French village takes on Coca-Cola

The mayor of Sainte-Marie is taxing the bejesus out of Coke -- but he swears it's not revenge.

By J.A. Getzlaff
Published April 27, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

It's a hot, dusty day in the southwestern French village of Sainte-Marie. You're thirsty, so you go to the town's only shop looking for something to wet your whistle. You choose a cold can of Coke, and it costs you 30 francs -- or $4.37.

A Coke for $4.37! But it cost only 10 francs one town over! According to a Reuters report, the price difference is the result of a new tax slapped onto the fizzy drink by Sainte-Marie's mayor, Bernard Herman.

Herman has said he imposed his 300 percent tax on Coca-Cola sales because he fears for his villagers' safety -- Coke was banned in France for two weeks last year when 200 people became sick after drinking contaminated Coke products from Belgian factories.

But safety may not be the mayor's only motive. He may actually be seeking revenge against the United States, which last year retaliated against France's ban on hormone-treated U.S. beef by imposing heavy taxes on a series of French luxury goods.

Herman, it seems, is now paying the Americans back with his sky-high Coke tax. He told Reuters, "On our soil, which is 100 percent farmland, it's true some producers have not exactly appreciated the Americans overtaxing our meats and our foie gras, not to mention the Roquefort cheese of our friends and neighbors in Aveyron."

He added, "This is absolutely not about disguised protectionism against American products but safety concerns among my villagers."

Bien s{r.


J.A. Getzlaff

J.A. Getzlaff's Daily Planet appears every weekday. Do you have a tip or tale for J.A.? Send it to DailyPlanet@salon.com.

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