This impersonal, ageless memory floats in my head – I’m not sure it really happened. I’m handing out the candy bar to the cashier at the convenience store. After she scans it, I give her a dollar bill. She looks at me with a questioning face and has a strange pause. I have to say something, but before I open my mouth, she says, “It’s a dollar-fifty.” “Oh,” I say, handing out another dollar.
As I said, it is not a true memory as much as a blend of experiences I have had for years now. Every time I walk out of the store and the cashier tells me the price, I have an overwhelming desire to complain about how expensive things were when I was young. The phrase “when I was your age …” slips out of my mouth before I can stop it.
At least I learned to play it as a joke. Most younger cashiers have heard old people say, which irritates them. It did when I ran the cash register. The excitement of complaining about the cost of things was a bit old when I remembered how tedious it was to ask the same thing when I was younger. I sometimes wonder if young people have invented self-checkout registers so they don’t have to ask for it.
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But honestly, have you seen the price of candy bars lately? Milk? Eggs? A movie ticket? GAS?
This is not to say that prices are not rising – as can be expected with some goods and services – this is the rate at which they are increasing. When I returned to Etowah County in 2004, we were all upset about how gas first rose to over $ 2 per gallon.
I wish I could remember how much of a candy bar there was then, but I can’t remember. I remember in the late 1970s a dollar literally bought an entire paper bag of candy at a convenience store.
Here’s something to remember about the prices though. We remember the low prices in our little days, but not the high ones. I used a calculator a few minutes before I started writing this morning – it cost about $ 2 on my desk. The first calculator I bought in the early 1980s – Texas Instruments TI-35. Its price is around $ 40. To be sure, the TI-35 performs more than this small one, but not by much.
And, I still have the old TI-35 … and it still works 40-odd years later. I checked online to see if anyone was trying to sell an old 80s TI-35. Many of them, and prices range from $ 5 to $ 10.
The cost of buying a movie ticket in the theater is high, but the actual cost of buying a movie for home use is very low. The first VHS tapes of pre-recorded films in the 1980s were about $ 100! Now, most of the same movies are available on DVD or digital download for less than $ 10, and many of them are under $ 5.
The problem is whether prices are rising faster than wages. And they are, I think. I am not an economist, but I have another way to understand how prices have increased recently: how younger people are reacting. Yesterday, I had a conversation with a young man of about 25 who ended up noticing how high prices were getting. And he’s not the only young man I’ve heard murmuring about rising prices lately.
How many prices are rising now, less than my scientific method of determining it. Prices are going up as young people are upset. Normally, I smile when I hear their complaints, but I get shattered if I hear one of them say, “When I was young …”. I already know that they will look back fondly one day in 2022 and murmur to their friends, “Do you remember when gas was just $ 4.50 a gallon? Those are the days! ”
It’s all a matter of perspective. Most of us have been tightening our home budgets lately; I know I have. However, it’s the price of basic things like gasoline, milk, eggs – even candy bars – that tell the story. These are things we should all have, mostly. Spending money on things we don’t have is a real measure of how high prices are.
Take movie tickets for example. The Tom Cruise movie “Top Gun: Maverick” has crossed the $ 900 million mark at the box office. It has come a long way to go on the list of the highest grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation. But, considering how much it costs to buy a ticket, it seems to me that the film is a huge hit. A small popcorn and a drink can cost as much or as much as a ticket.
However, it should say something about the cost of gas to actually get to the movie theater.
David Murdock is an English tutor at Gadsden State Community College. He can be contacted at [email protected] Reflective opinions are his own.