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If Airlines Sold Paint

by Alan H. Hess © 1998
All rights reserved
www.hesstravel.com

Buying paint from a hardware store

Customer

Hi, how much is your paint?

Clerk

We have regular quality for $12 a gallon and premium for $18. How many gallons would you like?

Customer

Five gallons of regular quality, please.

Clerk

Great. That will be $60 plus tax.

Buying paint from an airline

Customer

Hi, how much is your paint?

Clerk

Well, sir, that all depends.

Customer

Depends on what?

Clerk

Well, actually a lot of things.

Customer

How about just giving me an average price?

Clerk

Wow, thatís just too hard a question. The lowest price is $9 a gallon, and we have 150 prices up to about $200 a gallon.

Customer

Whatís the difference in the paint?

Clerk

Oh, there isnít any difference; itís all the same paint.

Customer

Well then, Iíd like some of that $9 paint.

Clerk

Well, first I need to ask you a few questions. When do you intend to use it?

Customer

I want to paint tomorrow on my day off.

Clerk

Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the $200 paint.

Customer

What? When would I have to paint in order to get the $9 version?

Clerk

That would be in three weeks, but you will also have to agree to start painting before Friday of that week and continue painting until at least Sunday.

Customer

Youíve got to be kidding!

Clerk

Sir, we donít kid around here. Of course, Iíll have to check to see if we have any of that paint available before I can sell it to you.

Customer

What do you mean check to see if you can sell it to me? You have shelves full of the stuff; I can see it right there.

Clerk

Just because you can see it doesnít mean that we have it. It may be the same paint, but we only sell a certain number of gallons on any given weekend. Oh, and by the way, the price just went to $12.

Customer

What! You mean the price just went up while we were talking!

Clerk

Yes sir. You see, we change prices and rules thousands of times a day, and since you havenít actually walked out the store with your paint yet, we just decided to change. Unless you want the same thing to happen again, I would suggest that you get on with your purchase. How many gallons do you want?

Customer

I donít know exactly. Maybe five gallons. Maybe I should buy six gallons just to make sure I have enough.

Clerk

Oh no, sir, you canít do that. If you buy the paint and then donít use it, you will be liable for penalties and possible confiscation of the paint you already have.

Customer

What?

Clerk

Thatís right. We can sell you enough paint to do your kitchen, bathroom, hall, and north bedroom, but if you stop painting before you do the bedroom, you will be in violation of our tariffs.

Customer

But what does it matter to you whether I use all the paint? I already paid you for it!

Clerk

Sir, thereís no point in getting upset; thatís just the way it is. We make plans based upon the idea that you will use all the paint, and when you donít, it just causes us all sorts of problems.

Customer

This is crazy! I suppose something terrible will happen if I donít keep painting until after Saturday night!

Clerk

Yes, sir, it will.

Customer

Well, that does it! Iím going somewhere else to buy my paint.

Clerk

That wonít do you any good, sir. We all have the same rules. Oh, and thanks for flying Ė I mean painting Ė with our airline.