Monday, December 15, 2008

Consumer Price Index

I read a post on Holidailies, guided there because it was a Best of Holidailies selection. A detailed tale of managing a severe cash shortage. I need these things to remind me that we are lucky to usually have the cash to pay the bills and to send to relatives at this time so their holiday can be less stressed than this person. In fact, my niece who was designated to be Santa for stockings and kids' gifts with my money said in an e-mail: "We have presents for ALL! HO HO HO. Ok we have little presents for the big people and big presents for the little people. Ain't that just the way of the world?" They don't have a lot of money but they do have food, shelter and some gifts for the holidays. I worry that one of my nieces' husbands will lose their job. Or that my other niece, who has been waiting tables on the weekend while her husband looks after the kids to make ends meet, won't be able to make enough because of the downturn.

In this house we are thankful that we are in a position to not worry how to pay for gas in the car. We can go out and eat, have drinks, give money to our charities. Heck, in this condo we haven't even had to turn on the heat so far this winter let alone worry about how to pay our electric bill to pay for heating.

But. Sometimes the price of things just stops me in my tracks.

We went to a UT Women's Basketball game yesterday. (The women won, beating Tennesee who was ranked just below them in the polls.) Years ago (really a long, long time ago) we gave a small endowed scholarship to UT for a woman athlete studying journalism or communication. Really, we gave this so long ago that I think it was our first major donation to anything. Anyway, they send us tickets to Women's Basketball and we attend and, if we ask, they give us admission to the booster 'club' before the games. Yesterday we went in there. I thought I'd have a beer (which you cannot buy in the stands). After the bartender pulled a Shiner Bock, I was readying a dollar for a tip when she said the price. Seven dollars. Seven dollars? This beer is made in Central Texas. No one, anywhere, not even at the Four Seasons had ever charged me seven dollars. I don't think anyway. (I'll have to check the Four Seasons although I usually drink wine there. Haven't been there in a while.) Anyway, plastic cup, belly up to the bar service. Seven dollars. I had the money. It just shocked me. I didn't have an extra dollar, though, and the quarters in my pocket were to ride the 'Dillo bus back to downtown. So if that bartender was counting on me tipping, well I was too flabbergasted to do it.

I am glad I have money for a beer here and there, out in some public place where they can gouge you. I paid $4.50, plus left the half dollar for the bartender, for a Fat Tire, poured from a bottle into a plastic cup, at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar Saturday. Expensive but not gouging so much. There was admission to the place, but there was live music.

Anyway, I'm just saying. Just because I have the money doesn't mean I won't balk at a certain price level. I'll never buy a drink at a game again. And, by the way, that 'Dillo bus used to be free. (Unless you consider that the Capitol Metro gets a cut of our sales taxes.) The transportation guys were trying to promote less driving of cars in downtown. Now it costs fifty cents. But, sadly, yesterday the two buses we rode were empty except for us. We missed one bus, which we saw pass us, empty, as we walked to the stop. So the transit folks are paying for empty buses going around and around downtown and UT. With my tax money. It's sad. I wonder how many people would ride if it were free. It does matter what you charge. Especially now when people literally don't have it in their pockets (or in a failing bank).

I noticed it said in the newspaper that miles driven in the U.S. dropped before the run up in gas prices and kept dropping when the price came down. Yeah, people. Some people don't have jobs to drive to, money to spend at the mall and they certainly aren't hankering for an out-of-town excursion with maybe a hotel stay if things are tight. So price makes a difference but some people won't be able to buy, no matter the price.

When I went to the convention center Saturday to the Christmas Bazaar, I noticed there was a sale of National Geographic products in another area of the center. Giant piles of discounted books, maps, toys, some backpacks and the like. Maybe National Geo had a mail-order biz or mall stores and were closing out the stuff. It was interesting because people had their carts piled with stuff. Maybe they were getting a toy or book for everyone on their list for ten dollars or less, thinking what a bargain it was. There were guide books to New York City and the like. Maybe it's good reading even if you can't afford the trip. The lines to check out purchases were longer than the ones at Costco the other day. And there, as I mentioned the other day, the carts were full of food.

Times are hard out there for our neighbors. Businesses will fail, people will suffer. And I don't think it will be over soon. And more and more people will be looking at prices and wondering 'is it worth it?' I just wish the politicians would do the same. What price for each job saved and for how long? It all seems like fodder for my Journal of Unintended Consequences which I just can't seem to write for these days. Perhaps because there is just too much to say.

[Reflection is in the Spaghetti Warehouse glass, a venerable family place on West Fourth in an old train shed. We never go there and I imagine it is seeing less business these days. But who knows?]


Jerry from Dallas said...

Ye gods! seven dollars for a bottle of Shiner!? I knew Shiner can be more expensive than others, but seven dollars!!??
It's enough to make a guy quit drinking. To think that my first six-pack, something atrocious called Pearl, costed $1.25.

Chip said...

Jette said she wanted to leave a comment on your journal saying, "Them's titty bar prices." But she's too classy and restrained to do so.

I don't have that problem.

Linda Ball said...

I hadn't thought of that, but yes. Sadly I drank that beer surrounded by the elderly fans in that shade of orange that, local University color or not, just doesn't appeal to me.