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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
February 21, 2019

1/29/2019 1:36:00 PM
Harder than ever to get a fair deal
For the Daily News

I'm making a comment about current events. Now that I've said that, how did it make you feel? Are you weary of the world we live in?

I suggest to you a good deal of that is internal, and it may be very likely you are giving away your happiness to those who would like to get you to buy something. It's a psychological strategy as old as time, but an effective one, and there is some chance that the sellers have gotten so good at it that our resistance has fallen to an all-time low. That is not my focus now.

I turn down the sound on the commercials often enough now to realize more time is spent in silence waiting for whatever it was I was watching to come back on than not. The teasers are especially annoying to me. "Stay tuned; up next, the amazing story of the blah blah blah." So I wait through the sales pitches until they return and it's not next, or next to next, or ever before they say again, "Stay tuned, we're really going to show you the amazing story about blah blah blah," which turns out to be at the very end of the show, and then not much more than what they've been telling you already with maybe the additional suggestion that you download their app to see the rest of the story on your phone.

They fooled me again. I go to look for something more honest and controllable, but find that I need gas in my car to drive around town and do that. I stop and begin to fill up after the usual routine. The little blue screen on the pump tells me there's coffee and cappuccino for sale for just 79 cents inside. On the face of the pump there is a prominent and larger yellow sticker telling me the same thing.

I go inside to pay, not using the pay-at-the-pump card reader since I was once charged $200 by one and didn't see it for a month only to be told I should have mentioned it sooner, so I had to pay it anyway. Forget that I only had a 12-gallon tank so it was impossible, even at the price they were charging, to even buy that much at one time, it was somehow my bad for not saying something in a more timely manner that I was being robbed.

On the door going inside the store where the gas pumps sit outside is another yellow sticker telling me it's only 79 cents for a coffee or cappuccino, and the line is long enough that I have time to get one and not miss my turn. So I go down to where the cups and coffee are and sure enough, there's another sticker on the counter, right over a cup that is the smallest of the row and so I take it, fill it, and go to pay.

The gas is the price the pump said it would be; the coffee was $1.39. I complain.

"That's for the regular," they say, "you got the large size." Well, it wasn't large, it was the smallest of the choices and it was under the sign saying 79 cents, so I get out of line and go back and look to see if I'm losing my mind or not. I'm not. There's the sign over the smallest cup in the row, which I now see has the tiny printing on the bottom that says "large." The one next to it is "extra-large" and the one on the end is something "mega."

I look around for "regular" and see one far off, on the other side of the trash bin door, and I go have a look. Sure enough, it's "regular." I pour my coffee in it, throw the rest away, and go back to the register. The clerk watched me do it and is not happy. I am not happy, either. She hopes I won't be back. She will get her wish.

There was a time, not so long ago, that the business of doing business was not about fooling people, it was about honestly having something to offer in the way of a service or an item for sale at a price that represented something close to its real value. Not "fair market value," which is the most you can get from the highest bidder, but real value, as in what you can get from someone who will not feel cheated or fooled afterward but be willing to come back again and again, knowing you are making a living at this and not minding that.

I don't mind people making a living, in fact I'm in favor of it. I tell my business classes that I hope they all do business here and get rich doing it. I mean that. More money for everyone is a good thing. It's not an end in itself, however, because a lot of things can be done to make money that are not ethical or beneficial in the long run and add no value to our community.

On the other side of the ledger from commercial foolishness are things we used to pay for and get nothing but peace of mind out of that we seem to have forgotten about. I believe that was money well spent.

The particular church denomination I was raised in here closed some time ago, and while there are other similar places to worship in similar ways, it is too simple to point out that to someone that doctrine matters and another won't do just because it's close. Close counts in hand grenades and horseshoes, not liturgy.

Apparently it doesn't count in coffee cups, either, no matter how much I yearn for the contents. Collectively we went to church in larger numbers than we do now, as a community and as a nation. I think it unfortunate that we no longer share some of the fundamental beliefs that I once thought we did, but the news may just be my own revelation, not reality.

If I was once a fool about that, I was a happy one, but having learned the truth about something it is difficult to go back to pretending. To put this right, I redouble my efforts to be better in all things when dealing with others. Someone may notice the example and be nicer to someone else when the chance comes and if they do, I have had the effect I hoped for - make that prayed for.

In that distant time in my younger mind when I thought life was good, I may have thought so just because I was a fool about so many things. Now that I know better, it doesn't mean I have to accept them. It means I need to change them.

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