Friday, June 30, 2023

The Cost of Things

One of the questions I used to get regularly is, "Wow, you own a game store? You must get to take home all the cool games." One of the variables in Dave Wallace's game store calculations included take homes. It was kind of lumped in with shoplifting. It was also something I considered to be unacceptable, being a numbers guy. I buy my games at the wholesale price plus tax. For me, it has more value if I earned it and I tend not to buy games to just see what's in the box. Speaking of value, I have a confession to make.

I think my games are too expensive. I buy them at wholesale, which is usually about 45% off plus tax, and that feels right to me as to their value. This is not to say hobby games are a bad value, only that my personal feeling of value stopped at around the year 2004. That happens to be the year I opened my store. A current $50 D&D book in 2004 dollars was about $30, roughly my wholesale cost. They're about to go up to $70, which is completely nuts to me. So wholesale feels right. Wholesale in 2024 might even feel too high.

I spent a lot of years since 2004 being pretty poor, where playing hobby games, bought at wholesale, was my sole interest.  When I finally had some money, which took about seven years of struggle, I woke up to a world that had changed; a very expensive world that was only getting more expensive. My personal income recently reached where I was in 2004, adjusted for inflation. 

However, my perception of prices is still stuck back in 2004. So I feel like a Rip Van Winkle figure, waking up to a changed world, surprised that people spend money like they do, only they spend it with me. I am grateful, but regularly mystified, despite having extravagances of my own. I can't get enough $500 Lord of the Rings collectors boxes; they fly off the shelf. Mystifying.

One of the joys of living part time in Mexico, assuming we continue to return, which is in doubt, is the prices. If I don't move around, with Mexico's $5/gallon gas with a gas guzzling truck, it's really inexpensive. I am back in 2004 when it comes to eating out, grocery shopping or getting work done on my truck. My benchmark is about $7 per person for lunch, which is living pretty high on the hog in Mexico. Back home in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's probably twice that. I am sure this is a major appeal to retirees, able to experience an economic time warp back to the olden times of easier living. It wasn't really easier, it's just how our brains process change.

There's a similar thing with vehicles, in which at a certain point in your life, certain safety features are viewed as essential and anything more is superfluous. If you're really old, maybe it's seatbelts. If you're a young Boomer, it might include air bags. Gen-X might insist on traction control and ABS. Millennials might require emergency brake assist and a suite of cameras. There is a point though at which everything that came after your personal safety standard is superfluous. My personal benchmark is around 1996, something I think a lot of as a car guy, daydreaming about an older affordable vehicle to take on some adventure. Safety features after 1996 are "nice to have." My point is I think we have points in our lives where there's a set standard of value and it pretty much stays put.

So $70 D&D books are completely nuts to me, as you might imagine. It's also nuts that I'll likely continue to sell them well at that price. Not everyone has my perception of money and value. I still want them for myself, and I still worry about my customers being left behind, like how I feel I'm mentally back in the venerable year of twenty ought four.

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