Archive for the ‘Value’ Category

Service of the More You Pay, the Less You Get—in Sneaky Ways

Thursday, May 30th, 2024

A sheet of Ansel Adams Forever stamps.

Who doesn’t notice subtle price changes that creep into a budget and/or manufacturer savings that impact quality? I’ve recently written about the July 14 Forever stamp price increase from 68 cents to 73 cents. It’s worth repeating.

I love paper—stationery on fine paper, wonderful wrapping paper, giftbags and napkins. While Trader Joe’s has some beauties at 99 cents a card, some are printed on a rich, textured linen like stock, I will occasionally spring for a $6.00 card if it is perfect for someone. But what I’ve found is that when I go to close the envelope on these extravagances the glue or adhesive doesn’t hold. I mentioned my frustration and annoyance to a friend who had the same experience. Trader Joe’s notecards close good and tight.

And what about socks? A friend works in a shop that sells cotton socks with charming motifs for $15 a pair. They feel wonderful, but they don’t last a year. She bought me a pair that I loved [photo below]. I hand washed them and never put them in a dryer, but it didn’t matter. Holes happened anyway. I thought it may have been a one-off, but she reported the same issue with the ones she bought for herself. [I never told her about my gift.]

This example doesn’t quite fit the theme, but I wanted to share it anyway. I called customer service when the hefty shipping charge wouldn’t go away on the invoice of an online purchase. I had reached the minimum required. The operator asked if I was buying a sale item. Answer, “Yes.” She replied, “then you must pay shipping.” I couldn’t find an email address to report my irritation but nevertheless mailed a letter to the marketing director suggesting that they state this policy clearly on the website. This had never happened to me before!

Do you have similar examples of sneaky marketing where you pay more but don’t get what you expect?

Hole in a $15.00 sock shortens its life to less than one year.

Service of Food: Valuable to Some, Essential to Others

Monday, December 9th, 2019

According to United States Department of Agriculture, 40 million Americans face hunger, including 12.5 million children. In this regard two headlines hit me last week.

The first: “Maurizio Cattelan Is Taping Bananas to a Wall at Art Basel Miami Beach and Selling Them for $120,000 Each.”

The second: “Trump administration moves to remove 700,000 people from food stamps.”

Sarah Cascone wrote the first article on She added that the gallery repping Cattelan was upping the price to $150,000 because the banana, affixed with contact tape to the wall, already had two buyers at the original asking price. She also reported that her husband and his college dorm mates had done the same thing with a banana and that he still had what was left of the shriveled fruit somewhere in their home.

I couldn’t tell from the article whether the artist would affix the banana to the buyers’ walls.

Obviously these art buyers have no trouble feeding themselves or their families which isn’t the case for people who need food stamps.

Tom Polansek wrote on “President Donald Trump has argued that many Americans receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment. The program provides free food to 36 million Americans.”

Savings to the government over five years is estimated to be $5.5 billion.

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio described the cutback as “an unacceptable escalation of the administration’s war on working families, and it comes during a time when too many are forced to stretch already-thin budgets.”

Polansek reported “The administration has sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill last year.”

“For those impacted it will mean less nutritious meals, or meals that are skipped altogether,” said Cassie Ramos, policy associate for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

Good work if you can get it is my reaction to the $120,000-$150,000 banana with a dash of there’s a sucker born every day. I’m not one bit magnanimous about the food stamp cuts.  If we’re looking for ways to cut the budget why pick on the poorer members of our country who, without food, in addition to suffering, will become sick and cost more? Will taking away food stamps inspire people who need them to get a job when my bet is that many already have a few?

Service of Art as Investment

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

You write, paint, design or invent something and it’s yours to do with what you like which is what German artist Gerhard Richter did with his early paintings—he disowned them. Does it make a difference if you’ve sold the picture, article, book, or product to someone else?

In “Collectors Alarmed As Gerhard Richter Disowns Early Works From West German Period,” on, Henri Neuendorf explained. “The painter has developed a reputation for rigorously editing his oeuvre, routinely striking works from catalogues, Tagesspiegel reports. Now, the artist no longer acknowledges works from his early West German period.

“Between 1962 to 1968 he experimented with a realistic, figurative painting style—a style which he evidently dislikes so strongly that he has specifically excluded it from his catalogue raisonné.”

Catalogue raisonnés help authenticate pictures. Neuendorf wrote: “If a work isn’t included in a works catalogue, the value will inevitably decrease.”

He asked: “Should an artist be allowed to shape his own artistic legacy by excluding certain artworks from his oeuvre? That may well be an artist’s right. But should artists be able to edit their own catalogue raisonné? After all, as a historical document surely the works catalogue must be exhaustive and academically accurate if an artist’s legacy is to be fully understood and appreciated by future generations.”

People at the top of their game in other industries have a hard if impossible time erasing their pasts. Should artists whose works cost $millions be exempt when their actions impact collectors who have invested in them? Is this one more reason to buy art that you love rather than work you think will increase in value? What if other artists follow Richter: Will this precedent deflate the contemporary art market that for some artists is exaggerated? 

Service of Time vs. Result: Is it Worth It?

Monday, April 27th, 2015

I wonder if anyone remembers my dinner parties of yore: After a 60 hour week at work I’d spend all Saturday making a complicated main dish from scratch. As I saw my guests swallowing the food which was gone in minutes, I’d wonder whether those hours of prep were the best use of my time. Would anyone know the difference if I’d simply roasted a chicken? Would they have had a better time?

An actor friend immediately related to this. It takes hours and sometimes days to set up what becomes just a few minutes of film. Does the general public get the nuances? Do they add up to an Oscar or a great review?

It’s the same with still editorial photo shoots. You warn homeowners that it could take all day to get three good shots of a single room after a team styles and lights each to perfection. The homeowner is baffled. Do those who see the result in a magazine or online realize the effort that went into what’s on the page? Are the editors trying to impress their readers or other editors?

A friend who works with models says some will tell her, as they arrive on a job, “I’ll be done in an hour, right? I’m meeting a friend.” She’ll tell them “Cancel your date; you’ll be here for hours.” The results are in catalogs and on Instagram and in fashion magazines. Had the session been shot in a flash would anyone be the wiser?

Too much time spent on a project must be treated like shoes that don’t fit: More than annoying but forget it and move on. Do you always spend the right amount of time for each task? Do you feel that there are some elements of a project you could deep six and nobody would know the difference? Are some projects time sponges and there’s nothing you can do about it?


Service of Knowing What Your Money Covers

Monday, March 12th, 2012

It’s well known that some state lotteries were started to supplement public school budgets. Once they brought in a ton of money, the education budget began to tip-toe away leaving the lottery as a major income source.

I thought of that when I read or heard about a rash of lawsuit settlements lately. Wal*Mart’s and Kraft’s employees sued because they were paying excessive 401 K fees.

Then there is the $5.25 million settlement–with wait staff–by restaurateur Mario Batali and his business partner, Joe Bastiniach. In The New York Times “Diners Journal” blog, Benjamin Weiser wrote: “The lawsuit against Mr. Batali, filed in 2010, said that he and a partner, Joseph Bastianich, and their restaurants had a policy of deducting an amount equivalent to 4 to 5 percent of total wine sales at the end of each night from the tip pool and keeping the money.”

Weiser went on, “Employees were told the money was to cover expenses related to wine research and to cover broken glassware….”

James Campbell in The Wall Street Journal wrote that staffers claimed “that 4% to 5% of their tips were used to pay sommeliers at Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Esca, Del Posto, Lupa, Otto and Tarry Lodge.”

I thought my tips go to the wait staff, including the sommelier, not to supplement anybody’s pay, buy wine for “research” or to cover breakage. These are costs of doing business.

Some companies load up their client’s out of pocket expense invoices with inappropriate charges and we pay for pilfered items when we buy at retail. My health insurance refuses to pay for some drugs [an innocuous antibiotic for example] and I always wonder what my co-pay will be for others. As for doctor fees, apart from facelifts and other frivolous procedures that aren’t covered, I have terminal questions around what tests my insurance allows and how often they will pay for me to have them, regardless of doctor recommendation.

Are you surprised–and sometimes mystified–when you hear what your money does–and doesn’t–cover?

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