Negative Value

Every once in a blue moon I’ll take a look at reviews of various establishments, more recently I was checking out the yelp reviews of a certain store on Madison’s state street downtown area and something about it struck me as a bit odd. Let me show you the review:

Yelp Review
This guy is an idiot

Ok… I’ll be fair and say right off the bat that yes, I get it this guy might have already been downtown and decided to swing by to get the items in question; due to the nature of parking availability downtown I’ll give him that. For the sake of this analysis here, I’m going to assume he made a special trip due to the excitement he must have felt to find out that there’s a store out there, close-by that sells the “Field Notes” notebook which he obviously covets like his neighbor’s hot wife. What’s that special trip look like? A little something like this…

Ok, straight shot, easy drive. So this guy Chris in Sun Prairie gets in his car and for the sake of argument drives a minivan, again I’ll make an assumption because he’s from Sun Prairie and buying “Field Notes“. Anyone from Sun Prairie who’s seeking out a specific brand of notebook likely has some disposable income and odds are favorable that he has a family. Let’s say his minivan/truck/SUV gets about 22mpg on average.

  • At about 1pm, Chris heads out…
  • Chris gets in his car and makes the 13.8 mile drive. On 9/13/2014 the rough price of a gallon of gas was $3.14, and at 22mpg that quick jaunt downtown cost Chris $1.82
  • Chris arrives at the store and spends about 5 minutes looking for a parking ramp, which is located right around the corner. He browses around the store for about 10 minutes and finds the coveted notepads. Aghast, he leaves. They’re $14 for a 3-pack! WTF!?!?!?!??!?!?!? Stop the presses, FUCK CAPITALISM… the ONLY place in Madison to carry a 3-pack of field notes (which happens to be a tiny boutique shop that sells all sorts of “off the wall” things) costs a whole $4 than “Everywhere else he’s seen them”. Well, screw that; Chris leaves hot as a nun that just got made as a lesbian and heads home.
  • Parking in Madison costs $.90/hr – he’s only there for a few minutes so he pays out .90 to get out of the parking ramp.
  • Empty handed Chris heads home, it costs him $1.82 to make the trip back to Sun Prairie. Further, it takes him another whole 24 minutes to get there.

After a whole hour and 15 minutes of driving, seeking out the insanely high priced notepads, and then coming home defeated, Chris decides to buy them online and just like he thought, they’re about $10 on Amazon:

A screenshot of fieldnotes for sale on amazon.com

For the sake of argument, and because back in 2014 we didn’t ALL have amazon prime like we do now, Chris bought these notebooks and paid for shipping. Let’s just say it costed $2 to ship these things.

Here’s where I get blown away, Chris went to this store, saw $14 price tag and balked, leaving empty handed, defeated and frustrated. What would have happened if he made some decisions a little differently?

  1. Chris goes into Madison and buys the notepads: $18.54
  2. Chris plans ahead, buys them online before he needs them (and need for a premium notebook is questionable): $11.95
  3. Chris doing what he did: $16.49 (but he has to wait)

Now you’re thinking “hey, he saved money, you’re wrong” – Well, yes he did and monetarily you’d be right. But that’s not what this is about. This is about value-the value of the decision, two principles in particular which Chris completely ignored and as a result ended up wasting two very important resources:

Time and Value

We talk all the time about how big corporations are shitty and the little guy gets screwed. Are you ready to put your money where your mouth is? Chris didn’t, and it hurt much more than the $2 gain in his pocketbook. Chris’ decision created negative value for himself, our economy, and the environment.

By taking the time to drive so far from home, Chris shows his extreme desire for these notepads. He took time away from his family to get them, he spent time alone in his vehicle, dodged traffic and put some actual physical effort into obtaining these notepads. HE. WANTED. THEM. However, by leaving defeated by the prospect of saving a mere ~$2 on his purchase, he DENIED the shop keeper some extra revenue – revenue that keeps the shopkeeper’s kids in college and food in his family’s stomachs.

While Chris goes to his work every day and takes a paycheck home largely whether he busts his hump or not (remember now, he’s seeking out PREMIUM notepads here, he’s likely NOT struggling financially); The shop keeper has to constantly struggle with low margins, and likely makes much less than Chris does. Chris had an opportunity to stimulate the economy, the same economy he probably complained about a few years prior; now having the opportunity to assist in its resurgence, he keeps his funds and returns home to waste even more time seeking out the notepads a second time online, then waiting for them to arrive by mail. Chris made a string of very bad decisions that not only impact him, but his fellow man, and all of us even in a very small way.

Compounded, these decisions benefit nobody and create a negative effect on society, the economy, and ecology.

  • Chris wasted an hour or more in an activity that provided nobody any value (driving and returning empty handed because he’s a cheap pompous fuck)
  • Chris denied income to a shop owner by not purchasing anything, and further devalued his trip and time by leaving empty handed
  • Chris wasted natural resources (fuel), and unnecessarily polluted the atmosphere with his car, in an activity that provided him with no value
  • Chris put unnecessary wear and tear on his car, again in an activity which provided him no value and will eventually cost him money in repairs later
  • Chris returned and ordered online (what he should have just done in the first place), wasting further time, fuel (shipping), and pollution (shipping)

BUT… Chris saved a whole $2 in the end because he was “smart enough” to not pay the insane prices the shopkeeper was charging.

Value is not the same as money. Chris, he’s a douchebag.

Warren Buffet Quote