Hidden Costs

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In life we rarely see the hidden costs of the work of others, only our own.

Years ago I was a youth counselor for seriously disturbed children from broken homes and dangerous neighborhoods. One of my tasks was called “Travel Training”, I was to take these young people and teach them the basics of travel in the New York area. This involved subways, buses, how to ask for help, and some basic shopping.

One day I was with a young man named Marcus. Each of these young people left a deep impression on me. Thirty years have passed and I remember them. Marcus was a black man (are we still allowed to say that without being called a racist?) and he lived with his grandmother, a devout Christian. His parents were not in the picture and we had no contact with them.
We were in a mall in Brooklyn, Marcus loved the mall.

The year was 1988. We saw a shop selling sneakers (athletic shoes), something that was very important to Marcus. He wanted to go inside and take a look. He asked if he could have a pair. They looked so nice. But he had no money. I used this as a lesson. I explained that the man in the shop must make a living and he must charge for the sneakers. He must pay his suppliers, he must pay rent to the mall, he must pay air-conditioning, electricity etc and he must come home with money for his family so they can pay for their supplies.

But Marcus did not understand. (this was a mentally handicapped young man). He said, “But Mr. Katz, the man has so many and I want only one pair”.

Again I tried to explain the logic. The price is $29.99 plus tax. When he heard the word “tax” it triggered something in his memory, something his grandmother had taught him, most likely from the New Testament of the Christians. He went into a rage about taxes and that Jesus is coming soon to punish the evil tax collectors and this man here at the sneakers store was in for some whopping big trouble.Hidden Costs

Naturally I felt a little uncomfortable and escorted the young man out of the shop.
The truth is he is like most of us. He is unaware of the hidden costs. All he sees is a store full of sneakers, so what if I take just one pair and don’t pay for it?

The truth is most of us, when looking at other people, only see the profits they are making, we don’t see the hidden costs. We do not see the true cost. We all know the story of the repair man who came in, tightened a screw and said, that will be $100. The outraged client demanded an itemized bill. He received one promptly;

  • Tightening the screw – $5.

Thirty years experience and training to know where the problem was and locate it in five minutes rather than take weeks and tear apart your house searching for the problem – $95.
But of course there are more costs:

  • Business phone to receive your complaint.
  • Time to take down all your details.
  • Planning a schedule to arrive at your place as soon as possible.
  • Travel time.
  • Gasoline/Petrol.
  • Maintenance of commercial vehicle.
  • Supplies.
  • Workman’s’ uniform, boots.
  • Licensing fees, union fees, and regular training to stay up to date in profession.
  • Professional insurance fees.
  • State taxes, national taxes.

And I am sure there are more. Had you thought about all that?

No, all you saw was some selfish bastard who was “over charging you”. What sparked this blog?

Last night during Yoga class the Air Conditioner went. Boom. Poof, gone. I do not know much about air conditioning but I have a good friend who does. His name is Lazer and I trust him. He came to see me as soon as he could, it was 01:30. (yes, past midnight).

He is not just a air condition repair man, he is a hi tech expert, an engineer with a life time of experience, but more importantly he is an honest man. We looked into all the options and he explained the costs and benefits. He even took the time to break down the price.

Now of course I would prefer the least expensive option but I trusted his judgement and he will do for me the same he would do for his own air-conditioning at home.

I am paying for his time, I am paying for his knowledge. And, I am paying for his training, and for his years of experience. Also, I am paying for him to pick up the necessary parts and for his repair tools. And I am sure there are more hidden expenses that I am unaware of.

I have already put some of the payment money in an envelope so that when it is time to pay I will have some money ready. It is the same with all payments; wait until the last minute and you are in a panic, put some money aside on a regular basis for known up coming payments (Like renewing your IKI Membership) and you will be fine.

Remember, we all need to be paid, we all have hidden expenses, hidden costs, that others do not see. And I never forget to thank those who come to do repair work for me. He looked at me, why are you thanking me, I am getting paid. But yes, thanks and payment, both are in order.

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