Mommy Talks

An old story that begins and ends with a washing machine

The washing machine’s busted, Speedy’s called a technician to look at it but we’re not really sure if it can be salvaged. It’s eight years old, worked to death, so there’s always that possibility that we may have to buy a new one. Major expense (that won’t translate to profits) in a global recession.

These days, it’s not easy to write or talk about personal experiences without touching on the issue of the darn global recession. You can’t even wake up without feeling it. Just the other night, we went to the supermarket and spent over five thousand pesos and the cart wasn’t even full. And we bought no luxury items -– just the usual meat, fish, eggs, cheese, vegetables, milk, salt, sugar… You know, just basic stuff. If you’re that young to think that the proportion of the stuff we bought is commensurate with the price, let me tell you a true story. It’s a true story I’ve told before but it keeps playing inside my head so I’m going to tell it again anyway.

In 1990, a friend arranged a swimming party to introduce me to her neighbor. I would marry that neighbor a year later but on that fateful day in 1990, I begged off, missed the swimming party and stood up my blind date. Why? Because there was a coup, my mother was jittery and wanted to stockpile on everything. She needed me to drive and accompany her to the supermarket. I drove and accompanied her and the supermarket bill was a little over five thousand pesos.

You know what five thousand pesos bought in 1990? The car’s trunk was full. So was the backseat. We didn’t just have sando bags full of stuff – we had boxes full of stuff. When we got home, we had to ask help from my grandmother’s all-around handyman to take everything out of the car and bring them inside the house. And once inside the house, they wouldn’t fit in the kitchen cabinets. The space under the stairs had to serve as a makeshift pantry extension. And it took us a year to consume the canned goods, the sardines and bangus in jars, the bath soaps, the laundry detergents…

According to my father, twenty years earlier, five hundred pesos could buy the same amount of stuff. Inflation, yes. And inflation has been a permanent feature of our economy for decades. But combine inflation with recession and, well… Obviously, value for money is a relative thing.

So, let me go back to the washing machine issue. If we have to buy a new one, of course we want value for our money — the best value that we can get irrespective of inflation and recession. Meaning? A unit with the best features compared to others and for a lower price. If prices are uniform among different brands (quite possible as companies are like cartels — they agree not to drop prices too much), we want to at least get the most durable and feature-packed brand.

Time was, you go to an appliance store, the owner or one of his sales people entertains you and they tell you in all honesty which brand performs better than others. These days, you go to an appliance store and the people who entertain you are employees of the manufacturers. Merchandisers, they are called, deployed by the manufacturers to different appliance stores. You talk to one of them and they will push the brand they are paid to sell. And they will push because they earn by commission (go read about their hard sell techniques). They can’t even honestly make comparisons between the brand they’re selling and other brands because all they know is the brand they’re selling.

How to get our money’s worth? We’ll have to conduct our own research, compare features and find out feedbacks from users, even before stepping inside an appliance store so that no matter how aggressive the sales pitch, we can thumb our noses and say, “Excuse me, we’ve done our homework so we’re immune. We know what we want and you can’t talk us into spending our hard earned money on the silly brand you’re trying so hard to push to our faces.”

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