A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

19 June 2006

The Art of the Deal

It was Donald Trump who referred to dealmaking as an art. Back in the days before reshaping his image as an @$$#0!€ game-show host, when he was a simple, racist @$$#0!€ real estate speculator, The Donald really put literature and art in their place. At the time I thought it was just 'cause he was a philistine. And he was.

But I hadn't reckoned with the exigences of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For dealmaking fulfills a higher need for all males, particularly North American ones. I specify North American, 'cos I think it's to do with car culture.

Wherever a man cruises in to a gas station or a drive-in restaurant or even a Wal-Mart (not that I do, but some have) in a really fine car a certain sequence of events begins to take place.

First a collection of other men will build. It may take a minute or two, but eventually there'll be three or four guys hanging around, chatting to the owner. From this point it's just seconds until someone asks the inevitable question:

"So, what'd you pay for her?"

This is the status check of the modern age.

Way back when the biggest worry on a man's mind was whether that sabre-toothed tiger would get any of this year's brood, it was easy to measure your position in the hierarchy of your tribe. If you were inclined to slope off down to the communal campfire and do a little boasting it'd go something like this:

"UG, me. Bringer of meat."

As societies grew, you might follow up such a boast by describing how brave you were, how big the animal was that you speared, and what a fight he put up. Such discussions still take place among primitive tribes with lower social development, and in the Wal-Mart bait section.

Soon, though, it got to be more impressive if you had meat brought to you. Again, within this category there might be divisions--Were you being reluctantly thrown last night's bones or handed still-dripping choice cuts? And no doubt as you squatted in your hut or cavern, juice dripping down your chin, you could bask in a certain amount o attention from the female of the species which was, after all, the whole point.

Fast forward a while. The invention of money codifies earning power as important, and the industrial revolution and subsequent inventions pile on consumer goods on which to spend your money. But now your status in the borderless tribe has become harder to distinguish. After all, not all goods are of equal value.

The invention of fake labels dates to around this point, and throws the whole system into a cocked hat (although a rather better-quality, name brand one). Better-quality goods don't brag up their brand names. After all, runs the logic those who Know should recognize the quality and workmanship of the product.

Suddenly, a certain shrewdness becomes important. Did you buy the true merino or a knock-off? Yet since the quality of some fakes is almost as good as the original, did you get a terrific deal on a look-alike?

Then come the Eighties, and yuppies invite a clothing brand to stamp them each with an alligator to advertise their earning power (is it only me that's unnerved by their recent resurgence?). Suddenly clothing chains began to simply print their names in hiuge letters right on the shirts . Others adopted trademark shapes, icons, or slogans tht made them instantly recognizable. Once again it should have been obvious what wearer was earning more money and thus had better mate-getting power.

But yups also taught us about paying into stupid ideas. Many people realized that the price for brand power status was too high if the tradeoff was real value. Shirts are a pretty flimsy investment compared to, say, real estate. The sneaker-wearing billionaires of the nineties didn't get meat brought to them, but they had their pick of mates.

So along came the "down-market" brands. An example: Sunkist oranges are pricier than SK brand oranges. But they're the same company. The bright yellow DeWalt tool? It's an off-brand Black & Decker. So, for that matter, is your GE toaster.

With brainpower economies comes an appreciation for wise use of money. Why pay for B&D if the DeWalt is cheaper and has a similar warranty? If gas is two cents cheaper at an Exxon station, why buy from Mobil? (Actually, don't buy from either--Exxon Mobil is a predatory bunch of greedheads, noteably worse than other oil-companies, who are themselves not noted for saintliness--personal bias).

So the new heirarchical marker is the deal you got: No modern man will ever admit he got a raw deal; even though most of them are not as skilled as I am at it.

Yesterday I went to my local Zellers. They had a bicycle on offer, and Mme Metro needed one.

"Save $50" quoth the advert. With a note that the regular price was $149.99, and the sale price $99.99!.

Upon examination, I discovered that the regular price was indicated on the sticker at $139.99.

"But the ad says 'save fifty bucks'," I said "Shouldn't that sale price be $89.99?"

So yesterday Mme came home to a new bike, for which I paid out less than $100! Behold my deal! Is there anyone who has ever gotten a better deal? I triumph! Bow your head and take off your horned helmets to me!

The warm sensation of fresh blood dripping from our chins has been replaced by the warm sensation of peeling off one less crisp new tenner from our bundle. And the subsequent triumphal dance before the tribal fire by bragging about what a deal you scored--possibly even in your blog.

Beats chest; jumps up and down and throws fistfuls of dirt and leaves into air while screeching loudly.


At 7:02 a.m., Blogger Lori said...

Thanks for the bike, my love!

At 1:00 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I coulda gotten a better deal.


At 6:39 a.m., Blogger Lori said...

IH, shh! You'll ruin the dirt-throwing display!


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