Monday, April 24, 2006

“Let the buyer beware,” but pay the full price anyway...

I recently browsed through a local drug store and stopped at a carousel rack of reading glasses. Most of them were half-glasses with oval or rectangular lenses. A few looked as if Benjamin Franklin had crafted them. One buys a pair according to a number designation. The numbers are 1, 1.5, 2, and 2.5. They refer to the amount of magnification. The glasses all are sold with cases. Tin cases with a pocket clip, nylon envelope cases, or leather ones. You have seen them, I am sure.

Have you ever tried on a pair? And then have you looked at the price?

I mention that because I recently visited an optometrist and had my eyes examined. I also bought new glasses. The examination was a good thing as a check on my vision. But buying the new glasses now seems foolish. They cost more than a hundred dollars. And they are only for reading. I do not need them for driving or seeing at a distance of more than a couple of feet. The doctor said so.

I chose the least expensive frames in the optical store and waited an hour for the lenses to be fitted…and perhaps for the manager to check my credit rating and credit card balance. Who knows? The glasses were well over a hundred dollars, as I said.

The reading glasses in the drug store cost about ten dollars, depending on which style and case. Ten dollars! And they have frames and glass lenses! The frames are attractive. Plenty good enough to wear in public.

So, tell me why frames, alone, at an optometrist’s shop ought to cost over a hundred dollars when one can buy frames with magnifying lenses for ten dollars in a drugstore. Or sunglasses for a few bucks with frames also as attractive as those optometrist ones costing more than a hundred.

I bought a drugstore pair of reading glasses, by the way. They are on my nose as I type. I see the screen and keyboard better than with the prescription pair. With either eye or both. (I just checked that out.) I could have saved a bundle.

But I saved money on a new printer.

Have you bought one lately? Costs have really come down, haven’t they? I have seen some deals where, with the rebate coupon redeemed, the printer is almost free. “How can they do it?” I asked myself about ten months ago while setting up the new machine.

I have figured it out. The company charges twenty-five to forty dollars for the black and color ink replacement cartridges! Little plastic cases that cost, perhaps, a few cents each to manufacture, once the mold and machinery are set into motion. And a few more pennies worth of “toner” powder. I would bet that the packaging and labeling costs more per cartridge than the cartridge itself.

So one buys a new printer for very little and is hooked into purchasing outrageously priced ink every month or so to keep it running! I have spent about $200 on printer cartridges so far, and will no doubt keep the printer for many more months and spend hundreds of dollars more for a few bucks worth of ink. And that is how companies can almost give printers away.

That seems like the same plan of drug pushers who give away samples until the new sap is hooked. Then they charge big fees, when the user needs to continue. That person also has no choice.

We are hooked on prescription drugs, too, of course. We are told that the high prices are to finance the research and development of the companies saving our lives, sex lives, and general health. Right. Foreign countries are not asked to share in the costs of American research and development, I assume, because the same drugs in identical packages can be bought in Canada and Mexico for less money. No one has explained adequately why foreign markets shouldn’t share in the costs of research and development if they buy and sell drugs from those businesses doing the research and development.

I suppose one might make a case for newly developed drugs costing a bit more than the actual cost to make each pill. But explain why a large bottle of brand name aspirin, a drug that has been around for decades, is sealed and shipped from the U.S. to Mexico, and sold in pharmacies there for the equivalent of sixty cents while we still pay dollars. Isn’t the original cost of developing aspirin pretty well paid for by now? What does each little tablet cost to make these days? Couldn’t they be bottled and sold for sixty cents in this country, with the company making at least the same profit per pill as they do from the ones sold to Mexico?

American pharmaceutical companies contributed heavily to the last Bush election campaign. But that wouldn’t influence the president to warn Americans away from cheaper drugs in foreign countries, I am sure. Yet a little over a year ago he told us of the potential dangers of buying foreign drugs. We run the risk of buying contaminated products, he said. Bush was even specific and warned against buying in Canada.

A few weeks later it was learned that this country was running out of flu vaccine, with winter approaching. The supplier had had problems with the manufacturing process. A British supplier. I wonder if Bush knows Britain is a foreign country.

Not to worry, however. Bush soon announced that the shortage would be temporary because the United States was buying enough flu vaccine for everyone from…ready for this? Canada!

I know; this rant includes grossly over simplified economics. But you get the point. We are being misled and gouged by more manufacturers and companies than just those of the oil industry. And we have no choice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When true believers in a republic pay little attention to potential leaders' personal agendas and don't vote wisely or at all, we get leaders whose personal agendas are realized at the expense of those believers.

Those leaders play on the hopes of all to rise to riches through conservative philosophies while they subvert those philosophies and gain more riches for themselves through lies, power, and greed. Their supporters become gougers, among other things.

They can look an interviewer in the eyes and deny saying what was said only weeks before. They repeat lies after truth has shined light on them, and then repeat the lies again.

They call any opposition "unpatriotic." They smear people who hold dissenting views. They hide the truth. They plant lies as truths. And they keep saying how wonderful their own plans are as they pursue their personal agendas toward completing their personal goals.

And those with personal agendas remain in power by labeling people supporting the general public's interests as "liberals," or "communists," or "rebels," or "girlie men." They make "liberal" sound ugly.

They claim religion, but don't understand that Jesus was a liberal. They parade their religion, but ignore the Biblical messages about righteous behaviors.

They seek reasons to go to war, then rally their nation behind support of the troops.

Remember: Lies and fears are the stock in trade of those with personal agendas, in any time or place, and within any party. Think of Hitler. Think of Stalin. Think of Ghengis Khan. Caesar. Mao. Don Corleone. Sentor MacCarthy. The pigs in "Animal Farm." You add to the list.

Ask yourself, "What is in it for this, or that, potential leader? Will the nation benefit more than the leaders do? Or will the leaders and their backers gain the most? Who should benefit more in a genuine republic, the leaders or the people?"

4/25/2006 2:46 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Well! As Jack Benny might have said.

I am surprised at what my post prompted from you, anonymous. Fascinating essay you contributed. I need to think about your points a bit more. I suspect that was your intent. Thanks for the visit and remarks.

4/26/2006 10:53 AM  
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