Why $5 Coffee is OK, $1.09 Paper is Not


OK, so you won't pay for Web content. Or so you say. ... For the most part.

Like, some of you will apparently pay for very special financial information, as if there was such a thing. And others, apparently, will pay for the right to chat with fellow model train enthusiasts around your digital coffee table. And we know that a lot of you will pay for specific entertainment content you can download and watch at your pleasure.

But clearly, as we can tell from the retail sales numbers, we have also reached a point where you just aren't willing to pay for a lot of things that are less fundamental.

I notice, for instance, that big, crazy-sized gas guzzler monster trucks are ridiculously cheap right now. People silly enough to require a vehicle that towers over the universe and gets 8 miles per gallon may essentially have their instrument of global doom for essentially half of what it used to cost. Obviously, that's because the stupid things can't sell at the old prices.

Back-to-school equipment is also moving at a very slow rate, reportedly. One can only speculate that last year's pencils, newly sharpened, are considered a better investment than the brand-spanking new ones at their current cost.

Houses are also a good deal right now, if you can get a loan, to which I say good luck to you, chum. Those are pretty cheap, too, but you have to donate a gonad to shake a nickel out of your friendly local bank.

Those who aren't re-pricing themselves aren't thinking with both lobes. The other day, I went out to get a cup of coffee and a newspaper. I forget what the cup of coffee set me back, it doesn't really matter, coffee is not optional when you want it and it was still under $5, which is perceptually a proper value at this point in history. It was a big enough cup, anyway, and strong enough to eat through a spleen. Thanks, Pete.

It was the newspaper that interested me. You know, of course, that nobody reads newspapers anymore, a fact that the idiotic newspapers are only too happy to keep telling us.

Occasionally, however, some ancient, creaking loser like myself likes to sit with an actual physical object that doesn't require charging or clicking, and see what somebody thought was important yesterday.

I brought my San Francisco Chronicle to the counter and fished in my pocket. "A dollar nine," said the proprietor.

"I beg your pardon?" I said.

"A dollar nine," he replied. Something snapped inside me.

I'll pay $25,000 for a decent car. I'll pay a lot for a business suit, because at least half my credibility as an executive resides in how I look. But I'm not going to pay $1.09 for a newspaper.

I guess there are two reasons: The idea of going over a buck for something that recently cost a quarter offends me. And two, what am I going to do with all that change? At most major cities, even panhandlers won't take it. So I didn't buy the newspaper. Didn't buy the gum, either, because that was over two dollars -- another offense against nature, as far as I'm concerned.

On the way home with my coffee, I passed by my local liquor store. They didn't seem to be having any trouble, and nothing seemed to be on sale there, either. Some things, I suppose, are still priceless.

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