhile, in the land of trolling JW Marriott…. pic.twitter.com/ipGEZILQ4s
— Deepak Shenoy (@deepakshenoy) July 25, 2019
So Taj hotels is offering – rather it is delighted to offer – seasonal fresh whole fruits for free.
It is funny but wait there is more to the story.
Enter the Taxmen
Please revisit the screen grab of the bill from JW Marriott. The cost of the bananas were Rs. 375 ($5). On top of that there were two taxes of 9% each – Central Goods & Services Tax (CGST) and State Goods & Services Tax (SGST).
But it turns out, bananas are tax free in India.
Now I totally get were JW Marriott is coming from. Rs. 375 is not really the cost price of bananas. On top of that there is the service fee for a premium property like JW Marriott. However, they did not deem it appropriate to split this. And the tax department was not too happy.
Initially JW Marriott received a notice from the tax department. Asking to explain why GST was charged on an exempt item. Later, they levied a fine of Rs. 25,000 ($350) on the hotel for illegal levy of GST on exempt items.
Bad publicity and then a fine. Now that is some expensive bananas.