I read in the paper a while ago that
a Baltimore couple was delivering letters across town for
less than the Postal Service charges. So the Postal Service called
in the Federal Marshals to protect their monopoly! I thought
competition was the American way. If someone can deliver mail
for less than the Postal Service, don't you think they should be able
Why is it that people who want to compete with the Postal Service
always elbow in on their cross-town deliveries? Why didn't this
couple try to take over the Postal Service's Baltimore-Alaska delivery
service? The reason is that a letter from Baltimore
costs a lot more to deliver than a cross-town letter. Yet the
Postal Service charges the same price, 37¢, for both services.
This leads to another question. Why doesn't the Postal Service
charge more for the Baltimore-Alaska delivery than the cross-town
delivery? As it stands now, the person mailing the cross-town
letter is subsidizing the person mailing the letter to Alaska.
The reason is
that it would be too much of a hassle. Can you imagine the lines
at the Post Office if the clerks had to figure out the postage on each
Why do manufacturers issue coupons? To get 25 cents off a box of
breakfast cereal, I have to go through the hassle of cutting out a
coupon and then carrying it around in my wallet until I get to the
store. When I finally get around to using the coupon, everybody
has to wait longer in line while the cashier adjusts my total.
If manufacturers want to offer a discount, why don't they just lower
the price directly?
Wants price cuts, not paper cuts
cereal manufacturer knows that some of its customers pay lots of
attention to prices, while others don't. If it were to cut its
price, then only the price-sensitive customers would respond by buying
more. The price cut would be wasted (from the firm's point of
view) on those shoppers who don't pay attention to prices.
Coupons are a
clever way of giving a break just to the price-sensitive shoppers. By creating all of the
hassles you described, manufacturers see to it that only very
price-sensitive customers are going to end up using their coupons.
This targets the price cut on just those people who will be most
responsive to it.
get lots of mail where I work, and my boss wants me to soak off
uncancelled stamps and reuse them for our outgoing mail. Is it
legal to do this?
Just following orders
late Senator Edward Zorinsky of Nebraska once told reporters that his
staff routinely soaked uncancelled postage stamps off letters and
reused them for outgoing mail. He saw it as a crusade against
government waste and told reporters "I feel I'm reusing a tax
as federal marshals explained to him, stamps don't deliver mail.
When the letters were first mailed to this office, the Postal Service
incurred costs. By reusing the stamps, the senator was trying
(illegally) to get out of paying for the cost of mailing out his own
went to a concert last week in New York City and during intermission
my boyfriend was in and out of the restroom in two minutes. I
had to wait in line for twenty minutes. This happens all the
time. Why don't they build larger restrooms for women?
about a decade ago, the state of New York required that places of
public assembly have an equal number of urinals and toilets.
This meant fewer facilities for women, since if a building had, say,
two toilets and two urinals, the men's restroom would get both urinals
and one of the toilets, while the women's restroom would get the
rule was established back in the 1950s, when women spent more time at
home. Times have changed, and New York now requires that newly
constructed buildings supply an equal number of "sanitary
fixtures" (either toilets or urinals) in men's and women's
restrooms. This is better, but it still doesn't entirely relieve
the problem since women typically take about twice as long to use the
"fixtures" as men.
so, New York is ahead of many states in promoting restroom
equity. Although men's restrooms throughout the country are
usually the same size as women's, they often have more fixtures since
urinals take less space than toilets.
I'm not privy to what every state is doing about this problem, at
least one state (California) is insisting that many new buildings put
in far more toilets for women. Texas is considering a similar
law following public outrage over the arrest of a desperate woman who,
faced with an interminable line for the women's room, covered both
eyes and slipped into the men's room
heard somewhere that the Nazis threw money out of planes over Britain
during World War II. Did this really happen? If so, why
did they do it?
referring to Operation Bernhardt, a Nazi plot designed to completely
demoralize and destroy the British. The plan called for German
planes to fly over Britain and sprinkle counterfeit money over the
the Germans wanted to do was to cause inflation in Britain. They
knew that if they flooded Britain with pound notes, people would
increase their demand for British goods, driving up prices. As
economists say, inflation occurs when there is too much money chasing
too few goods.
counterfeiting was done by a group of prisoners in a Nazi
concentration camp. The prisoners were very skilled craftsmen
and many of the counterfeit bills were excellent copies.
the counterfeit notes had been printed and dried, they were sorted by
an examination squad. The best fakes were given as spending
money to German spies operating in enemy countries. Lesser
quality notes were used to pay off collaborators in countries that
were occupied by Germany. The lowest quality notes were set
aside to be scattered over Britain.
lot of the better fake currency was circulated in Europe during the
war, but the Germans never got a chance to drop money bombs over
Britain. As the Allied troops closed in on the concentration
camp where the counterfeit bills were stored, the fleeing Nazis dumped
them into nearby rivers. Paper was in short supply at the time,
so many of the bills were scooped up by villagers and American
servicemen and used as toilet paper.
week, I saw some "thousand-year eggs" for sale in a Chinese
grocery store and got to wondering about them. Are these eggs
still being made? Are they really 1,000 years old?
I got your letter, I took out my calculator and figured out the
following: If a firm was to take a 10¢ egg today and store it
for 1,000 years, it would have to sell the egg for about
$500,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that's half a sextillion) in order to
make a 5% annual return on its 10¢ investment.
for thousand-year egg fans, it doesn't take that long to make
them. Producers soak the eggs in lime for six weeks or so, until
the eggs are so gray that they simply look 1,000 years old.
accountant and my work requires a lot of travel. While in
Cleveland last month, I made an appointment at a
beauty salon that I had found in the yellow pages of the telephone
book. The salon turned out to be dirty, and the beautician gave
me a terrible cut.
How does one go about finding a good beauty salon in a strange city?
--Wanted cut-rate, got cut-wrong
way to find a good beauty salon in a strange city. Find four
salons in the yellow pages, then call each of them. Ask how long
each salon has been in business and how much it charges for a haircut.
Then make an appointment at the most expensive salon that has been in
business for at least six months.
prices are in equilibrium, then the best salons will charge the
highest prices. A bad salon can't charge unreasonably high
prices without gradually losing most of its customers. If a
salon is charging high prices and has stayed in business for awhile,
then its customers have given it a seal of approval.
disagree with the idea of allowing businesses to buy
"pollution permits" from the government. What's to
prevent these companies from jacking up their prices to cover the cost
of the permits? Consumers will end up paying more even for stuff
while factories spew out as much pollution as ever. Do you see my point?
I know of a fiberglass hot-tub firm that buys ERCs (pollution permits)
so that it can emit organic gases while making the tubs. What's
wrong with having this firm pass some or all of the cost of the ERCs
onto its customers? Surely hot-tub customers are partly
responsible for the organic gas pollution required to build the
tubs. Passing this cost onto prospective hot-tub buyers will discourage some of them from buying fiberglass tubs.
Maybe they'll choose instead to relax in wooden tubs,
which can be produced without emitting organic gases.
do they design computer keyboards so that the most commonly used
letters are so hard to reach?
Most typewriters, word
processors, and computers make use of a keyboard designed in 1872 by
Christopher Sholes, inventor of the typewriter.
Called the QWERTY keyboard (after the first six letters that
appear), the layout was designed to slow typists down.
This was because Sholes' early machines jammed if typists went
Sholes arranged the letters so that typists used their left hands and
weaker fingers more often. The
keyboard also forced typists to use the same finger to form frequent
letter sequences (like ED), and to leave the home row to reach many
commonly used letters (like E, I, N, O, and T).
In the 1930s, August Dvorak of the
used time-and-motion studies to design a keyboard for maximum speed.
Since then, every international typing speed record has been
set using a Dvorak keyboard. Dvorak
typists usually type 10 to 45 percent faster (and with 30 to 50
percent fewer errors) than QWERTY typists.
So why haven't we all
switched to Dvorak keyboards? Most
of us stick with QWERTY for the same reason we use the
inch-quart-pound system instead of metric or the VHS format instead of
Beta. We do it because
everybody else does.
But if you don't mind being a misfit, you may be able to convert your
keyboard from QWERTY to Dvorak by using a software package or a
conversion kit. Good
luck--or as a Dvorak typist once put it, Irre ngjt.
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