Karen O'Leary's biggest scoop yet: Are hot chips too expensive?

  • 26/07/2023

For her tenth community investigation Karen O'Leary is tackling an issue she has been asked about more than any other: the price of hot chips. 

The Paddy Gower Has Issues inbox has received more than a dozen emails about the increase in the price of our favourite side dish, and one of them came from none other than Karen's fiance Eilish.

"Every day after school at Nelson College for Girls...we would buy bowls of chips, and they were $4 each... After a hard day at school there's nothing better than a good chip," Eilish reminisces, before explaining chips have now gone from $4 to well into the double digits.

"It's related to a bigger issue, of the cost of living, that we're struggling with at the moment", explains Eilish.

"That's probably more of a Paddy Issue," suggests Karen, but focusing on just the chips might be something Karen can do. 

Determined to see how the country is really feeling about fries, Karen hits the street to get Wellingtonians to chip in with their opinions. The consensus of opinions is clear: almost everyone Karen talks to thinks the price of a bowl of chips should be around $6, not the $14 that many cafes and bars choose. 

"It's cheaper to buy a bag of potatoes than a small thing of chips", complains one Wellingtonian chip fan.

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They specify other requirements, such as making sure each bowl has at least "a four potato amount of chips". After hearing the voices of the people, Karen heads to a chip-selling bar to get the inside scoop. 

She meets Sean from Newtown bar Bebemos, who has one major reason for why the price has blown up.

"I don't want to mention the big elephant in the room.... the pandemic", which led to them increasing their prices. "It also comes from the source." Not the tomato source, but their source of potatoes.

"The cost of a box of fries has gone up by $13".

Karen calls it her chip-tastrophe and to get to the bottom of it she conducts an experiment. She heads to bars and chipperies across Wellington to get a proper look at the state of chips.

"I measured them, I smelt them, I counted them, I dipped them, I weighed them and I even ate them." Despite some attacks from seagulls, Karen retrieves the data she needs, discovering some bowls are working out to us paying over 17 cents per chip, despite them costing less than 4 cents a chip to make.

Armed with her data, she takes her tough questions to the biggest name in chips: No, not Mr Chips, but the Prime Minister himself, Chris "Chippy" Hipkins.

While he doesn't reveal anything immediately, Chippy does appear to hint that something that might make chips cheaper could be on the horizon.

"More affordable chips would be a very good thing. In terms of our GST policy, our tax policy, you'll just have to wait a bit longer for that."

Could this be another win for Karen O'Leary, time will tell. 

Paddy Gower Has Issues takes a break until October 4, but Karen would still like to hear from anyone with an issue she can help solve. If you have an issue you want tackled, let Karen know about it by emailing issues@paddygower.co.nz.

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