Relative risk


At the Grocery Boy, Jr. near my house (the one with the premium ice that will be less than $1.00 until sometime in 2114), there’s a sign behind the counter advertising cigarette prices. At the top of the sign, there is a statement:

Dare to Compare!

Now, I’m the cautious type. I wear my seat belt. I’ve almost completed my 53rd consecutive year of not skydiving.  Never once have I tugged on Superman’s cape, spit into the wind, pulled the mask* off Clayton Moore (that old Lone Ranger guy), and I wouldn’t think of messing around with Jim. (Disclaimer: I only know one Jim, and he’s far, far away.)

But I do compare things. Truth be told, I’m something of an elitist. Not that I think I’m better than other people in general (I have ample evidence to the contrary). But I believe strongly that people and products can be better than other people and products in individual categories of human endeavor.

However, apparently this behavior carries some sort of unstated danger, particularly when it comes to prices. It’s a subtle risk, though. I have only recently been able to discern exactly what sort of danger I place myself in when I contrast the relative cost of two things. To wit:

  • If the prices here are lower than elsewhere, my lack of thrift exposes me to general public ridicule if I leave without making a purchase, possibly impairing my sense of self-esteem. (Disclaimer: No, it doesn’t. If your sense of self-esteem is ever impacted by the opinions of others, please consult your dictionary for the new and improved definition of “self”.)
  • If the prices here are higher than elsewhere, I face the fiscal imperative to shop elsewhere, which exposes me to hazards such as the apparently drunk texter I passed on the road last night while enroute to elsewhere.
  • If the prices here are the same as elsewhere, I am inevitably forced to confront the possibility of price collusion by certain elements of Big Convenience Store, and its deleterious effects on our capitalist economy.

These are real risks, with potentially devastating consequences.  (If you don’t think so, consider the terrifying double-dog dare.)  And yet, except at public schools, we are willing to expose our children to comparison and competition on a daily basis, in some cases (see video) actively encouraging children to evaluate their relative cuteness, often to the detriment of their understanding of the temporal relationship between raisins and grapes.  I weep for future generations.  (Disclaimer: No, I don’t.)

As I was leaving, I noticed a sign in front of the store:

Your search for the
FRIENDLIEST store on Earth
ends here

I get it now. I can’t afford to compare the friendliness of stores. I wouldn’t dare.

* I also would not pull off the dark sunglasses he wore after Big Lone Ranger sued to make him stop wearing the mask at supermarket openings.

(Disclaimer: I have been looking for a reason to post this AT&T commercial, which I consider to be the greatest commercial of all time. Or would if I wasn’t scared to rank the greatness of commercials.)

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