Updated: Wednesday, 19 February 2014 00:32 | By Agence France-Presse

Brazilians find a cooler way to beat high prices

Residents of Rio de Janeiro's trendier areas have long viewed polystyrene coolers as distinctly uncool, associating them with the simple fare of beach vendors.


Brazilians find a cooler way to beat high prices

Young people talk and drink after midnight beside a foam ice box with drinks at Sao Salvador Square in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Februrary 13, 2014 - by Yasuyoshi Chiba

But with temperatures soaring during the Brazilian summer, the coolers have been gaining popularity in the city's well-heeled areas as locals balk at high prices in bars ahead of the World Cup.

"What's really uncool these days is to get ripped off by paying 10 reais" or about four dollars, for a beer in a bar, 28-year-old Guigga Tomaz, a video jockey, tells AFP.

Tomaz is at the forefront of efforts to adopt the foam cooler as party animals seek to slake their thirst more affordably as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in recent weeks.

The campaign resembles Spain's "botellon" tradition, in which groups of friends hang out in squares or on the beach, avoiding the bars and instead bringing a bottle of their own to the party.

In Rio, they call it the "isoporzinho" or "little refrigerator" -- just one facet of a growing movement in Brazil to resist high prices that are on the constant rise months before the World Cup kicks off on June 12.

The campaign started off on Facebook last month and was swiftly dubbed "Rio $urreal", a pun on "surreal" but also "real" -- the Brazilian currency. More than 180,000 people have liked the page.

- $urreal -- it's for real - 

"If you think the $urreal is Rio's new currency, then join the campaign -- 'DON'T PAY A SURREAL PRICE'," say movement members.

The campaign is illustrated by bogus banknotes bearing the face of Spanish surrealist master Salvador Dali.

"We know there is a general feeling that we are being hit with abusive prices. If society doesn't react strongly, things will get worse," says site founder Daniela Name.

Prices of goods across the board have been rising well above the inflation rate (5.9 percent in 2013), and Internet users have been complaining about it in droves.

A pitcher of pineapple juice costs 52 reais in a restaurant in the chic Rio district of Santa Teresa, and a sandwich goes for a whopping 99 reais in upscale beachside Leblon.

"When I got back from my holidays, a beer had gone up inside a fortnight from 7.5 reais to nine in my local bar," complained Tomaz.

"I found it absurd and posted on Facebook that I was going to start using a cooler."

The "isoporzinho" movement is gaining ground in other cities including business hub Sao Paulo, the capital Brasilia and Manaus in the Amazon region.

A first meet-up of isoporzinho fans drew 80 people last month.

"I didn't know most of them. We did it again and now there are more than 200 on weekends," says Tomaz.

- Political act -

With average monthly wages of just $840 and rents climbing up to 40 percent with each lease renewal, there is a wind of icy revolt in the air among the cooler enthusiasts.

"It's a political act. Everything is too expensive. Rio is an expensive city and run in a way that suits those who have money," says Tomaz.

Deborah Turturro organized an "isoporzinho" on Rio's iconic Copacabana beach.

"This beer costs 1.89 reais in a supermarket. In a bar it would cost six, seven or even eight," she says.

Turturro predicts that, as more and more people resist, establishments will have to drop their high prices.

Some Rio bars have already dropped their beer prices by 15 percent. 

Others, including Casa Brasil which sells its beer for five reais on Sao Salvador square just outside the city center, insist that the "isoporzinho" movement will not greatly affect them. 

"It won't change much. We have our regulars," indicates the manager.

But Tomaz suggests otherwise.

Since his movement started, he says, "I've not gone back to a bar. We're better off outside. We can walk about and interact. We're not limited to a table which keeps people apart."

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