Re Tales – Part Eight – Essential Or Luxury?

Which to sell – essential goods or luxury ones?

Aye, there’s the rub – and it’s either with a velvet glove or a bastard file. You choose which division of commerce you think will be likeliest to pay and go with that. If you are right you  rake in the cash and if you are wrong you rake leaves in the park.

Essential items are food, water, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, and security. Thus we see sellers of prepackaged truffles, designer water, silk underwear, bespoke serviced appartments, day facelift spas, and bouncers doing very well indeed.

Luxury items are every blessed thing else. And not every venture selling these succeeds. However, when they do take off – the camera shop or the hobby shop come to mind – the sky is the limit. People will stint themselves of luxuries to buy essentials but that is called skimping and saving pennies – when it is the other way it works with hundreds and thousand of dollars. The trick of retailing is to be where the money ends up – not where it starts.

Re Tales – Part Two – ” I’ve Changed my Mind “

” And now I’m going to change yours…”

The bane of retail trade is the changer. Whether it is a mind-changer, a shape-changer, or a money-changer, they are trouble as soon as they come over the door sill.

a. Customer buys goods. They are good goods and will do him good. The price he has paid will do the shop good. The money enters the till or bank account by whatever means and starts to make a numerical mark in the accountancy system. All is well, and no further operations need be contemplated.

Until customer comes back next day and tells the shop assistant that they have changed their mind and want to return the goods. From here the trails wind deeper into the bushes:

  • Have the goods been removed from the packaging? Some packages are a one-way affair and will never reassemble.
  • Have the goods been marked? Some changers will insist that they were marked when they got them. Custom factory scratches, missing parts, and loose screws are a special order and you have to indent for them for just months. Most retailers just stock the plain old undamaged goods…Funny how Mr. Changer got the special edition.
  • Can the goods be resold as new? Well, no. They have been in Changer’s hands while he did several things – maul them and then search on the internet for somewhere in China that will sell them cheaper. As much as you might value his money, he could have done that before he walked in the first time…
  • He? Did I write he? Please forgive me. Changing is a gender-neutral game. She will be as keen to screw over the retailer as he will and probably more indignant and entitled as she tries it. They don’t call ’em Karens for nothing…
  • Can the financial trail that the original sale opened be accessed again to clear it? Some accountancy systems require vast amounts of data entry to reverse anything – it can be uneconomic to even try. Which leads us to say to the changer…

No. No, you can’t change the goods for other goods. You can’t get your money back. Not if the goods were in good shape when they left the shop, are working correctly,  and are suitable for the purpose for which they were purchased. Those are the only grounds upon which a legal entitlement to repair, change, or refund exist.

They do exist under a state law, as well as a warranty for a certain period of time. But do not try to quote Magna Carta or lines from The Godfather to try to stretch the law to suit yourself.

You bought something in good faith with the ideas that were riding inside your head yesterday, now go use that mind today to make use of what you bought.

As far as threatening to never shop here again…considering your performance regarding returns…make our day…

Home Port

I was always impressed with the Panamanian merchant marine. And that of the Bahamas and Sierra Leone. I had grown up supposing the most powerful merchant fleets were from Britain, the US, or other allied countries – but so few of the ships that came into port seemed to be registered there. The Sierra Leonians and Panamanians had advanced to being the sailors of the world…

The penny dropped later – the ships were registered in countries that demanded no taxes from the owners, yet benefitted from whatever anyone else did as far as maritime organisation and safety. It was surprising that so few of them were not home-ported in Switzerland or Leichtenstein…

It all worked until this year when the Asian virus was found to infect the ships of the cruise lines. We’ve seen the horrid results of ships refused entry and stranded off any number of out-of-the-way ports. They’re gradually repatriating the passengers, well or otherwise, and the crews are being kept abord many of the vessels.

Time for them to go home. Not to Miami or Sydney or New York. Not to the ports where they hoovered up the money. To the ports where they cached it – their tax-free home ports. That’s where they said they were from, and that’s where they can finish up. The various governments that were taking the registration fees and banking the profits can now spend that money cleaning out the ships and turning them into low-cost floating housing for their citizens. Like the Queen Mary.

Or do a Queen Elizabeth and have a mysterious fire start in the harbour…

” Compliments To The Chef “

Never mind the compliments. To hell with the food reviews. Stick your Michelin star.

The only criteria of success is whether the family was fed and whether they ate everything. If you got nothing left over, you won.

Today’s victory was brought to you by leftover mac and cheese combined with curried hamburger, onions, and green peppers in a cream sauce. What the daughter christened ” Bangladeshi mac and cheese stroganoff “.

The pan was easy to clean. As I’ve said before – there are no leftovers – just rescheduled cuisine.

Take That, You Bastard Virus!

You’ve got us bailed up in our house scared of touching petrol pumps or each other – compulsively looking at news feeds that try to outdo themselves in fright – and wondering if the bog roll will outlast us…

I can’t answer the toilet roll question, but I can do something about the fear. I can do macaroni and cheese. Big time, weapons-grade macaroni and cheese. The food that puts heart in the faint and fart in the pants.

It was a standard of home life for many of us…either as the weirdly-orange Kraft product or the better-built home cooked version. My wife and I were thin, hungry, and poor in London in 1972 and we reserved one night a week to go to a small cafe on the Bayswater road called Panzer ( ? ) to eat M&C. It was cheap and hot and wonderful. I hope they can  still open one day.

I could do with a bit of cheap and hot and wonderful right now, so I fried up a mess of bacon and onions, threw in a three cups of cheese, 500 ml of milk, 2 tablespoons of butter, and some sort of packet of garlic potato bake spice for good measure. The pasta was four cups of cooked macaroni and the lot went into the bacon frypan for a final heat and melt.

And yes, it was very good.

” The Natives Consider This A Delicacy “

If ever you are presented with a dish by your host – whether that be a private person or a commercial restauranteur – and they use this phrase, remember one thing: the natives referred to are old and worn-out at 40. This may be due to the fact that they live in one of the most unhealthy parts of a disease-infested swamp…or it may be due to what they eat on festive occasions. You might be looking at Nature’s Little Population Control on a plate.

Don’t panic. If it smells yummy and you just have this craving for centipede eyeballs in white sauce…well dig in. Your slurps and smacks of delight will make you an honoured guest. Your hosts will think you the epitome of good manners and will search their cookbooks…and under their huts…for more recipes and ingredients to delight you. Bon appetit.

If, on the other hand, you are seized with the overpowering desire to run – and don’t wish to be doing it from both ends in the morning – you must be prepared with a plausible excuse to avoid the dish. Native societies do not respond to the idea of gluten or lactose intolerance. Your protest that it may contain traces of tree nuts will fall on deaf ears – 100% of their foods contain tree nuts, including the animal they cooked to present to you.

Allergies are unknown in the third world. They exist, of course, and sweep away the natives as readily as they might the visitors, but no-one knows why. Often the swelling, choking, and collapse are put down to evil spirits or malnutrition and they shovel more tree nuts in to counteract this.

But there is one thing that they all know – tabu. Whether things have been forbidden them by a prophet or a shaman – or just by long superstition – every population has some form of food law that prohibits something. They might be allowed to roast caterpillars but not hot dogs. They might be quite fond of hot dogs but have been banned from shellfish. The point is someone has said ” No ” from a pulpit or sacred rock and No it is. They understand this.

You must pull a ceremonial scarf, hat, or other non-controversial symbol from your coat pocket, put it on, and tell the host with great seriousness that it is tenet of your faith that the food may not be eaten. Be regretful but firm. They will understand completely, and it will vanish.

Be aware, however, that they may wish to placate your sensibilities by bringing out something worse. You can only trot out a tabu so many times before they begin to suspect.

Don’t Mind If I Do…

That’s a persistent buzz phrase and meme that we use whenever we luck into something. We discover a free feed or booze-up – a discount or special price – or a chance to have a good time. It’s a cheerful event, and we’re celebrating it.

But what if other people mind if you do? Even if it is none of their concern, your good fortune is a canker to some folks. While they might not go out of their way to be mean to you, the sight of you having a good time is and unpleasant reminder that they’re not.

We may never know of their distaste. It’s not something that they bray about, unless within the safety of their own computer they can be snarky and anonymous at the same time. If we never see their feed, we may go through life not realising their enmity. The best thing to do is to be philosophical about it…as the late Eugene V. Debs admitted – ” You can’t displease all of the people all of the time. “. Accept the fact that there are secret haters out there that you’ll never get to know about and just be grateful for the sound of teeth grinding in the dark.

Note: When Fate, Heaven, and serendipity combine to supply you with a Boston Cream Pie just when you are hungry and you find a fork ready to hand, you would be a churl to refuse the treat. Accept that good things can happen to bad people like you and just eat the pie. Or throw it, if you get half a chance.

1. Sex 2. Drugs 3. Rock And Roll

4. Driver’s license.

5. Diploma.

6. University  fees.

7. Textbooks.

8.  Accommodation.

9. Food.

10. Laundry.

11. New clothing.

12. Medical expenses.

13. Degree.

14. Job applications.

15. Relocation expenses.

16. Taxes.

17. Housing.

Welcome to the world of adulting, teenage justice warrior. You may not have time to march in front of the state legislature/parliament house/television cameras/iphones of your friends for some time as you are now required to show up and do something worth getting paid for. Hint: keep your receipts and pay slips as you’ll need them to pay your taxes. If you do not wish to pay taxes remember that there is always the Al Capone Option. They have closed Alcatraz but Leavenworth is still going…

You may note that I have left out marriage and babies from the list. You’ll learn about them when you grow up.

 

The Local Holiday – Part Three

Review yesterday’s reflections on why people travel for their holidays before we go on.  And then consider why staying at home may meet all your needs.

a.  You wanted a change of scenery. There are new sights to see within a mile of your easy chair. You can go to them on a bus or train ( for free if you’re old enough ). You can walk to them in some cases. I’ll bet few of the readers have been to all four corners of their respective towns. Who knows what sights are to be seen there – I rode a local bus through what I thought would be familiar suburbs and found that the town has changed into a new place. And I was not riding some death-bus full of grinning bandits into unknown peril, at $ 10,000 a go.

b. You wanted a change of weather – this really amounts to wanting cool when it is hot and warmth when it is cold. Or dry when it is raining. Got news for you – Cool comes out of air conditioners – if you have one, use it. If you don’t, go to a mall that does.

Same thing when it is cold. Sit in front of the fire or go to a warm café. Libraries are warm and quiet and they have free entertainment for all ages. They also have seats and let you sit there reading all day if you wish.

Weather will eventually change anyway – in Melbourne, four times per day. Just be patient.

c. You wanted new food and drink. Oh, please…there are more restaurants in your town than ever you have eaten at. And more bars, pubs, taverns, etc. for exotic drinks. You cannot eat or drink more than a certain amount in any one day and all you have to do is go into a new joint and sample their menu. Most Australian cities have more ethnic variety in their eateries than any of the countries that they emulate. Where exactly is Generia , anyway? Their cuisine seems familiar, if bland.

d. New people? Go to a new pub, club, mall, church or temple, and look around. Go clean, friendly, and polite and you’ll meet people you want to meet. Every newspaper and radio station advertises groups looking for new members every day.

e. Duty Free? Really? Is it really a good idea to pay $ 10,000 in holiday money to come back with a giant half-price bottle of Johnny Walker? You could go to the local Dan Murphy and whack down $ 100 and come away with all the whiskey you can handle. A queasy liver at 1/100th of the cost.

f. Relaxation? If your idea of relaxation is sitting on a beach getting skin cancer, you can do that at Cottesloe or Swanbourne. If you want to break your arm surfing, Margaret River is just three hours away. If you want shows and movies, there are plenty going on every day right here at home.

If relaxation for you is sitting in a café, there are a number of districts here that want your dollar.

g. Peace and quiet. This is the best news of all. You can get this in your lounge room for just a few dollars. Here’s what you do:

  1. Clean the house. Not a major campaign – just a day’s tidying. Sets the scene.
  2. Get in a week’s worth of ready-to-cook meals or a handful of local restaurant menus.
  3. Get a carton of beer or cola or whatever. Or a few bottles of the local vin ordinaire.
  4. Get an armload of new books from the library or book shop.
  5. Put on your holiday clothes – loose ones.
  6. Unplug the land line phone.
  7. Put the mobile phone under two pillows.
  8. Turn on the air conditioner and make yourself comfortable.
  9. Watch TV, read, practice your hobby, write letters or postcards, sit and think, nap, or eat and drink. All week, if you wish. Go to bed as early or late as you please.

Amazing how good it feels, isn’t it? And you are not dependent upon airport transfers, bell hops, tour guides, airline schedules, or any other travel hazard. You will not be stranded anywhere, as your bed is a room away. You are near your medical base. You can ring out for food if desired and ring friends to invite them to share it. You can binge watch on telly. You can be as vacant as you wish.

You can write internet weblog columns undisturbed.

 

How To Apply For A Grant Without A Revolver

Well, I said I was going to write on the subject, didn’t I? When I promise something I always make good on it, even when it is something bad. That’s what being a long-time parent can teach you.

Leaving aside the question of whipping the children with scourges – a fine leisure activity – let us get to the question of the grant. We generally understand this to be a sum of money or credit given to us for some good purpose. Education, health improvement, housing, etc. have all been subject to this sort of thing in the past. Indeed there have been grants of land and other titles made by authorities ever since the first tyrant rewarded the first grovelling minion with slaves and fields. It’s not quite that obvious these days, outside of the Balkans or South Asia, so we’ll just consider the money grant.

The first thing you need to do to get one, is to find out who has the money in the first place. Favoured sources are federal, state, and local governments – we’ll just lump them together and call them the Tyrants. They have money because they have found other victims before you and accumulated a store of the stuff. Note that it is no good trying for grants from organisations that are themselves begging.

The grant is frequently a way for the Tyrant to purchase fealty and/or safety from the masses. They remember how they got the money in the first place and it is only by sending back little parcels of it that they can ensure that their head is on the stamps, not on the pitchforks.

Start by writing in for The Form. There will be one. Then sit down and read it carefully. It will promise money but demand something in return. Your first-born child or your soul are frequently mentioned – all good there. What you really have to be careful about is if the form asks for repayment of the money over a period of years with interest added as time goes on. This is the triple-gang hook of finance. It never works its way out…

If possible, make your request for grant money sound like you are going to do some worthy thing with it. Of course you need not do so – it can all be shovelled into your pocket as ” operational expenses “, but make a little paper sign that says” Goode Workes And Godley Virtue  ” then put it beside the pile of coins and take a picture. It looks good for the press.

And think of making a grant yourself. Perhaps your local bottle shop needs to sell a couple of cartons of full-strength beer – you can help by taking some of your grant money down there and giving it over. Everyone will be happy.