September 27, 2002
The country is a nice change from the city.
Especially this time of year - the fifteen minutes we get between
the sweltering heat of the summer and the first snowfall.
The only problem with being out in the
country is you can't get anyone to take your money.
For example, we had a great plumber to look
after our cottage. He showed up fast, got things working again in
short order, and left us with a ridiculously small bill. Then one
day we sprung a new leak and gave Bill the plumber a call. When we
couldn't get him (and the water was almost up to our ears) we called
around and found someone else to repair my repair.
When we asked our new plumber (and therefore
new best friend) if he knew when Bill had retired, we were told he
hadn't retired - he just didn't need any more money that year.
Apparently he figures out how much he needs to get by for the year,
and when he reaches that amount, he takes the phone off the hook and
just stops working.
What a novel concept - not needing any more
money. Try explaining that to some of the high-flying CEOs we've
been reading about lately, who feel they absolutely need a two
thousand dollar wastepaper basket or a million dollar birthday party
for the wife, complete with an ice statue that pees vodka. And I'm
sure they didn't even try to save a buck or two by using a cheap bar
This whole corporate greed thing doesn't
seem to have taken root with the country capitalists around us.
We called in another country tradesman to
look at our sinking cottage foundation. Over the years it's shrunk
more than Saddam Hussein's Christmas card list. I'm someone who
likes to know that a building will still be there from one week to
the next, and so I was worried about our crooked foundation. A
couple of contractors promised to come out and have a look, but only
one actually showed up. After inspecting the shaky pillars, he
announced that he had seen worse and we should give him a call in a
couple of years. I literally had to force him to take the job.
In the city, asking a contractor what he
thinks needs doing will automatically turn the smallest of repairs
into a project on par with the building of the pyramids. The real
money is in what's known as "upselling". For example, the
other day I took my car in for an oil change. It was advertised at
$29.99. By the time I rolled out of the garage I was three hundred
dollars lighter. In the country they'd stick a finger in the oil,
lick it, and tell you it isn't that dirty and you don't even need to
spend $29.99 on an oil change.
This lack of the corporate killer instinct
even extends to the food industry. A few weekends back our favourite
greasy spoon in the country inexplicably closed early leaving us out
on the sidewalk. The next time we were there I asked what the
"We were so busy last Sunday," the
owner told me, "that we finally just decided we'd had enough,
so we closed."
"So, the problem was you had too many
customers?" I asked.
"Exactly. So we finally just locked the
door on them."
"Sounds like a tough business." I
tried to sound sympathetic.
"Tell me about it. One Saturday last
month we were so busy we had to lock the customers out two different
Anything to avoid making a buck.