According to plan, the visit of my nearly life-long buddy – the major – the fellow who’s my “brother of a different mother” will wrap up today.
When you’ve been friends with someone for 66-years (admittedly longer than most readers have been alive) there are a number of topics that generally come up during a visit. One of these is “consumer rip-offs.”
Since we always have an assortment of liquids on hand, the topic always gets around to “consumerism” topics. In the past, we’ve kicked around the ongoing screw-job of consumers via packaging. This trip was no different. High fructose corn poison and so forth, among the regulars. Packaging additives…you know the list.
As we were recounting out gripes, Elaine happened to be running a load of laundry down the hall.
In she marched with in with a jug of Tide (with bleach) laundry soap and held it up. “See the color of the top?”
We nodded – it’s a medium-dark blue. One of those things neither the major or I would normally pay any attention to. But it grabbed Elaine’s careful eye.
“Now ready? Watch this….”
She poured about half a cap full and passed it around.
“You can’t see how much I poured, right? See how the color of the top hides the amount of soap?”
As readers know, my eyes aren’t especially good…but doggone it, she was right. The washing liquid was tinted medium blue and in anything less than surgical theater lighting, it was difficult to tell.
“This is why we go through so much soap, maybe….”
The major then piped up with his two-bits worth.
“Speaking of packaging and rips, you know how easy it would be for salad dressing outfits to fix those wide-mouth jars so you don’t over-pour salad dressings?”
About here, we were all bobbing our heads.
“How tough would it be for them to put a screw-on top or an insert on top so you didn’t pour too much salad dressing?”
We then wandered off into how “pounds of coffee” and other goods were 12-ounces. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but we agreed there’s a sense that this re-jiggering of weights and measures have never been fully accounted for in prices kept by the government to adjust for inflation.
Easy enough to see how: A “pound of coffee” becoming 12 ounces means you can bury a 25% price inflation.
Experts might differ due to something called “consumer switching.” The idea is that what used to be a “pound of steak” in the grocery cart price samples might be any of a half dozen cuts of meat, based on whatever’s on sale. Since “steak” to me is man y different cuts, you can hide a good bit of inflation that way.
Same with a 32 (or however many) ounce jug of laundry soap. If you start off with a gallon of Tide (which used to be 128 ounces, lol) by the time you get down to current pricing, you might be finding the best cost per ounce is in the smaller powdered generic laundry soap.
Consumer choicing, wrote the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1987, is driven by “relative importance” – just “What does one pound of Folger’s cost?”
All of which has two main takeaways for preppers.
The first is that when you store “a pound of coffee” you are storing a current priced item. When you get to using it – a year or three down the road, who knows how many grains of coffee will make up the mathematically jiggered “pound of coffee?”
Second is Mark Twain’s take on liars, damn liars, and statisticians.
A 2015 St. Louis Fed paper notes:
“The CPI is designed to reflect the purchases of the typical urban consumer, and not all people are typical or urban. More importantly, the CPI is meant to reflect the experience of the average household, but differences in individual consumer choices nearly guarantee that the inflation rate experienced by any individual varies from the average inflation rate. In addition, the prices of some goods that are more visible might influence people’s perception of inflation because the prices are both noticeable and volatile. In short, it is good to remember that when it comes to national statistics such as the CPI, actual (individual) results may vary.”
No…tell us it ain’t so! But, there it is in the Fed’s own confessional.
Some Serious Woo-Woo
One of our projects during the major’s visit was to put together a couple of large receiving antennas called Beverages. Well-described in the literature.
So, there we were – working on the project. The major across the room…me soldering up cable ends. I put small ring terminals on twin-lead so as to make a good, permanent connection.
I had been using an orange-handled pair of scissors for cutting the twin lead in half…and then stripping off the insulation and putting on the ring connectors. Had two two ends already.
I put the scissors down, on the left side of my workspace…and as soon as the solder cooled, I went to pick up the scissors to do the last end.
They weren’t where I’d had them not 30-seconds earlier…They had simply disappeared!!! My bench looked like this…
“Hey (name)…come over here and help me find the scissors… had ’em just a minute ago….”
So over comes the major and HE looks at the bench – not there.
For the next five minutes we tore the bench apart… looking under, over, around and through everything. No damn scissors to be found. Under the desk? Nope. Put back in a drawer? Nope. Had he taken them over to where he was working? Well, no, he hadn’t gotten out of his chair.
Then I checked my pockets and then we both looked at every shelf and in every nook and cranny…
“Boy, that’s strange as hell…” I said…finally giving up.
The major about here had gone out into the shop to pick up another pair of scissors…and came back with an alternative pair.
“No, put those back – they’re for the shipping bench….”
I then went out (as he was putting them away in the shop) and started to look for my next victim roll of wire. The major went back to the office.
“Oh CRAP! George get in here!”
I came through the door, looked left at where he was pointing to my desk.
OMG…there on the front left side of the bench was what????
There they were!
This despite the fact that we had emptied the bench a few minutes earlier.
“Maybe it was a double schotoma…” he proposed.
We both have some familiarity with schotomas…me from past woo-woo columns and him professionally as a highly trained psychologist. And we both knew the odds of this being a “double schotoma” – in the morning, with two high IQ people -both with masters etc – at other ends of a room – was approximately zero.
We knew what the odds were.
When you’ve been pals for 66 years – including having a shared “missing time” experience, late at night on a logging road in the summer of 1968 (August) in the Mount St. Helens area when we were on a campaign/hiking adventure – we both recognized it for what it was…
Another one of those “low probability things” that sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and say “That was some seriously strange sh*t, huh?” and let it go.
Until the next time it happens.
Write when you get rich,