Sunday, 24 January 2016

Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In

This is one of those posts where I apologise for the lack of posting.
Between professional endeavours, the time of the year (summer!), and various personal reasons I did not get the time to sit in front of the monitor and blog. I did actually write a couple of posts but never got to air them (yet), and then David Bowie died and I started writing one of those clearly too long posts I excel at (but did not have time to finish, yet).
For now, I shall leave you in the capable hands of Kenny Rogers. Take care.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Scenes from a Restaurant

Wheelchair lovers (2)

The other week we were sitting at a restaurant, looking through its windows at the hustle and bustle of a busy city centre in a galaxy far far away. In between bits I noticed this big van parking right in front of the restaurant, an A Team style one.
Out came a middle aged couple, both overweight, both visibly tired and struggling a bit with the hot weather. Don't we all. Off they went.
A few minutes later they came back, with the father now pushing a boy on a wheelchair. They stopped near the back of the van as the father opened the rear door and loaded his precious cargo. Staring at the now exposed back of that van, it became clear this car is dedicated to the transportation of this disabled child.
Both parents were labouring over their child as they strapped him to the back seat, smiling, patting and talking to him all along. A few minutes later they were done. Still smiling and still sweating, they jumped over to the front seats. The woman took the wheel and, just like that, they were gone.

I could not stop thinking about this scene and its meaning. To the three people it involved this was but a trivial, forgettable, moment. To me it felt like I was in a movie depicting a family that, while struggling with the cards it had been dealt with, is still a loving and caring family.
Steven Spielberg could not have directed the scene any better.

Image by svennevenn, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0) licence

Monday, 4 January 2016

JB Norman and Harvey Hi Fi

Back at 10th grade, give or take a year, we studied Shai Agnon's novella, "Vehaya Ha'akov Lemishor" ("The Crooked Shall Be Made Straight").You probably never heard of Agnon, but let me assure you the guy won a Nobel for his writings.
That novella I mentioned features a hero who, essentially, ends up paying for his sins he commits earlier during the story. I do recall our teacher to matters of literature baffling us with her citings of the hero's perceived sins. The strange thing about it was her listing the hero discounting his shop's merchandise as a sin.
Why was it that, according to my then teacher, discounting was a sin? Her logic was that discounting is not a uniform act; one customer gets a discount, another doesn't. One customer gets a certain discount, another gets a bigger one. By offering discounts our hero was discriminating certain people over others.


Which brings me back to modern day Australia.
We are currently at the ebb of the Boxing Day / New Year sales, where discounting is rife. That said, one can clearly note the various ways in which different shops do their discounting.
If there is any shop out there that reminds of Agnon's sinful merchant, it is Harvey Norman. Its pricing strategy is to lure you in and get you to pay big time for things one can get for much less at their competitors; they get away with it by promising to match the competition's prices. Once you prove someone else offers the same product for less, they will act totally surprised (seriously, if they are unaware of what the competition is doing then they do not deserve to exist), create a bit of a fuss as if they're doing you the biggest personal favour ever, and sell you the product at the price they should have sold it to you in the first place. Most people don't bother; they just pay the premium price.
So yeah, I consider the Harvey Normans of this world to be sinners, just like my 10th grade literature teacher did.  And I also regard it rather tragic that other chains, like the previously attractive JB Hi Fi, are turning more and more Harvey Norman like.
Us consumers should help steer those haggling Meccas to the hell they deserve.