This is a test of age as much as anything, but I’m curious as to what y’all think stuff is actually worth.
I got to thinking about this looking at the receipt pictured back on this post, which showed that a diet Pepsi I bought for my daughter cost me $1.39. But that wasn’t the outrageous part. The outrageous part was that a bottle of water — and we’re talking tap water here, folks, not mineral water or holy water or something that the bottler claims was gleaned from an Icelandic glacier — cost the same amount.
Set aside the fact that we’re poisoning ourselves drinking from plastic. My beef is with the price. And my sense of injustice flows from an internal meter I have that says things are worth a certain amount, and no more. I arrived at most of these prices as a kid, when buying a PopSicle and a Mad magazine required a couple of hot summer hours spent combing the weeds along the side of the road looking for pop bottles, which back then were worth money when you returned them to the store (AND better for the planet).
However long I live, in my mind, every penny I spend on such items above these prices is a penny I’ve been cheated out of. For that and other reasons, I seldom buy these items any more. Here is a partial list, just to get the discussion started:
- Soft drink — 10 cents. That’s 10 wheat pennies, or a dime if you get it from a machine. This is in 12 oz., returnable bottles, so you get two or three cents of that back. Preferably a real Co-Cola of the kind they don’t make in this country any more (did they really think they’d fool us with that "New Coke" scam, followed by the "return" of "Coca-Cola Classic" in which corn syrup substituted for cane sugar? we know only the Cokes from Mexico taste right any more) or a Nehi grape. Or maybe a Teem, or an Upper 10.
- Comic book — 12 cents. Mind you, that’s the inflated price, from a dime. I am not opposed to the
folks at DC Comics making a couple of pennies, and even though I thought the two-cent increase a great injustice at the time, I made the adjustment at a young age, and now accept the higher price. Of course, the "specials" — the ones with "imaginary" stories in which Perry White gets super powers, or an all-red kryptonite edition or some such, which had the content of about three regular comics — were well worth a quarter. Mad magazine was also worth a quarter. Anyway, this price consciousness has prevented me over the years from buying my son who still collects comics as many as a good Dad probably should on special occasions.
- A computer — gazillions of dollars, especially if it had the computing power of the one the Man of Steel kept at the Fortress of Solitude, which had a voice recognition program and could tell you anything about anything. As for real-life computers, only a big gummint agency like NASA could afford one, and then only if it was a supreme national priority to go to the moon or something. So this is one area where we’ve come out ahead, even if we don’t get to go to the moon any more.
- Water — free. Oh, sure, Mamanem might have paid a monthly bill or something, but what concern was that of mine? Even when I lived in South America, and we never drank straight from a tap, and every drop we drank had to be boiled and put into a gin bottle first (the bottles were hand-me-downs from the guy my Dad replaced; I don’t know what they cost originally), I don’t remember having shelled out any of my money for it. I did spend money there on Cokes, which in Ecuador at the time cost 40 centavos, which was the equivalent of two cents back in the day when a sucre was worth a nickel. (Which is way back before the sucre went all Zimbabwe and the country switched to the U.S. dollar.)
You get the idea. And as for you wise guys who are going to tell me that a newspaper’s never been worth more than a nickel, I beg to differ. My sense of what a newspaper is worth formed as an adult, and as an adult I’ve always been aware that the person who buys the paper is paying a small percentage of what it cost to produce it. I will say, though, that 5 bucks for a Sunday New York Times is too much, even if they put gold, or even Mexican Coca-Cola, in the ink.