Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hustle and Woe

While driving home tonight DJs on a local radio station sparked a massive discussion on various "hustles," or ripoffs, people encounter in our daily lives. Listeners called in with example after example: cell phones, bottled water, condos, computers, cable/internet, parking, college tuition, stadium tickets, casinos. The great paradox is that even as people say these are ripoffs, they buy them. The DJs bemoaned the price of cable and internet, claiming cable in their age could be paid with a paper route. What they ignored is that such service included far fewer channels, no internet, and no On Demand service (the last of which one of the DJs praised).

These things are not really ripoffs, as evidence that people keep buying them. What sort of person buys somethings he knows he doesn't want? Most of these examples are really opportunities for people to wish stuff was cheaper, but that's nothing special.

Granted, some products are truly ripoffs--some things are not worth the price you pay for it. But such products don't hang around for long. Nobody called in claiming New Coke was a ripoff. The only true hustle out there are taxes, money that generally goes to those you don't know and probably don't care about it. The very fact that most of these groups can't make money through donations demonstrate that. And there's no way to opt out (short of leaving the country). If you don't buy a cell phone, your life is a little less easy. But if you don't pay your taxes, you go to jail. Woe is me.

No comments: