Whoring Out Your Head – Part 3

And it’s not just Subway, is it?

If you’re like a lot of us, you “sell” some of your mind-time to … lottery tickets. TV. Advertising jingles. Song lyrics. Politicians. Talking heads on Fox News. Preachers.

In each case, you let them into your head. And there’s a little bit less mind-stuff, mind-time, in which you can be you.

But again, just how serious is all this? After all, you also timeshare your mind with the influences of friends, loved ones, neighbors, kids. And as for family, you wouldn’t even have this mind without their early influence in gifting you with things like speech, culture and mannerisms.

The difference is this:

Some of the timesharing you’re subject to is parasitic. Far from being friends, loved ones, neighbors and kids, who demand something of you but who also share some large part of themselves and thereby enhance your life, a lot of these outer influences do nothing but promise you money. And, usually, fail to deliver. They take from you, but give nothing back.

The parasitic stuff gets into your head because it’s pushed there by insistent repetition. By lies. Seductive promises. Subliminal influences. Pervasive association. Manipulative propaganda techniques.

And it definitely has its own well-being in mind, rather than yours. The benefits go all one way. Subway does not want to give you a free sandwich. And in fact — get real! —  they DON’T.

They raise the price on the sandwiches you buy, the sandwiches you must buy in order to get the deal, so that you pay in ten advance installments for the “free” sandwich … before you get it. AND so that you’re locked-in, or at least subtly influenced, to keep buying Subway sandwiches. You’re not going to quit going there when you’ve only got two more visits before you get the free sandwich, are you? The Subway Card in your wallet is a timeshare – part ownership – in your head.

Likewise, supermarkets do not give you lower prices on “specials” by actually lowering the price in such a way that they make less money. They produce the ILLUSION that certain prices are lower by raising the prices on everything else. (They raise the prices for everyone. Which means when you get a deal, or a “free” sandwich, it’s mostly paid for by other people.)

If they were really giving you a deal at their expense, their total profits would fall each time they had a promotion. But in actual fact, promotions cause profits to RISE. If it was any different, they wouldn’t do them.

Meanwhile, by establishing a persistent presence in your head, a timeshare, they have you as a customer, pretty much for life.

And lottery tickets? Oh man, don’t get me started. I hate the Lottery more than I hate tobacco companies and miniature-dog breeders. Every time I pass by the lottery dispenser at the supermarket where I work, I see people lined up by the damned thing, and they might as well all be wearing shirts that say “Hi! Ask Me About My Pathetic Magical Dream of Money Being Showered On Me By Accident!”

The Lottery – the Stupidity Tax, the Hope Tax, the Idiots Who Can’t Do Math Tax – is our own government playing out a feral hunger on us, in a purified predator-prey relationship that returns, for most of us and for the billions we spend on it, nothing and less than nothing.

Meanwhile, it timeshares in people’s heads in its own little luxury condo on the shores of the If-Only Sea, overlooking beautiful When I Win the Lottery Bay, which is reached via the I’d Rather Do This Than Invest the Money and Time In My Own Efforts Turnpike, right off the Hey Look At Me I’m A Victim And I Don’t Even Know It exit.

Playing the Lottery is like paying an electric bill every month without getting any electricity in return, but you keep paying because you hear stories of people just like you winning free electricity for life.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

  • Gordon

    I can do the math, but I buy a ticket anyway. The difference between the lottery and Pascal’s Wager is that the lottery demonstrably pays off now and again. It almost certainly will not be me. But, long as the odds are, they are shorter than any other chance I have to get rich.

    It is a tax on desperation.

  • Dunc

    “Hope Tax” is right. I no longer hate the lottery, I hate the conditions which make it the only ray of hope in so many people’s lives. People need hope.

  • Ender

    “Likewise, supermarkets do not give you lower prices on “specials” by actually lowering the price in such a way that they make less money. They produce the ILLUSION that certain prices are lower by raising the prices on everything else.

    If they were really giving you a deal at their expense, their total profits would fall each time they had a promotion. But in actual fact, promotions cause profits to RISE. If it was any different, they wouldn’t do them.”

    That’s not the case. Mostly specials do not reduce the cost below the profit margin and the increase in profit is due to the increase in sales which more than compensates for the decrease in profit per item.

    It’s true that they wouldn’t offer specials if they caused them to lose money, but it is not the case that they raise the price on other items each time they have a special nor that the increase in profits from specials comes from said rise.

    There is another bonus from the shop-owner’s perspective which is that if the customer comes to the shop specifically for the deal then they are likely to buy other items as well. Another increase in profits and sales.

    • Hank Fox

      Ender, thanks. Maybe I could have said it better, but everything you just said is what I actually MEANT. ;-)

    • Dunc

      I wouldn’t rule out long-term price manipulation either. It’s maybe not directly equivalent, but I remember tracking the weight of a particular chocolate bar over a number of years… The manufacturer would shave a gram off every once in a while, and once they’d reduced it by 10 grams or so, they’d have a big promotional campaign announcing their “new bigger bar!” – which took it right back to the weight it had been originally. They went through the whole cycle at least twice that I know of.

      • Hank Fox

        Heh. And those times when you tried an old favorite candy bar, and thought “Boy, my tastes must have changed. This is nothing like I remember.”? It wasn’t always you.


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