Sunday, April 20, 2014

Money up. Service down.

Last weekend we had dinner at a fantastic Italian joint in Troy, one of our favorites. We ordered two dinners, an app of calamari, and sodas. Total bill: $96.00. I don’t mind spending a little extra on a Saturday night. We don’t have kids or Beamer payments, so I dismiss it as the price of indulgence. The table we sat at was occupied by Sen. Gillibrand the night before, according to the owner, so you’re going to spend when that’s where you go. But I decided to take a closer look at the everyday items. Conclusion: things are getting pricey, and the quality of service is going down.

The other day I did what I call the Clifton Park Trifecta.

First I went to Hoffman’s Car Wash where they ask over twenty bucks to wash your car!! Of course they tried selling me the 2 for $39.00 deal. Guys, I’m not dropping forty bucks at the car wash. I sarcastically asked if the floor mats would be vacuumed by a bikini-clad Alison Brie, and I was told that would not be the case. So what was I paying for? Turns out I didn’t end up paying for anything. After thirty-five minutes of waiting outside the triple-bay setup, I gave up and left with my car still unwashed.

Then came the "quick" Home Depot run that (of course) turned into an hour, because it’s impossible to find anything at Home Depot without walking every inch of the store. I finally gathered together my desired supplies, and when I lugged them to the only operating checkout, I was asked if I wanted to apply for a Home Depot credit card. No! Enough of the upsell! I just wanted the kid to ring me and release me. Of course he couldn’t register any of the pieces I wanted to purchase so a manager had to come and do whatever managers do. In the end: $76.00 for a strip of lattice, a bag of half-broken fence posts, and a paint brush. The fence posts were $40.00!! In the words of Joey Lawrence, “Whoa!”

Last stop: Hannaford. You thought the car wash and home-supply place was maddening!? Some fruit and lunch items for Easter Sunday: $68.00 PLUS a ten-minute wait at the register. Of course my wife buys everything organic, so that does factor into the higher price. I think the actual quality difference between organic and non-organic is like the Easter Bunny, you just have to believe it exists. $7.00 for a bag of oranges; $3.00 for a pack of cooking mushrooms; $4.00 for a bushel of broccoli. We left with one itty-bitty bag of items, a Pat Benatar-sized bag, and almost a hundred bucks poorer. If that $21.00 car wash had actually happened, we would’ve spent $170.00 in mere hours.

The Clifton Park Trifecta.

America in 2014 isn’t cheap. New York isn't cheap. But the quality and the quantity and the customer service isn't keeping up. How can a carwash company shakedown a customer for that kind of money, and then not even get the car inside for a half hour? I wasn't the only car quitting and pulling out. Hoffman’s is overcharging people, and then trying to upsell the overcharge. They do a great job, but come on. Home Depot is 60,000 square feet of bulk tagged at top dollar. It's nice having a one-stop shop for all household materials. I just wish a bag of nails didn't cost as much as my insurance premium. And organic food could be the biggest scam going. Pay three dollars MORE because some stock person labeled this lettuce with an “organic” sticker.

But it's not just the retailers. The numbers National Grid put on utility customers this winter was nothing short of criminal. The average credit card interest rate is 21%. How do people with kids survive? I’ve never been a money-first guy. I would never do anything in this world for the money of it. The secret to a happy life is having time, the only earthly resource that can't be reproduced. I won't live with my head in the sand for more house and more car NOW. But I’m starting to get convinced that all this "free" time is creating opportunity for me to spend money I don’t have.

Now my wife is on her way to Target to “get some things.” There goes the mortgage payment.

Now she's back. Target was closed. Money up. Service down.


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Brian Huba

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