Monday, November 15, 2010

Is Cheapness Always the Best Policy?

Nancy Mitford, best known for Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love wrote an early novel entitled Highland Fling. Two of the main characters, Walter and Sally, were a young married aristocratic couple trying to lead the life of gay young things in post WWI Britain. Sally, the more practical of the two, periodically attempted to make Walter economize when they overspent their quarterly allowance. Unfortunately for Sally,

"On the other hand, Walter seemed to have a talent for making money disappear. Whenever he was on the point of committing an extravagance of any kind he would excuse himself by explaining: "Well, you see, darling, it's so much cheaper in the end." (p.14).

In order to save money, Sally volunteered for the two of them to chaperone a house party for some relatives who would be out of the country. Unfortunately, in the middle of the party, the house burns completely to the ground. As Sally comments in a letter "It's too awful all our things being burnt; as Walter says, it would have been cheaper in the end to go to the Lido." (p.154)

Over the years, when I've bought shoes that fell apart, clothes that ripped or shrank, and horrible coffee, I've found myself thinking "it would have been cheaper in the end to go to the Lido". We've all had experiences or purchases where we've regretted compromising and/or settling for second best. Cheapness does not always come without a physical or monetary price.

1 comment:

Oscar W. said...

It's true that there is a big difference between an item being cheap and being a bargain. It isn't always easy to assess quality up front. I've heard of cultures where people buy fewer but higher quality items of clothing, like jackets or coats. Those items represent better value to them. A discriminating buyer will weigh expense vs quality accordingly.