Monday, April 24, 2006

Saving Money

Not many people remember the General Store. In the 1800s, one would walk up to a counter and point to what you wanted. A (suposedly) helpful chap or lass would grab the article and hand it to you, no doubt while recommending a more or less expensive alternative, plus an additional product or two.

Gas pumps "in the day" were manned with a high-school kid who would pump the gas and check your oil. (Is it Massachusetts or New Jersey that still mandates this?)

As late as the 1950's milk was delivered to your door. Some doctors would visit you in your sickbed.

There were reasons behind this. Mostly related to the technology or cost structure of the time.

Many of these are lost enterprises. Today it is the consumer's role to push a cart up and down the aisles, selecting products and doing the research necessary to pick the "best" product. Even for expensive items such as electronics, it is no longer possible to find a salesperson, let alone one who knows how to work the product or could recommend your best fit among the options.
Costs too much.

Indeed, many stores are now offering the "convenience" of self-checkout. It being much faster and convenient to argue with a loud pre-recorded voice that keeps repeating, "Please put the item in the bagging area"... in Spanish. Can the "convenience" of cosumers stocking the shelves be the future?

( Just as an aside, most people don't realize that many stores *don't* stock many of their own items. Many groceries use outside "specialists" to keep the chips, beer and soft-drink aisles full and organized. Large-box retailers like Home Despot don't do their own stocking. They lease floor space to companies who are in turn responsible for making sure the shelves are full. Often a good reason why the shelves are often in such disarray in many stores.)

Among other "convenient" ways to save money is pumping your own gas. Making a special run to the store to pick up a quart of milk. "Delivering" your own groceries.

Hardware stores a "saving" people millions by allowing the homeowner to do his own shoddy electrical, plumbing and masonry work.

Heck, we now assemble our own furniture for crying out loud.

But as the economics change some thing, it also changes others. Today you must figure out a way to take the 500" TV back to the store to get it fixed rather than pay big $$$ for a house-call, but yard and nanny service is cheap enough for even some "middle class" families to afford.

Maybe that nanny will also be able to help you re-wire the ceiling fan -- if you're not busy trying to figure out your health insurance, that is.

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