If you needed a pair of shoes, you went to a shoe shop. If you wanted meat, you went to the butcher, and if you wanted bread, you went to the bakery. There were clothing stores, furniture stores, green grocers and bottle stores frequented only by rather furtive men and certainly no women.
I think life was simpler then. I never heard my mother, or any of her friends, discussing prices. What was there to discuss?
Tea cost three shillings a pound at Mr Keun’s shop, so that was the price of tea. You couldn’t buy it anywhere else in Noupoort.
Maybe things were different living in a small town. For all I know the price of tea could have varied widely in big towns like Graaff Reinet or Queenstown, where they had lots of shops.
In today’s tricky world of “marketing” it’s a very different matter. Retailers use all kinds of subtle ploys to lure customers into their stores, and shoppers are basically suckers happy to fall for the tricks. I’m a good example of buyer gullibility.
My benchmark products are pet food, butter and wine. Show me a bargain sachet of cat chunks and I’m ready to spend far too much on cheese, chicken thighs and toilet paper. Show me a bottle of Tassies for R38 and I’m there.
And while I’m there I might as well buy my peanut butter and rusks and toothpaste. They might be a few cents more expensive at the other store, but I’m not going to schlep all the way across town to save five cents.
In addition, I’d probably have to tip the car guard another five rands if I went elsewhere, so it wouldn’t make economic sense. That’s really what marketing is all about. Every newspaper these days carries pages of brightly coloured pictures of goods for sale, all with bargain prices. Most of it is wasted on me.
I don’t buy corn flakes or vanilla flavoured custard, or parboiled rice as seen on TV, but hey. Look as this. Butter at R54. I must hurry over while stocks last.
And deep down in our hearts we know that, no matter where we shop and no matter why we went there in the first place, we will end up paying more than we wanted to for stuff we probably didn’t need anyway. And I have no idea how that chocolate bar found its way into my shopping bag.
Score one for the marketers.
Two friends decided to go on a fishing weekend together. They travelled to a distant coastal resort, hired a boat, bought expensive fishing rods and the very latest in fishing gear, hooks, steel traces, lures and bait - the lot.
Unfortunately, they had very bad luck and caught only one rather small fish.
As they were packing up to leave the one chap looked ruefully at the single little fish lying in the cooler box and said: “Do you realise this fish cost us R3000?”
“Well,” said his pal, “then it’s lucky we only caught the one.”
* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.