In 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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