Answering Machines and Their Uses

Answering machines are for when one can't, or won't, answer the phone. They take a message from an incoming caller. That's it. An answering machine is not a vehicle for comedy. There are people in the world who are very well paid to be funny, and I imagine they do not have the bad taste to record a sketch and then not answer the phone so people can hear how funny they are. Also, an answering machine is not a venue to showcase the tooth-grating pitch and pronunciation of children. Some folks think it's cute that their offspring can talk. It's not. People have been talking for millennia. The puling of your brat does not impress.

Those are my two main complaints about answering machines. Hear me, world, and change!

Retail Economics 101

This whole issue has pissed me off enough that now I'm posting on my weblog about it. I feel like an angst-ridden teenager. Anyway. At least one in every three customers (suckers, chumps, marks, rubes, gulls, whatever appellation you feel is appropriate) who come in to the shop want to ask about the American price. Some popular questions include, but are not limited to; Can I pay in US dollars?, So what's the deal with the price difference?, Are you offering any discounts because of the dollar?, and so on.

Now I have what I like to think of as a grade-school understanding of economics. But even this appears to eclipse the understanding that most of the rest of the population is labouring under. For starters, and I cannot emphasize this enough, our economy is not some amazing powerhouse. Our dollar has not been pelted by gamma rays, and transformed into a trademarked Marvel product.

This has not happened.

The US economy, however, has been pelted by gamma rays (in the form of an ill-advised land war in Asia) but this has not had the desired result. Instead, the US is going down the tubes. This means that our dollar, which hasn't been thrown into arms manufacture and support for foreign governments, is comparatively stronger on the world stage. This does not mean that you can buy more stuff for less money at your local retail outlet. If I was the kind of person who used blink tags, that last sentence would be flashing. And maybe in a different colour.

You don't like the price? Don't buy it. Books are a luxury item. They have some cultural currency, and some people would have you believe that buying them is tantamount to donating to a charity, but they are there, by and large, for entertainment. If there is a book you can't live without, go to the library. They have free books. You borrow them for a couple of weeks, then you take them back and other people can do the same thing. This is one of the wonderful things that our taxes pay for. We also have health care, but I digress.

Yes, in many cases, you can buy the exact same product for a substantially lower price by going to a different country. I have also heard that alcohol and tobacco are cheaper if you buy them in different countries. This kind of thing happens because different countries and governments have different attitudes towards trade, and set up regulatory bodies to take care of this sort of thing.

If you are the kind of person who quibbles over a five dollar difference in price, I suggest you vote with your feet. Go to Wal-mart. Go to Chapters. Go to the States. You'll save your five dollars. Forgive me my bombast, but in ten years when you want to go down to your local book store and talk to the staff about Canadian literature or some such ephemera, don't be surprised when they're not there. The decline of the independent is so well known that it has been rendered a cliche, but this does not make it untrue. Book stores, or at least book stores that will be successful, will be huge, department store-like affairs where none of the underpaid and unappreciated staff have read Shakespeare, or Austen, or a hundred other authors. And when that happens, to the five dollar quibblers out there, I will have one thing to say.

I hope you're happy.