It’s a sunny day at Curmudgeon Compound. Squirrels are running around the oaks like the little maniacs they are. The wood supply is ample enough that I can sit on my ass instead of attacking the cord or so that’s lying around waiting for “post-processing” (i.e. the wood splitter of doom). The coffee was good this morning and tonight’s beer will be cold. I just ate a meal of venison burgers and chocolate chip cookies. The chickens have been unusually productive. Our two turkeys, “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas”, are strutting around without the slightest clue what the calendar holds. The chickadees (my favorite for birdwatching) are in high spirits. Life is good.
I say this all to explain why I decided to re-consider my dismissive Any Rand post of yesterday. Who can fret over a generator on a glorious day like today? More to the point had I let my paranoia get in the way of a legitimate idea? It could have been all in my head. What sane person would have really stopped me from delivering generators to a people in need?
So I turned to the Internet to either prove or disprove my thesis. I found three articles in ten minutes (the first of which specifically mentioned generators):
- “The attorney general said his office has received hundreds of complaints from consumers in areas of the state hit hardest by Sandy – New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island… consumers also have reported possible gouging for emergency supplies like generators… General business law prohibits such increases in costs of essential items like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services like transportation…”
- “Before Sandy made landfall, the attorney general had issued an open letter to vendors across the state warning them that price inflation of necessary goods and services during a crisis is illegal.”
- “Today’s action is the first in a series of steps my office will take as we continue to actively investigate the hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy…”
How about that? I can almost feel the hate. Especially the first quote which specifically mentions generators. Then I found this one which seemed particularly topical:
At one Sam’s Club store in Manchester, Conn., some customers complained that generators priced at $349 two weeks ago suddenly cost $999 as the storm approached, said Laura Lavoie, a nearby resident who visited that store Sunday.
“People were buying them and complaining about it,” she said. “One guy stormed out while we were walking in. … The guy said his wife wouldn’t let him buy (the same generator) three weeks ago when it was $349 and now he can’t afford to buy it.”
A spokesman for Wal-Mart, which owns Sam’s Club, said the store ran out of the lower-priced generator, a 3,600-watt model, and was forced to substitute the more expensive 7,000-watt unit.
“At no time did we raise the price of either model of generator in anticipation of, during, or following the storm,” said spokesman Mark Scott.
Isn’t that precious? A $349 generator isn’t worth your time when the power is on but a $999 one is too expensive when the power is already off?
I can’t help but love the irony. One sentence has a very special unicorn logic that wraps around stupid and goes all the way to pure comedy gold: “People were buying them and complaining about it”.
Can you imagine that? People are voluntarily doing something and then bitching because it was necessary. Suppose all hell has broken loose and there is one and only one thing that’ll make your life better. It’s a specially built machine that can turn your house from a blackout to a semblance of normal. It’s as if all of the industrial revolution is packaged into a lawnmower sized contraption specifically meant to solve your problem. The store has exactly that machine. It’s in stock and sitting there. It’s waiting just for you, the lucky consumer, to purchase… right now, at the exact moment in all recorded history when you specifically want it. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. You can walk out that door any time. You voluntarily buy this special mechanical thing which can perform the special miracle you need right now. (Incidentally, buying stuff is the purpose of cash. Just in case you thought it was for some other reason that you go to work.)
You’ve got power. Right now. Wherever you want. Whenever you want. Ta da!
But now you, because you’re extra groovy important to the universe, do the super double nosedive into bullshit land; you complain because it “should be cheaper”. It was cheaper. When the lights were on. You, clever being that you are, specifically chose not to buy it when the lights were on. You wanted Sam’s Club to warehouse it for you in the off chance that some random time you might feel like wanting it. Isn’t that great?
I lack that level of hubris. If the power’s off and $999 puts it back on I’d be happy as a pig in shit to have my margarita blender up and running. I’d be thankful!
Being thankful requires that one be humble, honest, and accept the world as it is. Sometimes life sucks. Bad shit hurts. It’s no fun when the power goes down. Nobody likes earthquakes, tornadoes, storms, war, famine, disease, or telemarketers. But you pick your ass up and do what you can with the resources at hand. When things look dire you might just have to bleed a little cash. It takes galactic self absorption to deny that. It takes a child in an adult’s role to piss on the people who have the stuff to solve problems, because they have the stuff to solve problems. That’s why a lot of us rednecks are more than happy to laugh at cities. Nobody would give a tin shit if we all died in a blizzard but cities invite their own despair and then act like toddlers when it happens.
In the immortal (crudely paraphrased) words of John Gault; fuck ‘em.