Sunday, February 23, 2020

For Those Who Despise Haggling

I have never cared for the practice of bartering or haggling when one is trying to purchase something. Some people love the rush they get as they put their negotiating skills to the test and demonstrate their business savvy. I am not one of those people. Maybe I'm a wuss, but I tend to avoid any unnecessary confrontational interactions and I just can't stand the inefficiency and repetitive nature of bartering.

I'd like to first clarify that I don't think there is anything wrong with getting a bargain or being good with money. It's been said "a fool and his money are soon parted." I also understand that there are times and places when you don't have a choice but to bargain, but why would you do it if you didn't need to? I would describe haggling as an unnecessary extra step, a waste of your time, and an exercise in inefficiency. I don't like having to employ acting skills and excessive dialogue in order to purchase something at a fair price.

My first encounter with this came as a teenager when I went to Tijuana with some friends. As soon as we crossed the border we were swarmed by salespeople trying to sell their goods. If you wanted to buy a blanket, hammock, jewelry, or any souvenir, you had to go through the process of listening to the vendor tell you how much they wanted for it which was usually 5 times too much. Then you countered their offer by saying you would pay far less than the item was worth. You did this back and forth multiple times as each party slowly gave in and got more reasonable. By the end of the process you pretended to be uninterested and walk away until they finally ran up to you and agreed upon the appropriate price both parties were okay with. This is the real price you could have just bought it for in the begin without all the theatrics. Even buying an inexpensive thing like a can of soda involved going through this ridiculous routine!

I would rather pay more for almost anything than have to play this silly game and waste my time when I buy something from a street vendor.  Since I moved to Africa a couple years ago I have been forced to barter and bargain more than I like. Taxis are notorious for making you haggle. Many taxi drivers here typically ask 3 to 4 times the going rate when I need a ride. I just feel it is insulting to my intelligence to have to play this game. That is one reason I love Uber. I know what the price is before the driver even shows up and it is usually a third of what the taxi drivers demand. I don't have to spend any time or energy arguing because the decision is made in a split second on the app. If the quote is too high, I simply don't proceed.

One exception where I can accept this type of negotiating is when you are making a large purchase like a home. It doesn't seem quite as annoying when people are dealing with large sums of money and are submitting written offers and counter offers with a deadline while their offers are being entertained. At least this only happens for most  people a handful of times in a lifetime.

If you disagree with me, just think what your shopping experience would be like if the next time you went to Costco or a grocery store the person in front of you with a large cart of groceries haggled with the clerk over every item they purchased.

After writing this post I was looking online for a picture for haggling and came across this video clip. I feel vindicated if Monty Python is also making fun of this topic. Just because I hate bartering doesn't mean I'm better than those who do enjoy playing this game... it only means I have more common sense than them.😄

Monday, February 17, 2020

Controlling Governments

I haven't given much thought to communism over the years, but with the recent Coronavirus outbreak. I've had some interesting insights and reminders about controlling governments. It has been interesting to see how slow the Chinese government was to admit that they had a serious health crisis on their hands. They even criticized other countries that had issued warnings to their citizens about travelling to China saying they were over-reacting and promoting needless fear. It's also been disturbing to see Chinese citizens, reporters, and bloggers attempting to tell the world about the actual severity of the problem be censored, jailed, or just simply disappear. On the bright side, a controlling government made it much easier to shut down and quarantine a city with twice the population of Los Angeles. That would be much harder to do in the US where people are accustomed to going wherever and whenever they want.

I've noticed a similar patterns in other countries over the years. The citizens of North Korea are only allowed access to media that is provided by their government. There is no social media or interaction with other countries. All the movies made in North Korea are produced by the government and this propaganda paints their leader as a man who is approaching deity. Their starving citizens are taught to fear the rest of the world and are constantly being told how well they have it. The last thing their leaders want is for their citizens to have their eyes opened to how the rest of the world is living and to the freedoms they do not enjoy. In a way it seems like North Korea is pulling a massive Truman Show prank on 25 million people.

Speaking of the Coronavirus, it might not spread into North Korea as quickly as other countries since it is so isolated with travel restrictions for visitors, however; if it ever did infect North Korean citizens, I doubt their government would ever be willing to acknowledge it.

North Korea keeps it's citizens in the dark "literally"

In 1986 I remember learning of the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl. The Soviet Union downplayed the severity of that situation and their state controlled media tried to cover up and minimize what had happened. It seems in many of these communist countries the image a country is trying to project for the rest of the world is valued more than the safety and well being of it's citizens. These countries are frequently too proud to admit the truth about many issues if it does not line up with the propaganda they have been promoting to their citizens and the rest of the world.

Going back even further to the late 70's I remember visiting Germany when the Berlin wall was still up. This was during the days of East and West Berlin and the difference between the two was shocking. I will never forget visiting the Check Point Charlie museum as a young kid and seeing how those in the East would risk their lives to try and get to the other side in order to flee their government.

Reviewing these examples of Oppressive governments makes me grateful for the freedom I have. My country is not perfect and I admit it has many problems. Ironically, I know this due to the fact that we have freedom of speech and the press. I don't think I could handle living in a world where my mail, phone conversations, and e-mails were monitored and censored. I complain enough as it is about my entertainment options but I'd go crazy if I could only watch government approved programs and was told what kind of music, clothes, and hairstyle I could enjoy. Freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to bear arms are things we can easily take for granted.

I am not anti-government. Governments play an important role in bringing order to society. I also understand that many bad things can happen within a country when it gives it's citizens so much freedom but when you weigh the problems of a free society versus the problems of a society where government controls every aspect of your life, I will always choose freedom. Many young people today believe in a Utopian form of government that will take care of all of their wants and needs and solve all their problems. I would suggest they have probably not been around the world or studied history enough to see what happens to your standard of living when you relinquish your freedoms over time to a government for the promise of future benefits.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Too Many Holidays

I'm surprised at how frequently I keep hearing that regular days carry some kind of  significance and have been designated as minor holidays or commemorative days. I 'm cool with the usual big holidays like Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Days for one's country, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but there are just way too many supposedly special days.

If you look up unofficial holidays or awareness days you will see there is a special day every single day of the year which basically cheapens any legitimate holiday. So here is my opinion on some of these other holidays or "fun days."

I'll be the first to admit that some of these holidays are kind of lame but I can go along with them since most of them are a great excuse to justify eating food or treats. Some that fall in this category include:

Feb 14- Valentines Day- A day people do something for their significant other out of obligation and peer pressure. Also a day many restaurants increase their dinner menu prices by 25%.

Apr 1- April Fools Day- A day for kids and immature adults to do pranks and mess with people.

May 4th- National Star Wars Day- "May the Forth Be With You" It was destiny and I like puns so you will have no complaints from this Jedi Knight.

May 5- Cinco Dey Mayo- This is not Mexico's Independence day but commemorates a military victory over the French. Many people know this is a great excuse for Gringos to enjoy Mexican food and beer.

National Donut day and World Chocolate Day- If you insist it is appropriate to eat chocolate or donuts on these days I'm not going to fight you.

Then there are some special awareness days that are not as well known as big holidays but I feel they are worthy of taking note. I'm sure there are many more but I'm too lazy to look them up. These would also include religious holidays from a wide variety of religions that followers choose to observe.

Jan 11- National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
Jan 27- International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Mar 2- Employee Appreciation Day
Aug 21-World Senior Citizen Day

My final category includes holidays or special days that I think are just plain dumb. I love science fiction, Nutella, and cinnamon rolls, but I don't need an official day designated to enjoy them.

Jan 2- National Science Fiction Day

Feb 2- Groundhog Day- Who benefits from this? I am as sick of this mindless tradition as Bill Murray was in the movie.

Feb 5- World Nutella Day

June 24- Take Your Dog to Work Day

Oct. 4th- Cinnamon Roll Day

Nov 15- Day of Imprisoned Writer- Yes this is a thing. This day commemorates the serious topic of human rights and those who have been repressed but it sure sounds odd. How many imprisoned writers are there? The first one that always comes to mind is ironically Hitler writing Mein Kampf.

Others special days that are just plain silly include static electricity day, national gorilla suit day, no pants day, monkey day, talk like a pirate day, etc. Sometimes there are the special commemorative dates that a State or City might choose to observe. I love the Utah Jazz but was shocked to see our State declare February 29, 2012 as Jeremy Evans day after he won the NBA slam dunk contest. Wouldn't it make more sense to just congratulate him?

Anyway, I hope I haven't stepped on too many toes. If your family gets excited for Apricot Day each January 9th then go for it. I hope you enjoy celebrating your favorite holidays but I think I'm going to start making up my own because I'm pretty sure I could do much better than most of these.