FREE ENTERPRISE AND GREED

by David Sisler

It is conceivable, although admittedly a stretch, that if you were dropped into our society from outer space, you might think that "Free Enterprise" meant securing the release of old NCC-1701, the starship of Captain James T. Kirk.

You know, as in, "Free the Chicago 7."

Or if you are too young to remember the 60s, consider a John Grisham reference: "Free Carl Lee! Free Carl Lee!"

Okay. Lewis Grizzard's place in the pantheon of humor writers is under no threat from this word processor.

But you gotta love the American business-economic system of free enterprise. A case in point is a small, below the fold piece, from the business section of the daily paper.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the stories of Hooters, and Dillard's, and flag makers with prices so dear.

"Judge set to rule on Hooters contest suit."

Hooters is being sued again.

Once upon a time it was by a guy who wanted to be a Hooter-ette. Then it was for being part of a fax marketing scheme, and the real perps weren't even charged (the theory of crime investigation follow the money held true in that one because Hooters had the money, not the advertising agency).

Some will say Hooters brought this new one on itself. You decide.

Jared Blair, who manages Hooters in Panama City Beach, FL, told his orange clad sales staff about a great new promotion. Sell the most beer in April and you will win a "new Toyota." Jodee Berry was not amused when she sold the most suds and was awarded a "new toy Yoda." Mr. Blair needs to mount the popular Star Wars defense (most recently used by Bill Clinton): It is the truth. From a certain point of view.

When your wings are over-priced and your breasts are under-covered, what do you expect?

Next up is "Dillard's Dip."

Here in Augusta, GA, we once had a great department store called J.B. White's. Customer service, merchandise, customer service, pricing, customer service, displays. Did I mention customer service? Then in the great scheme of things J.B. was sold to Dillard's and something went missing in my humble opinion. Care to guess?

Not long after the buy-out, I returned an item with which I was not satisfied. No thank you, Ma'am, I just want my money back. I filled out forms at the cash register, then was sent to what used to be the customer service department (because you cannot get money back at the register) and then a gift certificate was issued (because what I had purchased came from J.B. White's not Dillard's). And I have not given them any of my money since that day.

Apparently I have supporters, because Moody's Investors Service, Inc., no longer rates the department store chain as "stable." They have been downgraded to "negative" because of "softness in Dillard's profitability."

And finally, a patriotic story from Jeff Linkous of the Associated Press, headlined, "Flag makers try to keep up."

With patriotism rediscovered, hopefully never to be lost again, Americans are buying and flying Old Glory.

A brief digression here. Those of you who have small flags lashed to your automobiles, chances are the force of the wind whipping the flag has reduced the stripes to near rags. Replace it with a new flag, and honor the old one by burning it in a private ceremony.

A second brief digression here. Did you see the picture of the hooligan in Pakistan burning the American flag? Did you see the next frame as the wind changed and the flames caught his hair and clothes on fire? Now, I know we proclaim God is on our side (and God really only has two favorites His Son, and Israel) but at that moment, I want to believe God changed the direction of the wind. Just for a second or two. And it was long enough to light the burner's fire.

But back to keeping it up.

Flag sellers cannot keep up with demand because flag makers cannot keep up with the supply. That is the good news.

The bad news is consumers cannot keep up with the price.

Tony Spinelli, who owns A Broadway Banner & Flag Co. in Saratoga Springs, NY, can no longer buy flags for $12 to $15 the pre-attack price. Wholesale is now $28 to $34. So the retail price is going up.

Spinelli tells customers if they are willing to wait, the price could drop.

Just once, could the free enterprise system dare to draw back and hold the line?

Someone in the Middle East sneezes and gasoline prices go up, weeks before the new gasoline or heating oil will ever reach the consumer. Blizzards bury cities under tons of snow and snow shovels double in price. Hurricanes force people out of costal areas for the safety of inland cities and hoteliers raise their rates.

Do we really need to make a profit on hardship and grief? Setting your own price is the way of free enterprise, but does it have to the American way to take advantage of people in the market place? Let the law of "supply and demand" be overturned! Just this once!

When the Osama bin Laden and his thugs destroyed 6,000 lives and billions of dollars in real estate and trillions of dollars in our economy, they seemed to have missed our greed. Maybe we could take a shot at that ourselves.

-30-


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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