Before you take exception to the title, remember that it is a direct quote from Lewis Carroll and is under the protection of Victorian literature and modern English teachers. Robert Crumb may have given it a different twist, but I assure you I have no idea what he was talking about.
I my case I am musing cheerfully upon a dinner eaten in a posh restaurant in Sydney that started with wine, included very large and juicy prawns, and finished with superb coffee. It also finished with a bill that was half of what it would have been in the local toot toot tavern in my home suburb in Perth. I live in Bull Creek but rarely go to eat at the pricier places in Mosman Park or Subiaco. I tried going there once and reading the prices of the menus but they were so high I got a nose bleed and had to come home…
So why is superb in Sydney so cheap? The rents for their premises cannot be less that those in Perth and they have minimum wage laws there as well as in WA. Is it really related to what was seen as a WA mining boom? You know, before it became the mining bust. And the prices of food paid to the growers plummeted…
Perhaps they do not catch prawns in the waters off Western Australia – perhaps they are all imported from New South Wales. Or Alice Springs.
Perhaps we are being done like the proverbial dinner, but at a higher price…
We are all familiar with the term ” Sticker Shock “. It is the unpleasant realisation that things have become far more expensive to buy than ever they were…and than ever we think they should be.
It first came to prominence in the motor trade when the car firms were compelled by law in the USA to put the actual real final price of a motor vehicle for sale onto a prominent place on each car. The flummery and bamboozlement that went on before that with sales talks and commercial theatre still went on – you were never going to legislate morality, after all – but there was a starting point around which it was required to proceed. A lot of people got a rude awakening when they saw what financing does to prices.
Then there is the fact that prices nearly always rise as time goes on but memories do not let go of the old numbers. The car that cost $ 2000 in 1966 now costs $ 20,000. The rest of the finances may have advanced in step with this, but the client who remembers buying the ’66 Cheapmobile will choke on seeing what the new one costs. And in many cases go right away from the dealership.
The same happens with clothing, cameras, white goods, and furniture. And as much as the sales people may think that it doesn’t matter – that the client will be driven by need back to the store anyway – in some cases that shock will cause an entirely different reaction.
Take the toy ( Okay, okay, model ) car hobby. A good-quality model might have sold for $ 50 a decade ago. Then it went to $ 69, $99, and up as time went on and the affluence of Chinese society increased. Now it is $ 179, $ 199, $ 249 and up. Unless you are still earning mining money somehow, you are not going to be able to laugh off the sticker.
It has caused me to stop desiring every new model that comes out. I realise that I cannot afford them – I can pop for a few good things in the year, but need to spend most of my modelling time making things, and making them inexpensively.
Fortunately this has proved to be a lot more possible than I had suspected. Unfortunately it means that I am not helping the retailer out by keeping the machinery of his sales rolling. And as the machinery slows, there will be fewer manufacturers willing to continue operating it. It is a sad cycle.
As a child I haunted hobby shops and dime stores in Canada and the US all the time – indeed, as many US drug stores expanded their stocks in the 1950’s, they were also a fertile hunting ground for the boy modelling enthusiast.
The primary targets were plastic model kits of various sorts, though eventually interests were expanded to include balsa-wood flying models and model railroads. There were always more models and accessories available than I could afford, and choosing what to get was a combination of agony and ecstasy, but always a balance of finance and value for money.
The Canadian shops were higher-priced, and the thing that caused most anguish was the fact that the American prices were printed in code on the ends of the boxes – and they were 1/3 to 1/2 less than the Canadian prices. Of course, on a trip below the border, you could go slightly mad with Christmas or birthday money and then build kits for months. But you couldn’t get the Airfix kits that you could get in Canada.
Now that I am grown up, and have even more time to haunt hobby shops, I am afflicted with the adult’s curse – I remember what the prices used to be. I also have that selective memory that thinks model kits were much better then…
Fortunately, I am also honest enough to admit that they really weren’t, and that modern production far outstrips the products of the 50’s…and that we can get far more and far better stuff…if we are willing to pay for it. But I still quail at some of the price tags.
Never mind – in Part Two I’ll go into the actual numbers.