Tag Archives: economics

Psychology of Gas Prices: When a steal of a deal still leaves you feeling empty…

Gas prices went up. Of course the pending hurricane may have a factor. And the refinery issues. And matters related to supply and demand. But, of course there are other theories. Expressions like “Price gouging” often come up. And then there are many conspiracy theories.

Do you mind if I try my hand at a conspiracy theory? Well, maybe nothing so sophisticated, but at least fly some kites about some wild brainstorms? Like most ponderings that we stretch far, there may not be much accuracy to what I muse, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.

We were warned last night on the news that gas prices would take a significant jump today. People were advised to go fill up their pumps prior to sunrise today, and footage of lineups building at gas stations were evident all over. I was one of those people who filled up last night. The psychology of it all, the resulting feelings I had from filling my tank at a deliberately chosen time, surprised me both last night and well into today.

I was giddy. Yes, that may be the appropriate word to describe my state. Yes, despite, these troubling economic times, I was giddy and rather satisfied with myself for being up with the news and acting upon the information. This morning, while driving to work, and hearing how gas prices were steadily rising, and watching cars line up at stations, I was elated I wasn’t one of them. Indeed, I thought, I got a great deal! What a bargain! Instead of paying close to 1.40/L, I paid 1.23/L just last night.

I’m ashamed. 1.23 is not anywhere near cheap, affordable, nor reasonable, but here I was celebrating that fact. May the ‘powers-to-be/powers-that-are’ take note of this sentiment and use this kind of psychology to manipulate and even ‘gouge’? May marketing and advertising take advantage of this consumer weakness and strategically fluctuate pricing to make us think we’re getting a steal when they are actually stealing from us?

Of course, now I notice my foolishness and I am not giddy, not ecstatic, not thinking that I was one of the lucky ones. But, admittedly, just momentarily, I did feel satisfied with my purchase. So if those forces up high can get many consumers, at one time or another, to just even fleetingly feel a short moment of impulsive satisfaction at believing a high price is actually a bargain, to celebrate even just briefly because they see others being ripped off more, then those forces up there must be mighty rich.

Again, this is more or less a conspiracy theory, so really there is not much actual truth to the reasons suggested for the price increases. But, perhaps it can also be worthwhile as a piece of self-reflection, self-criticism, at myself.

I filled up my tank opportunistically last night, but this morning, today, I still feel like I’m running on empty.

-Patrick Law

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Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving, News

From Greetings to Spending Resiliency to Losing Pictures

To prevent procrastination, two minutes maximum to write on each topic. Let’s go, go, go!

Absent Greetings

Ever come across someone who said ‘Hello, how are you?’ Of course you did; almost everyday, many times over. With these common greetings how many of them are said with deep sincerity, feeling, and concern? Or are many of them simply out of habit, repetition, and automation…nothing more than exhalation.

Here’s a test we can use to examine the authenticity of a greeting. When you answer and reciprocate, ‘Fine, how are you?’, do you get another response? Today I did that numerous times and got absolutely no further response. That means the person did their perfunctory greeting without real thought and was not really intent on listening to my response. I’m often guilty of this as well. We often focus more on what we speak, and when the words are done, we kind of let go of our attention a bit, as if our major work is done.

Am I Resilient When I Spend?

This morning when listening to the business news on the radio, I heard an analyst comment on the current US situation. His voice was full of admiration when summarizing the latest report about how consumer spending exceeded expectations despite being in a depressed economy. His tone was very complimentary, almost encouraging consumers as ‘resilient’ when they spend.

Spending can be beneficial to stimulate the economy, but can it also be detrimental to immediately use up a portion of your tax rebates? It’s almost as if in any 50/50 situation, the message is to spend, and when we do, it gets reinforced. Are we too easily spending without enough consideration?

I am not sure on a broader economic level what is best for an entire country but, after hearing this morning’s report, about the ‘resilient’ consumer, how come I don’t feel very resilient, or comfortable, after giving some of my dollars to contribute to the latest positive retail report. I know, I know, I’m such a small speck in the ocean, but…

Deleting Pictures or Deleting Yourself?

Today I overheard someone in utter panic when she accidentally pressed a wrong button, or function, and erased all of the vacation pictures in the digital camera. She then yelled, “Oh my God! My entire vacation is gone! I lost my whole vacation!”

I didn’t say anything out of consideration, but I was very worried. I know she was just referring to her pictures, but the emotions and level of panic sounded like she didn’t go on vacation at all, which was of course not true. Pictures are nice, maybe even very, very important, but nothing can substitute what we have in our minds, memories, and hearts.

Maybe if she kept a journal, she can share that? Or start a journal to write out her memories so they can be passed along? Or start a recording about her verbal thoughts and reflections on her experiences? In this age, we sometimes are almost convinced that if we don’t have hard evidence of what we did, then it wasn’t authentic or as real.

-Patrick Law

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