pages Situation

by John Brown Spiers

Published in Issue No. 215 ~ April, 2015
What do I do in this situation?

It seems like a little thing but it’s not a little thing.

I’m pretty sure it’s not.

Stop and look at it a minute. Be willing to entertain another notion.

This is a decision.

These items are the same price. Within a single cent they are the same price.

That might be important; it might not.

But they cost the same amount.

OK; that’s one thing. And they’d be traveling basically the same distance, no matter which one I choose. It’ll take each one the same amount of time to get here.

And, even if it doesn’t, the length of time is not a factor, for me.

These aren’t pacemakers I’m looking at.

I don’t have to have the thing as soon as possible.

My well-being, my livelihood don’t depend on it. It’s just a thing I want.

It arrives when it arrives.

So that’s another thing.

One’s “in great shape.”

One is “factory sealed.”

But they’re both new. They say so.

So aren’t they both in great shape, too?

Shouldn’t they both be factory sealed?

If one isn’t, does that make it somehow less new?

You can take something out of the box and take all the packaging off of it and it’s still new.

When does the newness end? When you use it?

Ideally, I would want the new-est one, of the two.


The newest one for the cheapest price. That’s the idea.

“Newest” and “best” are the same thing, here. “Highest quality.”

So if I had some way of knowing which one is the newest. Like, which one was made first.

Which of the two was literally created earlier in the day.

Then that could, potentially, answer my question.


Maybe if they offered pictures.

I could decide based on a picture. I don’t think that would be irresponsible.

But then a picture isn’t the thing. It’s just what the thing looks like.

Say the person who took the picture is a terrible photographer.

His camera’s old.

And then my equipment, on this end, also isn’t state-of-the-art.

Well, that’s foolish. A bad photo isn’t a bad product.

Or a bad person. I can’t punish a guy for taking poor photographs.

I don’t feel silly.

What makes it okay for this decision to be meaningless?

I get to sit here and push a button and a thing comes to my house.

In a padded box.

That’s a big deal.

This isn’t lesser than any of the “important” decisions I make.

It shouldn’t be okay for me to decide in such a quick and thoughtless way.

Just because these things cost almost the same amount of money. And have about the same distance to travel.

And are frivolous.

It would be almost reckless, to act like that.

No: I’ll say it. It is reckless. It’s a reckless decision on my part, to not put the right thought into this.

It’s not a huge, overwhelming deal. But, it’s also not no deal.

I don’t think I should feel like I’m doing it wrong.

I don’t think I necessarily am.

You know? You do things a specific way so you don’t have to question why you don’t do them a different way.

I don’t go ice fishing, because it’s dangerous.

That’s sensible, to me.

I do my fishing in warm weather. That’s just how I do that.

That’s always been the decision.

You can’t just look at it and go “OK–that one.” Can you?

Somebody distinguished it for a reason.

And it’s not about the penny either. I’m not sweating the one extra cent.

Well, what about the price difference? It’s so small.

You might not even notice it.

You pay the extra cent one time and it’s no big deal. You do it a few times—you don’t even remember them.

The thing comes in the mail and you go “Oh. I got that last week. Look: it lights up. Isn’t that interesting.”

Instances…do add up, though.


Well. If it doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter. But if it does matter, then I don’t want to form a habit.

I don’t think someone’s out there trying to take advantage of stupid me.

Everyone can see the higher price. It’s right there. The seller with the higher price knows his price is higher.

So he must think the difference is negligible, too.

But if a penny is negligible, then why does he have a higher price at all, though?

Doesn’t everyone buy the cheaper item, always? Everything else being equal?

Is it that there isn’t a difference, and it doesn’t matter which one I get; or, is it that you always get the cheaper of the two, even if the difference is just one cent?

If the more expensive thing was a day closer in the mail, I’d get that. Sure. I’d pay a penny for a day.

That seems reasonable enough.

Maybe the seller with the higher price has the superior product. That could be.

It might have hidden features.

These descriptions say they’re identical but maybe the guy selling it is inept. And he doesn’t know about the hidden things he could be advertising.

It could be a Japanese version, or something.

Or maybe the cheaper one just looks cheap to the guy selling it. If he doesn’t know what they’re supposed to look like, he might think his looks wrong.

That’s also a possibility.

Maybe–maybe the cheaper one is being sold by someone with a better heart.

They’re the exact same product, and the person selling for a penny less does it because while he’s still making a profit, he sees no reason to be obscene about it.


That’s not so implausible to me.

That’s not impossible.

How important is a penny. How important is it.

I don’t know anything about these people. I can’t tell who I’m helping and who I’m not.

All I’m getting is my own enjoyment.

I’m going to be fine. If I never get this thing, my life will continue to be just fine.

So since everything else about these items is almost exactly the same, then why not buy based on who’s a better person?

How is that a strange method.

I think it makes the same amount of sense as any other process.

It could be that the person with the cheaper item really needs the money. Couldn’t it?

He needs a, his aunt is having a kidney transplant, or something.

He’s selling off everything in his house.

But it’s a tight budget. He can’t afford to go any lower. So he’s stuck hoping I’ll trust the sacrifice he’s already made.

Or maybe the cheaper one isn’t being sold by a person at all.

Maybe it’s just a company, and the company runs a program that checks to make sure it has the lowest prices on all its items, and the program adjusts those prices all the time.

That doesn’t sound like that hard a thing to set up. I bet a marginally talented person could do that in an afternoon.

Now, that’s fun.

It would be fun to cheat that program. I would get a big kick out of manipulating it.

I could strike a quiet blow for humanity.

They expect me to buy the cheaper item. But I buy the more expensive one, and thumb my noses at them while doing it.

Wouldn’t that be a self-righteous little thrill.

Maybe I should contact each seller. That couldn’t hurt.

I could ask how they arrive at their prices. How they maintain them.

I could say, “Does anyone in your family have a terminal disease, and is it because of the costly treatment of that disease that you are selling your product at the price you chose?”

As opposed to some other price.

No–they’d think it was a joke.

I wouldn’t know what to say anyway.

This is becoming a doomsday scenario.

It’s a little ridiculous. I can admit that.

It might not really matter.

Not much.


Eventually I’ll decide.

Still. I wonder.

It can be hard to get what you want. That much is true.

I don’t want to be so dismissive about what I want. That would be like…that wouldn’t be good.

To me.

What’s the protocol here?

I’m kind of at a loss, here.

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John Brown Spiers is an itinerant from Illinois who currently lives in Cincinnati OH. He's held a baker's dozen jobs over the past decade, most notable among them a chocolatier, a brigand's assistant, and a line manager in a squeaky toy factory. His fiction has been published in Passages North, Solstice, A Bad Penny Review, and Phantom Drift, among other venues.