Stuff versus service

When in the history of America did we switch from paying for service to paying for stuff? And why? These days the only place where I get to enjoy old-fashioned service is at my hairdresser, the person that I used to call my barber. What a joy it is to sit back int that comfortable chair and have someone trim my hair. My eyebrows have a habit of climbing upwards, making me look like a Japanese samurai warrior after a while. What a pleasure it is to sit back, close my eyes, and feel the cold blade of the scissors snip across my forehead, and then to pen my eyes and see the new person appear.

Given the simple pleasures that a barber provides, why is it that we have elected to fill our homes with stuff instead of paying for good service. Sure it is true that Walmart enables us to buy more of everything, but at the end of the day does havng closets bulge with clothes that we never wear mean more than the pleasures of human interaction?

There once was a time when one could walk into a hardware store and find someone who could provide useful advice. I use this example because I have difficulty in hammering a nail in straight. I need help and these days it is hard to find. I’d pay a little more to have someone tell me how to find the right spot to hammer a nail into the wall. Instead, the rest of the world appears just to want more stuff. I want one good nail in the right spot on the wall; the rest of the world seems to want two nails and they don’t particularly care where the nails go apparently.

Perhaps the worst hit are the bookstores. Does anyone remember the days when the bookseller knew what was on the shelves? When the bookseller could recommend an out of the ordinary little delight? When the bookstore was more than just shoveling bound paper out the door? Why is that my fellow readers — are there any left – aren’t prepared to pay a little extra to have shelves filled with good books. Instead, we see Walmart selling the mass appeal books at a massive discount, chains like Borders unable to make a profit with the mass market gone, and the smaller volume speciality titles disappearing off the shelf. Sure, they are still available at Amazon.com but for those of us who love books, surfing the Internet is not quite the same as running one’s fingers lightly across the spines of  real books on a shelf – and then finding an unexpected gem.

I’d be willing to pay a little extra for these simple joys in life. Why is that everyone else seems to want to fill their homes with stuff and to forego these simple pleasures? Does a closet filled with inexpensive clothes really provide more pleasure than interacting with a helpful store clerk, more pleasurable that a hot towel at a barber shop?

Your thoughts?!

Doing what we are paid to do.

It is an old truism that people do what they are paid to do. If we want people to behave in certain ways we either need to direct their behavior or we need to incentivize them. Parents know this and from a very early age they begin by instructing their children how they should behave at the table, how they should behave in public, and how they should keep their rooms tidy. Most families move over at some point to providing rewards to their children for appropriate behavior whether that just be a hug and a smile or whether it is pocket money  or an unexpected gift. Continue reading

Where is the world going?

The world is forever changing and the older generation is forever complaning about the younger generation. So what’s new? Or, is there something new in the air? Is the status quo in the process of changing? And is it changing in ways that will hurt those currently at the top? America has had a long run – in modern terms – as the top dog in the world economy. Is that coming to an end? Will it end smoothly? Or will there be an abrupt rupture in which a lot of people of get hurt? Of course, lowering American’s standard of living is not exactly the end of the world although it will be the end of the world as Americans see it. Will Asia take over from where America left off? WIll they build a better world? Or, and this is the “hell”scenario, will our insatiable appetite for carbon-based energy fuel so much global, climate instability that much of the world becomes uninhabitable. These thought float in the back of my head and in the coming weeks and months, I plan to tease out what I think we know about various pieces of this puzzle. Your thoughts are always welcome.

Is the world going to hell?

The world is forever changing and the older generation is forever complaning about the younger generation. So what’s new? Or, is there something new in the air? Is the status quo in the process of changing? And is it changing in ways that will hurt those currently at the top? America has had a long run – in modern terms – as the top dog in the world economy. Is that coming to an end? Will it end smoothly? Or will there be an abrupt rupture in which a lot of people of get hurt? Of course, lowering American’s standard of living is not exactly the end of the world although it will be the end of the world as Americans see it. Will Asia take over from where America left off? WIll they build a better world? Or, and this is the “hell”scenario, will our insatiable appetite for carbon-based energy fuel so much global, climate instability that much of the world become uninhabitable. These thought float in the back of my head and in the coming weeks and months, I plan to tease out what I think we know abouit various pieces of this puzzle. Your thoughts are always welcome.