Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Foul Gas

I left my 5 year old, abused grill behind up in Boston. It was rusted and only barely working.

My MIL has an old grill here, which is also on its last legs. I plan to replace it in September when grills go on sale. For the time being I am making do with it.

But it ran out of gas recently. Usually you take the old propane tank, drop it off, and they give you a different tank that's already pre-filled.

Now my MIL's tank is very, very OLD. It's rusted all around. I'm not even sure they'd accept it for an exchange.

So I go to the local *mom and pop* hardware store figuring I'd just buy a new full tank - whatever that costs.

Guess what. The lady had rung me up and was BSing with me when I casually inquired how much that would cost.

$70 !

Are you freakin' kidding me?

It was 40-something dollars for the new tank alone and then another $27 for the gas. (plus 8.625% sales tax)

I used to pay $17 for gas in Boston - which is already one of the highest cost of living places around. And I can't imagine a new tank anywhere else would cost over $40.

I aborted; told the lady I'd scare up a passable tank somewhere. This was ridiculous. Oh those poor mom-and-pop hardware stores put out of business by Home Depot and Lowes!

Over five years ago I wrote:

No Wal-Mart bash is complete without the requisite empathy for the poor "mom and pop" stores that Wal-Mart devours. This canard fulfills the econo-moronic template as the "pitiable victims of rich evil CEOs". Every time I hear the "mom and pop" lament, I think back to the last air conditioner I bought in Brooklyn. I went out of town to Wal-Mart and got a huge 12,000 btu air conditioner for around $240. The same air conditioner sold at the "mom and pop" hardware store in my neighborhood for $700. Wal-Mart critics don't care about the moms and pops that shop
See also - New York Sticker Shock.

UPDATE - Bought the tank/gas combo today at Lowe's for $54 -though I had to drive 25 minutes away to do so.


Justin Time said...

By shopping at Wal-Mart, you just put a local accountant, designer, lawyer, hardware store, etc., etc. etc. out of business.

But hell, you saved 37 cents.

And with that extra money you can go out and buy even more cheap, unnecessary crap -- which will most likely end up in a landfill in less than two years.

Keep on rocking in the free world!

CaptiousNut said...

Bought the gas and new tank at Lowes today...

Cost $54 instead of $70.

Now I can spend that extra $16 on a viable local business.

For example, I buy a whopping 3 Mexi-Italian ices from the madre-y-padre deli down the road!

Taylor Conant said...

Justin Time,

Funny, you seem to know what's necessary in C's life better than he does! Fancy that, you guru, you!

And I suppose you always pay as much as you possibly can for everything you buy, right? What is it that stops you from giving away all your money to the first merchant you find and living the ascetic lifestyle you profess to believe in in actuality?


I plan to replace it in September when grills go on sale.

Somewhere, a Keynesian deflationary-death-spiral adherent just shit their pants.

Anonymous said...

Those are some hefty prices. Almost makes you start chopping down the neighbor's shrubbery. Did they accept the old tank?

Paul Mitchell said...

I know that I use the legal services at Wal*Mart. Made in the USA and prices are falling....

Justin Time said...

Taylor man, my post is not specific to C-Nut. It applies to all you Wal-Mart shoppers who apparently aren't even aware that you are in a race to the bottom in the name of saving a few dimes.

You might save a few bucks at Wal-Mart, but that savings comes mostly out of the pockets of their suppliers and the employees (slaves?) of their suppliers.

And I didn't even get into the bland sameness that big-box stores impose upon cities and towns of America. Buy shopping at these places, you are supporting the sterilization of the character and uniqueness of different regions of this country.

As for the over-consumption of useless crap... You have to agree that most Americans have houses overflowing with priceless possessions (myself included), 99% of which will end up in a landfill upon their death, if any of it lasts that long.

Taylor Conant said...

Justin Time,

I didn't say your comment was specific to C-Nut. I was using your criticism of C-Nut to point out a general principle you are violating-- subjective value theory. In all your lamentations about where people shop, what they buy and how much they pay for it, you are implying these people are morons and that you know better than them what they should like and what they should be willing to pay for it. You've got to be a pretty arrogant person to insist you know better than everyone else about what is good for them.

I think in your anti-Wal-Mart hysteria you are willingly downplaying the actual savings an individual or family can produce by shopping there versus some other shopping outlet, which amounts to several hundred/few thousand dollars per year for the dedicated shoppers, not "a few bucks" as you imply, as if this is all so trivial and done just to piss you off. For most people and families in this country, saving a few hundred or thousand annually is the difference between getting ahead and falling behind.

So WHAT if it comes out of the pockets of suppliers? Are they entitled to a particular pay for their goods and services? Same with the employees you accuse of being slaves (hmmm, I didn't know slaves were people who voluntarily contract for a position and who are free to void that contract at any time)-- what is the "correct" value for the labor of these people? There isn't one, you Marxist moron! No one is entitled to any particular valuation of their goods and services by other people-- if they don't like the price being offered, ultimately by the consumers/shoppers of Wal-Mart, they don't have to provide Wal-Mart with supplies or work in its stores.

As for your bland sameness comment... gee whiz, what do you think is being sold in mom and pop shops, handcrafted, "homemmade" electronics, clothing and food? The moms and pops sell the same bland garbage Wal-Mart does, they just charge more because they're less efficient at acquiring and selling it.

People aren't in a race to the bottom to save "a few dimes", as you imply. Unlike you, the holy man enlightened guru, most people prefer goods and services that make their lives easier and more comfortable, and most people prefer paying less for these things and THAT is why they shop at a place like Wal-Mart... not because they are just mindless consumers trying to destroy their own quality of life. There's nothing glorious about ascetic avoidance of mortal comfort unless your name is Justin Time.

At the end of the day, your cursing of Wal-Mart is just, like, your opinion, man. Stop lambasting people about it if you don't want to provide any reasons or logical arguments as to why so many have chosen in error.

CaptiousNut said...

The only way Big Business is ever going to get smaller is if its comparative advantages are defanged politically.

That means all the regulations, the taxes on small businesses have to go.

No more unemployment insurance, no more minimum wage, an end to the reign of frivolous lawsuits, an end to that un-Constitutional, anti-logical 15% tax on job creation aka SS/Medicare, no more mandated handicap ramps and the like, and a drastic reduction in all other regulations and certifications.

You get rid of all that crap and the moms-and-pops will stand a fighting chance.

I just don't think that an enlightened consumer rebellion will do anything. Heck my father, a union diehard, still shops religiously at Wal-Mart.

Taylor Conant said...


Of course you're correct and I appreciate you raising those points. I ignored the political side of it because Justin Time isn't even arguing economics-- he's arguing about his personal preference and implying it's much superior to everyone else's, like a typical mystical cultural totalitarian douche.

I love morons like JT who think there is something glorious in "making work" for unproductive, inefficient (ceteris paribus the regulatory/tax structure, which, again, I agree is anti-small business) individuals. The one thing most scarce in human life is time and what people are ultimately economizing on in shopping with the lowest priced provider of any good or service is time. JT sees two guys hammering out a horseshoe, one who produces 100 horseshoes an hour and lives in the next town over and another who produces 10 horseshoes an hour and lives next door and decides the dimwitted slowpoke is superior because he's closer. Durrrrrrr.

Paul Mitchell said...

C-Nut, I think that I could have written the exact same comment that you just did. As a small business FAILBOAT captain, the 15% kills me and all the other taxes like "unemployment insurance" keep me from expanding because I have no clue through which ridiculous loops I shall have to jump.

By the way, minimum wage is the root of all economic evil. Ditch it and immediately rid yourself of the unemployment problem, the individual capital problem, and the illegal Mexican problem. Hide and watch.

Taylor's two horseshoe producer guys analogy was hilarious.

Justin Time said...

Whooaaa! Take it down a notch there, Conant. No need to reduce C-Nut's blog to vitriol and name calling.

Sure you can save a lot by shopping at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart maintains low prices by strong-arming suppliers to sell to them for less. Suppliers are forced to reduce expenses. So they make the product a little flimsier and outsource manufacturing to 3rd world countries, where they can pay a 7 year old 3 cents an hour to work 14 hour days in a sweat-shop.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, Main Street in every town is deserted. All the unique, interesting shops are gone. They cannot compete.

It's not Wal-Mart's fault. It's your fault as a consumer for not being smart enough to realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Now go put on your best pair of BeDazzled jeans and be on your way...

Paul Mitchell said...

I think that JT has become anti-minimum wage with that last comment.

Or either knee-deep in contradiction.

Justin Time said...

Mitchell, my man. Not sure how you got that from my post, but you are correct.

I am completely against the minimum wage in an environment such as the USA, where your not competing against a billion other people for a sweatshop type job.

As for Conant's horseshoe straw man, it is so full of holes that I don't even know where to begin with it.

Does the horseshoe maker get to a hundred horseshoes a day by having all the village children work 14 hour days making them?

Does the 100 horseshoe maker make his horseshoes out of lead-tainted plastic instead of steel, even though it will only last 1/10 as long?

Paul Mitchell said...

You pointed out in your 12:11 comment that paying lower prices anywhere (including at Wal*Mart) was good. For that to happen and to increase the quality of life for everyone already in the labor pool, abolishing minimum wage is necessary. So, I took that as your point.

Of course, this act does nothing to reduce the value of the income of the lowest paid, either. It is only a win/win/win in every aspect.

Taylor Conant said...


Do you know what a strawman is? Do you realize you just constructed your own in creating an alternative horseshoe-maker example where the horseshoe maker "cheats" by building low quality crap?

For my example to have any relevance, as I intended it to, it has to be a CETERIS PARIBUS comparison-- this means, the two horseshoe makers produce goods that are identical in quality, durability, toxicity, etc.

In that world, if the less efficient producer wants to compete he has to sell his wares for 1/10th the price, otherwise the 100HS/hr guy will always be able to offer the same product at a lower price.

That was my point, you idiot. The mom and pops are selling the same "garbage", just at higher prices. They don't hand craft television sets from the finest, non-toxic materials. They don't handweave clothes from cotton sourced from their organic cotton plantation. They don't grow fresher or tastier or anything food from their backyard. They are supplied by the same "homogenized" suppliers as Wal-Mart... their stuff comes from China, Mexico and other "sweatshop/slave labor" producers as Wal-Marts... they just charge more for it.

You are so uninformed and so devoid of any theoretical or principled understanding of the topic that I will not bother trying to communicate with you further because it's an utter waste of time. I don't care if you're a union worker talking your book or you're just a crybaby moron with a bleeding heart used to make up for some personal inadequacy or sense of insecurity about your own nobleness and morality or what, you're a belligerent moron and I don't waste my time with those kinds of folk any longer than I must.

Oh, and by the way, nice job on the projectionism with the "woah woah woah what's with the vitriol?!" mock-shock... nevermind the fact that you are the person who started things off by accusing us "Wal-Mart shoppers" (I go to Wal-Mart maybe 1 time per year but I still see what a moron you are) of being insensitive, ignorant, cheap, of poor taste as well as implicitly tied into coercion and slave labor schemes, essentially calling us villains and scumbags in the process. When someone calls me a villain and a scumbag without any justification, I have no problem whatsoever pointing out in very stark, frank terms that that person is AN IDIOT.

Which is what you are, JT, total moron, just more fodder for the likes of the great C-Nut.

Toodaloo, jerk.

Justin Time said...

You pointed out in your 12:11 comment that paying lower prices anywhere (including at Wal*Mart) was good.

For the record, I don't think my comment said that paying lower prices was always a good thing. (In fact, I might have implied the exact opposite of that when it comes to Wal-Mart.)

There are other factors beyond lowest price that need to be taken into consideration.

But otherwise, I completely agree with your point about the minimum wage.

Paul Mitchell said...

Well, I did state that otherwise your comment was contradictory. Golden BB, baby!

Justin Time said...

Conant, you are one angry Wal-Mart shopper.

Your example has no relevance to reality, my friend.

Sure some items are the same. But others just appear to be the same to the untrained eye looking solely for a cheap price tag.

Ask the guy at the local shoe store if this is true. Ask the guy at the music shop. Ask guy at the bike shop. Ask the guy at the furniture store.

But most broke, vein American wannabees will buy the cheap knockoff at Wal-Mart in attempts to keep up with the Joneses.

Do you think small shops charge more just because they are greedy? Or do you think that maybe, just maybe, this is the true cost of doing business without unnatural downward pressure by a company that is on the verge of operating as a monopoly?

Sure you benefit by save a quick buck.

Unfortunately, what you lose in the deal is the small specialty businesses who offer better service, better quality and a wider

I don't know how or you would even want to argue with me about this. These are the facts. I don't even think Sam Walton would attempt to deny this...

You must own a bunch of shares of WMT. I don't see any other reason for you to be blowing a gasket over this.

Taylor Conant said...

JT is one of those idiots who, in seeing a "cheap knockoff" Japanese sportscar in his neighbors driveaway, runs across his lawn, spraying his neighbor with the hose and screaming at him, "What are you, an idiot? Why didn't you buy a Corvette! Do you realize how many local accountants, designers, lawyers and assembly-line workers you just put out of business?"

"Hang on just a minute," his neighbor implores, in between unwelcome blasts of frigid hose water to the face. "Yes, I bought this little Japanese sportscar in part because it was cheaper than a Corvette. But I also bought it because I couldn't afford a Corvette in the first place and still desired to have a sportscar; I also bought it because I don't really need a 500hp Corvette, this 300hp V6 is plenty of power for me; and finally, I bought it because I don't particularly like the Corvette. In my opinion, this little Japanese sportscar suits me just fine-- I'm sorry it's made in Japan and not down the street like the Corvette, but hey, I guess one way to look at it is that while I am not helping to employ MY neighbors, I am helping to employ SOMEBODY'S neighbors. What's wrong with that?"

"Oh, you stupid, strawman building jerk!" screams JT. "The only reason that Japanese sportscar is so cheap is because the Japanese government subsidizes the manufacturer and suppresses the wages of the workers! In your haste to purchase the cheapest sportscar you could find you neglected the fact that your choices are leading to the downfall of American businesses and communities! You are a disgrace!"

"Mr. JT, if you'd please stop spraying me with that hose I'd be happy to try to explain this further," the neighbor continues, a bit miffed. "You're turning something economic into something political. You're turning something concrete, specific and subjective into something that is abstract, general and supposedly objective. I have no power over the political process in this country or Japan. My choices are not what cause the Japanese government to subsidize Japanese industry, or to play a complicit role in some alleged sweatshop conditions of its workers. I desired for myself the ability to enjoy a fun, sporty vehicle to drive. After considering what I could afford and the different tradeoffs in speed, value, safety and other factors available within that price range, I made what I considered to be the best choice possible to satisfy my wants. It's got nothing to do with my choices that the Corvette manufacturers can't produce their admittedly superior product at a lower price. Again, I don't know why you're so outraged at me-- your problem seems to be with the Japanese government."

"Oh, you're such a damned fool!" shouts the unstable JT. "All you care about is price!"

Exasperated, the neighbor heads inside to grab a towel, but turns around to say, "I've explained to you that there was much more to my consideration than just price, but that ultimately, price is an important factor. I had no interest in buying a Corvette in the first place and I could not afford one even if I would've liked to-- however, I still wanted a sportscar for myself. That being the case, after comparing the available sportscars I determined that they were either comparable enough in quality that I went with the one sold to me at the lowest price, or that where there was a significant discrepancy in quality, I personally valued the savings on the lower priced vehicle more than the higher quality I would've received with the higher priced item and so still I went with the lower price. THAT, JT, is MY CHOICE because only I can determine what is most valuable to me in a given comparison, for example, price or quality. That's not for you to decide or dictate to me. If you think you're so brilliant at dictating value to other people, maybe you'd like a job working for the Japanese government."

Justin Time said...

You are a weird guy, Conant.

My original post was nothing more inflammatory than my usual busting of C-Nuts balls, but it obviously struck a nerve with you.

I mean, I cannot be the first person that made the mistake of denigrating Wal-Mart and its fine wares in your presence, can I?

Is the stereotype that Wal-Mart shoppers are filthy, vile humans new to you? You might flip your wig if you saw www peopleofwalmart com.

Seriously Conant, man. I don't know you or hold any ill will towards you (despite the many rotten things you've called me.)

I am more intrigued by you and your desire to be seen as the smartest guy in the room. It almost strikes as if you are going out of your way in your attempts to impress us with your intellect.

Can I ask what you do for a living?