I had gone to a shop a few days back to buy some toys for Nisarga. There, I met another woman who was also buying toys for her grandson. I know her vaguely when we talked when I took Nisarga for evening walks and she had brought her grandson. She is a retired teacher and lives a couple of buildings down from ours and teaches tuitions to kids in the area.
We kind of made small chit chat and I waited for her to be done so we could walk back talking.
The minute we were out of the shop, she burst out, “Why don’t you bargain? People like you drive inflation higher.” Waitaminit. What?
She was referring to me paying the price for the toys as told by the shopkeeper and walking out. She had got one of the same toys that I got for 10% less – bargaining right under my nose as I waited for her to finish, and I hadn’t even realized!
Talk on the way back was all about inflation. I agree with some, disagree some, but here is a gist what she said – without my views filtering it. “I” in the following is her, she is speaking to me.
Not exact quote:
Many things become expensive because they can. Buyers are able and willing to pay more. If people are happy paying fifty rupees for a coffee, the shopkeeper will raise it to sixty knowing that many will pay. Some will stop, but the increased amount will take care of the profit.
All these big companies have made some people very rich and made the others miserable. Very few people have jobs in big companies, but the “affordability” of everything is measured by them. Common man can’t afford cinema. All the respectable theatres are expensive multiplexes and only those that were always “bad” are affordable. People from respectable homes can’t go there. People with big jobs can afford.
Some professionals charge thousands, lakhs for a day. They can afford. Where does the common man go?
All these expensive toys – ok the ten rupee plastic truck will have become twenty, thirty, fifty rupees. You paid one hundred twenty. I paid hundred ten. The truck is better quality, but why are there no cheap trucks? Because people like you will pay without problem for a more expensive truck. Your son will break it in a day or two. Sixty rupees you will pay for two days of truck. If you refuse to buy, he will keep cheaper truck for you.
Inflation is a lot and on top of that, more and more expensive things are forced on us. There wasn’t a single toy other than ball for under fifty rupees. I used to buy my son plastic yo-yo. It was very simple and he used to enjoy it. Now they have “better” ones packed in paper and plastic but for over one hundred rupees. According to inflation, that yo-yo will still be for under fifty rupees, but no one will sell it, so last week I brought that expensive one. For me cost of a yoyo went from ten rupees to hundred and ten rupees. Who needs quality in a yo-yo?
Everything is like that. Inflation is what the numbers say only for your dal and rice. For everything else, they stop having cheap ones completely, so you are buying inflated better one. Because some people with good jobs can pay, and other people make prestige issue out of affording like them, so we will all die hungry…
She spoke for quite a while. We reached my building and stood on the street and talked for a while. The vision I got was of an old woman, who had worked hard to save for her old age, and now she feels cheated, because even if she saved planning for inflation, she is faced with expenses that are completely unexpected, and the old cheaper options are taken away.
I was obviously young in the time she spoke about, but I do remember those yo-yos. I also remember “expensive” kaleidoscopes (in those days) with cardboard and mirrors – a fabulous learning toy for about thirty to fifty rupees – depending on quality. Now those are completely vanished, and the ones you get after major search expeditions are all imported and most can’t be opened by the child to take apart and see how it works!!! Importing a freaking kaleidoscope? The kind kids used to build for school projects with cardboard and mirror pieces? The kind many poor people could make a living out of making for very little investment?
I hear this woman. I also hear her anger over an “entitled class” that earns a lot while doing similar work or sometimes very little because of their kind of work being able to charge those amounts and get away with it. I hear her when she says the cost of many things is becoming less about their actual cost and more about what they can get away with charging. I hear her when she says that she is not stupid, she is a teacher, she understands inflation, but this is beyond inflation. I hear that she is feeling disadvantaged and that she sees many disadvantaged people like her and she feels powerless to do anything about it. I hear her indignation that she isn’t poor and she has planned responsibly for old age, but she is being overcharged in an indirect way, and there is no culprit to point a finger at.
I don’t know why cheaper products go missing, so a better quality product that costs far, far more becomes the only option. Technically not inflation, because there is a difference of quality, but many times the cost, not even an increase as a percentage, like inflation.
Is there some kind of hiding of increased cost by fudging the product availability? I don’t understand economy. But maybe some of you can explain what is really happening here?
For now, I hear her, I have in mind these mysterious difficulties she points out, and I will see if I can find solutions.