Bargain Hunting

christmas-gifts-10In case you hadn’t caught up with it, it’s the Christmas and New Year season. Frequently we’re bombarded with TV advertisements suggesting we’ll get the bargain of our lives if we shop at a mall or factory outlet or even the internet.  In case TV ads don’t get you, enterprising morning joggers supplement their income by depositing junk mail on behalf of advertisers in letter boxes whether invited to or not.  These flyers have the same enticing generic message.  Beds and bedding at 50% normal price, furniture at give away prices, and an assortment of household gadgets with original price slashed through and a tempting price substituted.  These opportunities are confined to sale days which seem to be a year round affair.

We love bargains.  Big department stores resemble war zones on appointed sale days with garments being tugged in all directions as normally placid people find themselves in bodily conflict with a stranger determined to take that last bargain off them. We wonder at times if we really are a civilized race!

Supermarkets have been in the news lately.  When you step into a supermarket the first thing you see is a sign trumpeting a claim prices have been reduced in that store. They’d have you believe you’re getting a deal in every aisle, but TV exposure reveals this isn’t necessarily the case.  Of course supermarkets aren’t the only advertisers to pull that trick on an unsuspecting public.

Why do corporate entities manipulate us in order to clear old stock and then return to unaffordable prices for the rest of the year?  It’s because they understand the basic instinct of human nature and wish to profit from that knowledge.  We’re greedy!  Most of us desire more of everything we see and wish to pay as little as possible for our acquisitions.  This makes us vulnerable to enticement and possible exploitation.

I remember being called to deal with an unfortunate case involving the son of a respected citizen.  This boy was not a bad person, and certainly had the advantage of a proper upbringing.  He noticed an advertisement in the local newspaper.  The advertisement was seeking recruits for work in an oil rich country, and this was a dream he’d nurtured for many years.  Those who’d been fortunate to get a job in the Gulf Country returned after many years considerably wealthier than those who’d remained behind.  It was clear to him this was his opportunity.

The advertisement stated a large deposit would have to be paid to the agency, and as he didn’t have any money decided to borrow it from the work place where he’d access to cash.  Of course he rationalized it wasn’t dishonest to borrow, and fully intended to pay it back as soon as he reached the Gulf.  I think you can guess what happened.  The bank account he deposited money into was closed and the office vacated without forwarding address.  The money disappeared with agency recruiters. He had to confess, and his cash strapped parents paid the money back at great sacrifice. The bargain he visualized was a cruel hoax instrumental in ruining his reputation.

Just in case you think I’m immune from hoaxes I’ll add my own confession.  In the early eighties our girls noticed a competition in a magazine for children advertising prizes for successful written submissions, which they entered with enthusiasm.  All it required was postage to be remitted and promoters would mail our girls their prizes.  Would I give them the money so they could collect their prize?  No, I wouldn’t, as the whole thing looked like a scam.  But as their faces grew longer my heart went out in Fatherly sympathy so I sent the money.  You guessed it, we lost our money! But no matter how many times we’re caught we still go looking for bargains.

Some of you may have heard of the Cargo Cult which flourished for a time in New Guinea.  This religion taught the Great Spirit in the sky would send a plane load of luxuries to those who were true believers and had the patience to wait.  Fields were ignored and work put aside as cult devotees waited on the mountainside day by day for a plane to arrive with their promised treasures.  It never came.

It’s a fact of life; if you want to pick roses you have to plant rose bushes.  How often we try to gain maximum benefit out of life while putting out minimum effort.

Take for example our health.  Most of us burn the candle at both ends in our teens and early twenties because we want to get maximum enjoyment out of every day with the least fuss and bother.  We’re looking for a bargain with our health.  No time to invest in proper meals or sleep, no time for healthy exercise.  It isn’t cool to do that, and that’s the way I thought at the time. Then we wonder why we lose our health later in life.

What about friendships?  Are they based on what we can get out of the people we know?  Do we go bargain hunting in our interrelationships with others?  If so, should we be surprised when there’s no one to give us encouragement and support as we hit one of those frequent bumps in life.

Then there’s the family.  Are we married to a job, or our favorite sport and don’t have time to give to family?  If so should we be surprised to discover when we begin to slow down and have time for family they’ve substituted other interests and don’t have time for us?

Not to say work is unimportant.  Income we earn from enterprise provides a home and future for our children.  So the flip side of the coin is how serious are we about the work we do?  Does our bargain hunting instinct cause us to cut corners and shortchange the ones who provide our work security?  That too is a dangerous game to play!

Surely not education?  Unfortunately yes! Some support the philosophy a degree should be obtained at any cost, but not necessarily the acquisition of knowledge?  I’ve discovered students respect you when you figure out their little games and make them work for their grade. There are internet degree mills that will sell a degree for little effort or cash expenditure, but people are looking for substance when they evaluate us and a degree is only one of the indicators of a person’s value when looking for a job. Perhaps we shouldn’t bargain hunt when looking for an education.

Having said that I’m sure we’ll always be lined up for bargains at sale time during our allotted life span.  I’m sure I will. It’s exhilarating to get a genuine bargain when so many of the things on offer are froth and bubble as Solomon would have expressed it.  But the greatest bargain in life is the knowledge you’ve worked hard for everything you attained and didn’t cut corners or engage in sharp deals at other’s expense to get what you have.  To have the respect of community to pass along to your children as a heritage is ultimate satisfaction, and that’s the best bargain of all.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2013 All rights reserved

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13 thoughts on “Bargain Hunting

  1. Spot on my friend and very well said…we are led to believe that it’s always ‘greener’ on the other side…all will be well if we have this or that! People and love are what matters. 🙂 x


  2. Thank you for this profound piece Ian. It is a good message for us all to take into 2014. I’ve never been a bargain hunter always believing that, in the end, you get what you pay for. I am also reminded of the first words of the Beatle’s lovely song “The best things in life are free’. Yes I know that the rest of the song is about money ‘give me money that’s what I want’. I always thought that they missed those best things – the warm sun, our children and our legacy as you state, Ian, in your last two sentences.
    Thank you for this piece which provokes good thoughts right at the time of new year’s resolutions!


    1. Thank you Jane. You are right is focusing on the fact that the simple things of life are more satisfying than the artificial glitter we hang our attention on in today’s world. Happy New Year.


  3. Hello Ian,

    I didn’t know that your father was a politician. From what you relate, he was a man of rare and honourable traits – traits that have rubbed off on you.

    Do you plan to post articles about your father’s political life? I would love to read them.

    All good wishes,


    1. I just finished scanning a certificate of appreciation from the Queensland Government yesterday acknowledging his 33 years in local government issued 1986. He was Deputy Mayor of the City of Gympie the gold city for many years and I can remember watching him on the back of a truck campaigning for a place in State Parliament as a child. He didn’t succeed at that attempt back in the 1940’s. Now and then I’ve mentioned him in some of my stories but have no plans at this time to do a series on his life.


  4. The other side is, people don’t always value ‘free’ stuff.

    Last year, a friend asked that I give a ‘free’ speech to aspiring authors of fiction. He agreed to do the marketing and apparently roped in an e–marketing wizard to help drum up attendance. Only half the available seats filled and that included several friends and their girlfriends whom my friend apparently begged and perhaps even threatened with bodily harm to secure their attendance.

    I decided to impose a fee for all subsequent seminars. Happy to say that we’ve had full houses, even though we steadily increased the ticker prices.

    When newly married and finances were tight in the 1980s, I used to seek out bargains. Not anymore. My family and I have ignored the Great Singapore Sale since its inception years ago.

    Your last two sentences, Ian, captured what I believe and try to live by.

    I dare say that in all my business dealings, I’ve never cheated anyone. I drive hard business negotiations, true, but live by the word and spirit of any agreement reached.

    However, I had been naïve enough to be cheated by several ‘friends’ and unfortunately, even ‘family members’ whom I trusted by virtue of our friendship and/or blood ties.

    This very timely post requires pause and reflection.

    Thank you Ian, for articulating the theme so well.

    All good wishes,


    1. I watched my Father get cheated time and again and his attitude provoked me in my teen years. His philosophy was to do good in life is the highest attainment and he lived that in business and his political roles. His attitude to being frequently cheated was the cheaters were the losers. He was not gullible by any means and that’s why he was successful, but he did give people the benefit of the doubt when he considered them to be in need. It was only when I matured I realized how happy he must have been in doing good even when there was a risk of being taken for a ride. His conscience was clear and he was one of those rare clean politicians. In maturity I’ve tried to imitate this good man.


    1. Well of course we should Yoshiko. A happy person is a well balanced person who takes into account all the obligations of life, working to produce savings is one of the obligations. We should not be a burden to others in society ourselves, and we should provide in our surplus earnings for those who through no fault of their own are not able to survive without help of some kind. My experience with Japanese people is that they are hardworking and generous with what they have. I admire them greatly.


  5. Its called consumerism! I too have fallen by the wayside and learned the painful way. However, it is also a sad part of society these days. At one time it was ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ but nowadays, even though it is ‘every man for himself’ there seems to be no end to the scams pervading. People who engage in this type of cheating/stealing understand human nature only too wello….excellent article Ian.


    1. Yes today’s world is a very complicated world. Back in my parent’s day they worked hard just to survive and sometimes they didn’t have work or food as we do today. There was no safety net dole in those days. But the struggle made them problem solvers par excellence. Today we have conditioned people to think quite differently and as you say consumerism reigns supreme. None of us can really claim to be totally immune from its temptations. There are increasingly bad guys that play on our greed as you’ve pointed out and in our greed we lose.


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