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30 November, 2008

The value of things

The surest way to become annoyed, baffled, or both, is to set some expectation that the price of things will in any way reflect the value of things.

The Shell station at 12th and Cherry, for example, was $1.95 per gallon last week. At the same moment, the Shell station at Madison and Lake Washington Boulevard was $2.35 per gallon. These are stations run by the same oil corporation, located in the same city, approximately 2.5 miles apart from one another. The difference is that $1.95 is located on the edge of "the 'hood", whereas $2.35 is located at what could be referred to as "the last pit stop for the yuppies on their way to The Land of the Golden Handcuffs". The latter being code words for the road that leads from the rich part of town, to the highway that takes said rich people to their jobs at Microsoft. The question on that one is "Is this about market value?" I don't think so. Because it is not about supply and demand. Or maybe it is. To me, it seems it is about price-gouging, and milking people for their laziness and poor planning. But 40 cents is a 20% premium for the same product. Seems to me that there should be something regulating that. But then again, I am a communist, so why listen to what I say?

Sun tan lotion, $10 in a hotel gift shop, and $5 at a convenience store. Probably $3 at the supermarket. Again, "supply and demand" being defined as "demand based on laziness or lack or proper planning".

A coconut shell belt buckle, $4 at a gift/crafts "tourist trap", and $1 at the convenience store. Same item, 3 blocks apart. This must be getting boring for you by now.

Any number of varieties of parrotfish or triggerfish or butterflyfish, $10's or $100's of dollars at a "mainland" aquarium store, but swimming around completely free in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and inches away from your face when snorkeling in Hawaii. This was the point I really wanted to make here, and I probably lost most of my readers by now, but I was trying to illustrate something. Denise, who has worked in aquarium stores in the past, was so amazed by the fact that all of these exotic fish, that she had previously only seen with huge price tags (or completely unavailable in any store), are abundant here. They are obviously not for the taking, but it's interesting that something that exists in nature could be worth so much for that opportunity to possess it in your own home. I suppose the same could be said of many things, including The Rolling Stones, opium, prostitutes, diamonds, and enriched uranium.

But I think you know what I am saying.

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