My neighbor routinely kvetches about having to spend an extra five cents on gasoline. His chronic fear of being literally nickel and dimed has inspired this latest epiphany, one which has the nifty side benefit of making me infinitely wealthy.
The epiphany began the other day, when my neighbor Yuri asked me, “Did you see how much they’re charging for gasoline in the QuickSip?”
“I truly have no idea,” I replied.
“$3.53. But do you know that if you go to the QuickDip on the other edge of town, it’s only $3.52!” He thrust out his arms. “What do they think we are, idiots?”
“Well, to be honest, Yuri, I haven’t been keeping track of gas prices.”
“That’s just what they want. They want to you to not notice a penny here, or a penny there. But I’m watching. Oh yeah, I’m watching. Come check this out.”
I followed Yuri to his house, and he led me to a small room in the basement, where two men sat at computer screens. The walls were covered with charts, graphs, and an electronic scoreboard that flashed numbers like the New York Stock Exchange.
“Yuri, what the hell?”
“We’re tracking gas prices in here. We’re wired in to gas stations within a forty mile radius. The moment someone drops below other people in price, we know it.”
“Oh, I see. So are you publishing this online or something?”
Yuri looked at me with a blank expression. “This is for me, so I don’t get fleeced. You’re on your own, brother. Every man for himself.”
I didn’t dare ask how it was cost-effective to hire two people to constantly monitor prices, or if it made sense to drive 40 miles to save a penny on a gallon of gas. Yuri was hellbent on not getting nickel and dimed, and I knew much of the civilized world is right there with him.
I also didn’t ask what would happen if he focused his watchdogs on the Department of Defense, or Wall Street, or any area where gazillions of dollars are being squandered with little or no oversight. Penny-wise, trillion dollar foolish is the modern-day saying.
No, I didn’t say anything, because I am not about changing human nature. I’m about capitalizing on it. Thus sprang forth my latest epiphany: I would charge $72,000 for a pair of socks.
Black Socks, On Sale
I’m always amazed at how the US Department of Defense spends outrageous sums of money on new weaponry, and we blindly sign the check. I think it’s not because we agree with the idea, but because the price tags are so high, the numerics are simply too big to get your head around.
I apply the same logic to socks. I know people are always shopping for the cheapest socks, but that’s because they’re priced at dollar amounts that they are accustomed to.
By charging $72,000 for a pair of socks, I knew people like Yuri would become so overwhelmed by the figure that they’d blindly purchase, saving their scrutinizing for miniscule changes in gas prices.
I got some shelf space at the local Target, and I displayed my $72,000 socks. I ran the sale for four weeks, but surprisingly, no one bit. Not a single person bought my socks.
Disappointed, I closed the business. A few weeks later, I was sitting on the front porch, when Yuri stopped by. He was wearing shorts and a very snazzy pair of socks, pulled up mid-calf.
“Wow, where did you get those?” I said.
“At the mall. I only paid $71,999.95 for them. Can you believe that some joker at Target was trying to charge $72,000 for an identical pair?” He patted the socks. “What do they think we are, idiots?”