Geezer alert! I am going to show my age by being able to recall days gone by, when local mattered. And times were good. I do not normally do stories like this, but an incident this morning kind of struck me just how far things have gone. And honestly, I do not know if it has been worth it. I will let that up to you.
I was helping a friend with their stove this morning. I used to do that kind of work years ago, and this particular task was easy, and not very physical to do. So I made the call to the local supplier to see if they had the part, which they did.
Simple enough, “how much?” “A little bit over $50 and we have it in stock.”
My next question threw him for a loop.
“Do you have any aftermarket replacements?” I asked this because at one point, the aftermarket company “Chromalox” actually used to make the element for the name brands. Yes, you then paid the much higher price just to have the name brand logo on the part. Years ago, being able to buy “generic” from local parts places saved you considerable money. But if you went to an “authorized” wholesaler, per the manufacturer, they were not allowed to sell the generic equivalent. The truth is, at one time, if you needed a belt for your washer, a lint screen for your dryer, a door gasket for your refrigerator, or an element for your stove, generics were always available.
“No, we only carry OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts.” So of course I looked around to find someone who was not authorized to sell those parts thinking surely, I would be able to get the original part with the original manufacturer’s name, Chromalox, not the manufacturer of the stove. It was then that I found out that the manufacturer had bought out the generic replacement line I was looking for. And yes, now my friend must pay the higher price. But as I reflect on the past, for decades we have seen that mergers, though originally sold to us as “good for the consumer because it would increase competition which of course would bring lower costs,” I now call bull officially.
Here are some other examples:
Do you remember when nearly every town had their own telephone company? Do you remember the customer service we had when there were issues with the lines? Sure, the costs we thought were high, but look at the times now with just a couple of major players? Customer service now means talking to someone outside of the US if you are lucky, and with all the hidden extra fees, we are now paying WAAAAYYY more than the days when it was just “Ma Bell”.
Banks? I do not even have to go there because we all know that all the mergers produced one of the biggest collapses in our economy.
Cable TV? We are on the verge of a monopoly with this one, and our rates have never been higher. Sure, their defense is “look at everything we are now offering your though… 1000’s of channels of programming.” I only want four or five of those channels. And if you try to break down your “package” by eliminating the services, amazingly, it will only drop your $150+ bill by five or ten dollars. Come on, cable, phone, and internet for $150? But if I want to drop the phone line, my bill will still be $145? And anyone who has tried calling “customer service” for at least one of the major providers knows that company only provides “disservice.”
Big Pharm… wow. The motto used to be “everyone needs prescription drugs” which of course should have translated to job security. But as mergers occurred, jobs were eliminated. And as drugs came off patents, generics soon crept in making the medications affordable. But then Big Pharm started gobbling up generic manufacturers, and now look at today. The costs of generics are beginning to climb to where many patients are in the same situation as trying to afford the original drug… they cannot!
And here in Florida, as in many other states, doctors are being swallowed up by “health networks”. This is resulting in the elimination of the general practitioner. The numbers of general practitioners in the state of Florida are down nearly 50% as their practices are swallowed up by these networks. Gone will be the times that you could see a doctor, for your life, who knew you, and cared for you. You will now become just a number, and will get a “standard” level of care set by the network, not necessarily what you need, and perhaps might not need.
Of course, there is the big target, Wal-Mart. How many local businesses have been put out of business by this company?
Too big to fail? Too big to care.