Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who's Going To College?

A few days ago there was a picture going around on internet, chiefly on Facebook. I'd like to share it with you, here on the blog, for it is touching in many senses.
A few things caught my eyes immediately: the little girl going dancing, the food on the table, and the student in college. I think they all deserve to fulfil their dreams (except maybe for the food on the table), and if we could help them achieve that, I'm sure we'll all get a good mark on St Peter's slate, which will help us getting in.

On the other hand, screw the rapacious CEO whose only concern is to get yet another holiday house, a younger and more demanding mistress, or a faster car to drive it in the weekends only.

What? What do you mean by "If  you buy from a bigger business you help several families put food on the table?". This is not the point here, come on. We should show solidarity with the small ones, as they show it to us as well. Only too well sometimes.

I mentioned the little girl with the dancing lessons, as I know one. She was in the same school with my daughter and they also went to the same dancing school for a while. Her parents have a small bike shop, in which you can buy a bike, accessories, or have the bike repaired. Marvellous, I thought when I moved in the neighbourhood. If I have a problem with my bike I just walk to them and get help. One day, the inevitable happened: got a flat tyre. I took the bike and off to the store. It was many years ago, on times when my Dutch had a huge room for improvement, so I started the conversation in English. I was told tersely that he only spoke Dutch. Wow, I thought, he's the first Dutch who doesn't speak English. What an interesting day. I tried to converse in Dutch, but I couldn't make much of what he replied to me, nothing matched anything I'd learned by then. I can tell you now, eight years later, that the guy speaks the village vernacular, with absolute no consideration for someone who might have a problem understanding him.

Anyway, the fellow's not there for his language skills, so I asked him to help me with the tyre. Sure, he mumbled, come and pick it up in 4 days. Well, I tried to explained to him that I needed the bike and maybe he can use 5 minutes to change the fucking tyre, but it was no way to persuade him. So four days it was. When I came back to pick it up, he hadn't even touched it. He repaired it on the spot though. Five minutes, 20 euros. Well, I found it pricey, so I bought a repair kit for the future: 7.95. The same repair kit I saw it later in a DIY shop at the bike accessories: 3.95.

Moreover... Asking 120 euros for a second hand bike for a 5-6 year old child and not even bothering to clean it does not immediately chase people away. But when you complete it with the "take it or leave it" ultimatum be prepared to see me extremely seldom around your shop.

I know what you're thinking now. That one swallow doesn't make it ...whatever a swallow makes. The guy is an isolated case and it's not fair to generalise, and so on. I beg to differ. This was just an example that tried to show the frustration you get for free from people you wouldn't expect. As for the money you can be charged, brace yourselves, as it's yet to come.

Last year we contemplated the idea to change the bathroom. Very difficult decision to take, as our bathroom  looks very good. But we thought that a larger shower booth and a different tub would be handier. So off we went to a local shop, to ask for help. We thought they would be able to patch the bathroom somehow seamlessly so that we shouldn't change it completely. It turned out that such a request was close to impossible, so we asked for an estimated price for the whole work.

We gave them the rough size of the bathroom and the answer came in an instant: between ten and fifteen thousand euros. All inclusive. Except, of course, for the removal of the old tiles. And for their disposal at the scrap yard. In the end, they're artists, not dustmen. Since the price seemed far too higher than our initial budget, we closed the case in that very moment. We're not going to replace the bathroom, we'll clean it.

I wouldn't have thought more of this if it wasn't for a a friend of mine who bought a house and wanted to redo both bathrooms. When shopping around, he got an offer from the same type of shop. Thirty-five thousands. Euros. After a mild seizure, he asked for details. To cut this short, the prices for the materials he'd need (tiles, tub, sinks, taps, etc) were twice as much as the ones you can find on internet. Twice! Same brand and so. And we're talking thousands of euros here. And do not get the wrong impression: the labour hours were not included in the price.

There are different words to describe such situations, depending on where you're standing. From where I stand it's called robbery. However, I can imagine that there are people who wouldn't mind paying that much money for a bathroom, which is completely fine by me. But when you have 100% profit on the things that you trade, at people's expenses, there's no place for words like "food on the table" or "dance lessons".

All in all, if you are the paying party in such business, rest assured that you do pay for a child's college, no doubt, sometimes even in one go. Only that it's not for your own child.

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