The capability and popularity of dollar store retail outlets say a lot about the times we live in. And while one says something bad, the other is good. So enjoy this good news/bad news post, and as I usually prefer, we’ll start with the bad so we can end on the good: )
It’s not ideal that people would be forced to go to these bottom-dollar outlets. No one wants to sacrifice quality when buying office supplies, food, medicine. Of course not everyone in the dollar store is strapped–some just like a good deal. And others like to spend as little as possible so they have to do as little as possible. But certainly many folks who ordinarily might splurge at their Target are seeking out new ways to cut back so find these outlets very helpful.
During the height of the recession, McDonalds and their attractive Dollar Menu helped them not just to stay afloat, but to actually grow. A Forbes.com article from February of ’09 read: “At a time when recession-weary Americans are cutting back,McDonalds is holding onto its consumers and showing growth.”
We can give props to these dollar prices and the companies that provide them. For they help provide people with what they need during the times when money is scarce. But still, their success means, of course, that money is scarce.
Now for the good news:
Okay, so this purchase might not brighten a lot of people’s day. You buy one of these recognizing that though it saves a lot of pencil and paper, it still means numbers and thinking. Ugh! But it’s one thing to see a greeting card or cough drops at the dollar store and another to see this.
Yeppers; waiting for my Grandma this past weekend as she bought dollar hairspray at the Dollar Tree at the Mall of America, this calculator stopped me in my tracks. How the heck can this be only one dollar!?
The marvel that is the modern global supply chain has been fawned over many times, but that’s because it’s worth repeating. We take its remarkability for granted, so a little maintenance toward appreciation is nice from time to time.
I won’t get into how a calculator works, because frankly, I don’t know much about chips and transistors and mother boards. But I do know that there is some computation involved and that this item can do quite a bit of it. On top of the technology is the creation of rubber buttons and plastic housing; there’s the plastic packaging, cardboard backing, and the printing on it. Then is gets the assembled, packaged, and delivered. And apparently all this can be completed and sent to a retail outlet, which pays rent and an employee to ring it up, and it still makes a profit at the cost of one dollar!
There’s a classic essay called I, Pencil written by Leonard Read in 1958. He breaks down all the people and processes involved to make the simple pencil. The market, reacting to the needs and wants of the consumer, has all these unknown parties–from miner to logger to rubber tree guy in SE Asia–working together so Little Johnie can do multiplication tables. Read it here: I, Pencil
I, Pencil talks about all those involved with making a pencil. I’d imagine all those involved with a calculator to be greater. When the world works together, through the power of commerce, much is dispersed in incredibly ways. Some will counter that there are sweat shops involved and un-fair trade rubber. But though working conditions are important concerns, they belong in another article, and they don’t take away from the mind-boggling machine that is the global market.
to scientific calculators for a dollar,
to new plateaus,