April 20, 2012

“You want cheaper? No problem ...”


 I hear people complaining that things are getting so expensive nowadays … “Everything is so EXPENSIVE !”… they complained. Even coffee and tea are expensive now … and they say it is because of inflation.

OK, let’s do a bit of ‘kopi’ (coffee) economics … what is inflation? Recalling what I learned when I studied part time economics (many years ago) … inflation is “the cost measured against the value over a period of time” … correct? Any economics PhDs out there can clarify this? So if the cost of a cup of coffee and the actual value of the coffee both increase proportionately over time … you don’t call this inflation … it is just simple growth. But of course, those who complained will argue that the cost the coffee has increased exponentially compared to the value of the coffee (has it confuse you yet? If you are not confused, you are not paying attention … that’s economics). So they say it is inflation.

Inflation? Not  really … look, the cost of coffee has increased but the cost here doesn’t mean just the actual cost of the coffee alone … it includes other costs … like packaging, comfort, convenience, branding and other intangibles that were built in. So you are not paying more because of inflation … you are paying more than just the coffee. Those people who complained that coffee is expensive … well, stop drinking at Starbucks … go to the local “kopitiam” where a cup of coffee cost only RM1.80 … yes, even this cost has increased from several years ago … naturally, as the economy grows.

Then people say petrol is expensive … I agree … 100%. As a matter of fact, when my wife suggested that we go ‘somewhere expensive’ to celebrate her birthday … I was tempted to take her to the petrol station … IT IS an expensive place, don’t you think? So, petrol is expensive … simply because this natural resource is diminishing. Then how? Drive a smaller capacity car … that’s it. But hey, the irony is, those who are yelping that the petrol is expensive are actually those who drive the high end guzzlers … these monsters don’t just burn petrol … they practically gulp down liters by the seconds. If you want to buy an expensive, high capacity, top performance, ‘I look damn good in it’ car … don’t come tell me petrol is expensive.

I can accept the ice cream man running around in his three-wheeler earning a meagre income complain that the petrol is expensive … but not those who drive a monster 4WD with engine the size of my writing table.

Not so long ago, I was invited to a party at a huge modern 4-storey bungalow with state-of-the-art security system linked to some sort of electronic control gadgets and what not. I know the owner via a business acquaintance of mine and somehow I was invited along. When talking about the house, the owner told me that his house needs 22 air-conditioning systems to keep it cool and comfortable … almost all running 24 hours a day. WOW! That’s COOL … literally. The owner then said to me … “The electricity is so EXPENSIVE !!!  You know, it cost me RM16,000 a month”. I looked at him, kept quiet … but really, inside me was like ‘TIU NIA SING’ (for those who don’t know …. it means ‘WHAT THE F**K’) … a guy who owns a huge bungalow that cost a few millions bucks with 22 air-conditioning systems (not to mention other electric and electronic systems and gadgets) in the house complained that the electricity is expensive? What did he expect … a couple hundred of dollars???  I cannot understand these people … can afford to buy a cow but cannot afford the string?

YES, price of things are increasing but then at the end of the day it boils down to what do you want? You want the basic necessity or you want a bit of comfort or do you want luxury? Just pay accordingly. I once heard my regular mechanic (he is one cocky fellow) said to one of his customers who complained that the service charge of his BMW was expensive … the mechanic told the BMW owner … “You want cheaper, no problem … next time, bring a Proton!”

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