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Yes, we are being ripped off – but we deserve it

The Irish Independent
Siobhan O’Connor, March 28, 2004

THIS is the year of the great rip-off, when everything seems to cost more. The exorbitant prices are never-ending. Our problem is complacency and it is right under our Irish noses. Do you think other countries are being ripped off in the same way as we are?

We have tried and tasted too much, my friend, and now it is time to go back to basics. Some say an adult’s taste buds are far superior to that of a child. What a load of rubbish! Children eat what is put in front of them. That’s the difference.

The Eighties and Nineties were a time when non-discretionary items were unheard of. In my home we got out of bed at 7.30am. Mam would be busy downstairs kindly preparing sandwiches for my two sisters, my dad and me. Ham was the preferred filling. We always had a piece of fruit and a yoghurt, and if we were lucky a chocolate bar. On special occasions, such as a school outing, we were allowed to bring crisps but never during official school days. Those days are well and truly over.

It seems that when passing most newsagents or convenience stores these days, children and adults alike queue up to pay for their sandwich. In 2004 this is the norm. They themselves could have made this sandwich for a smidgen of the price. Perhaps they weren’t bothered or were they in a rush?

We could postulate many an argument: laziness; our desire for instant gratification; lack of time in our chaotic lives, or is it simply that we are too used to convenience? Either way, I can safely say we are losing the plot, myself included. It is time for attitude change and a wake-up call for the national psyche.

We need to wise up and stop giving over our hard-earned cash with such ease. According to a Dublin Bus spokesperson – last year €1.9m was held in the Dublin Bus account, because of excess change accumulated. It must be said that it is possible to give the change stubs to charity, but how many people actually do that? I must admit in the past I have thrown them away, even if by accident.

A posh hotel in a Dublin suburb charges €4.50 for a cup of coffee. Most decent coffee shops charge €2.20. Some may say this is expensive but it is still half the price of the former. A wash and blow-dry in a north Dublin suburban hair salon costs €17.50 while in a less well-off area, minutes away, the same blow-dry costs €13.50. Somebody is evidently willing to pay for the service so why would the establishment charge any less? Snob value now comes into play.

Some people will not set foot near Aldi or Lidl (competitive German supermarkets) for fear of being seen. Since the beginning of time, demand fuels supply. If I am willing to pay €370,000 for a house then that house is worth it – simple as that.

The Celtic Tiger and its aftermath brought fiscal wealth and more disposable income to the common man. The roaring tiger also brought greed and took away our Irish fighting spirit.

Charles Stewart Parnell must be turning in his grave. As a nation we are no longer prepared to boycott what we consider to be a rip-off. We are so used to the good things in life that we have lost our ability to know when we are being robbed. The fact remains – most of us are too complacent.

In the decade to 1996, 216,000 jobs were created, an increase of 20 per cent, a remarkable achievement. But job shortages in lower-skilled areas were still prevalent. We considered menial jobs below us, so we needed non-EU nationals to fill them. Now that the tiger’s roar is dwindling, we need someone to point the finger at. We want to reclaim these jobs, even though we were too lazy to fill them in the first instance.

While the tiger roared and multiculturalism arrived, snobbery began to eat away at us. Flasks of tea and sandwiches in the park were replaced with a stroll in the green followed by a bite to eat in a hip burger joint or if we were feeling adventurous sushi or Thai. There is nothing wrong with indulging the senses from time to time, but isn’t it about time we curbed the irrational spendingto which we have becomeaccustomed?

The Government are great for U-turning. Legislation takes so long to come to pass. Tribunals suck up all our cash and when we are in the pub we babble on about the state of the country and the price of drink. But we still drink.

DAY 500 of the Mahon tribunal is imminent, with little or no resolution to boot. While some experts have estimated that the total cost of the tribunals could be as much as €500m, we giggle at the ludicrous proceedings, which gobble up our money. This week we learnt that some senior counsel are earning €2,500 per day for their legal work, much to Charlie McCreevy’s consternation. This figure, he says, is “more than an old age pensioner gets in a whole year”.

So what is Charlie going to do about it? More to the point, what are we going to do about it? We put this Government into power. I don’t know about you but I want my money back.

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