Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deciding on Value--Part #2

In part one I laid out some of the elements that are present when someone has to decide on the value of an item. Now let me examine the process that can occur when someone has to decide on whether an item is valuable to them or not, using some of those elements I discussed in part one.

Let's take a really simple example first, and please bear with me to the end. You are in a store and you come across a display of potato peelers. There are a variety of peelers, with differing prices per peeler. You consider buying a peeler, but which one? You have to decide which peeler is going to be more valuable to you. If money were the only concern, then there is a peeler on sale for only 69 cents, the cheapest peeler of the bunch. But now other thoughts pop into your mind. There are generally two kinds of peelers available: those with blades horizontal to the handle and those with blades vertical to the handle. You prefer the horizontal blade type because you find it easier to work with, but the sale peeler is the type with a vertical blade. There are a variety of material combinations that a peeler can come in, some with steel blade and handles, some with steel blade and hard plastic handles, some with steel blade and padded handles. Some peelers come with rounded handles and some come with flat handles. You prefer a rounded handle that is padded, but the sale peeler comes with a steel handle that is flat.

Or maybe you are thinking that you really don't eat all that many potatoes, and mostly you eat them baked with the peel on. For the few times that you actually need to peel a potato you use a paring knife. Is it worth the expenditure if you will only use the peeler a few times during the year? Or maybe you are thinking that you use potatoes all the time, lots of potatoes, and you really want a peeler that is comfortable to use; however, the peeler that has the blade you prefer and the handle that is the most comfortable for you will cost you ten times the cost of the peeler that is on sale.

Now other thoughts come to mind. Given the way you cook and clean, and given that you have a kosher kitchen two peelers make more sense than one: one for fleishig and one for milchig. If you buy the sale peeler you're going to have to find a way to clearly mark the two peelers to show which is for meat and which for dairy. The plastic and the padded handled peelers come ready in a multitude of colors so it will be clear from the onset which is for meat and which for dairy. The package of the sale peeler says that it is not recommended that the peeler be washed in an automatic dishwasher. You don't have a dishwasher so that doesn't matter. Or perhaps you have a dishwasher but there are lots of other things that you don't wash in it so the peeler won't be much of a problem. Or perhaps you don't have a dishwasher now but will be getting one soon, by which time the peeler will become a problem.

Still other thoughts come to mind. You are not the only one who uses a potato peeler in your house. Sometimes more than one person at a time needs that peeler, so more than one might be needed. Some of the people in the house prefer the horizontal blade; others prefer the vertical blade. Some like the thinner, flat handle; others prefer the rounded, padded handle. So, will you buy one of each type of peeler to satisfy the requirements of all people in your house who may need to use the peeler? Do you buy a compromise peeler? The sale peeler doesn't feel or look as if it is made all that sturdily. You figure that it might give you a year or so of use until it has to be replaced. Still, it's only 69 cents, so even if you had to replace it every year for ten years it still would only cost you $6.90 after ten years, the cost of the fancier peeler that you are also looking at. So do you pay $6.90 up front or do you pay it out over ten years?

And then there is this: those peelers that are on sale have been around forever and are so old fashioned when laid out side by side with the newer peelers that are on display. You remember your grandmother using the sale peeler. Do you opt for one of the newer, more expensive peelers so as to be "with it," or do you go with sentimentality and buy the kind of peeler grandma used because it will bring her to mind every time you use it? Do you go with the clearly innovative peeler, costing more money, or do you stay rooted in the past?

And last but not least, you consider the safety during use of the various peelers. Which one will be least likely to cause you a cut or scrape? Which gives you more protection? You have children who might get to the peeler or who might use it; which peeler gives them the most protection from harm?

A potato peeler is "small potatoes" (pardon the pun, or not) by comparison to many of the items that we have to assign value to. And yet, even such a small, relatively inconsequential item can raise a multitude of questions in our minds when it comes to assigning a value to it. I've just done an entire posting on choosing a potato peeler, and I didn't cover all the questions that can arise. How much more do you suppose you will need to think about when deciding the value of more weighty items? Like the present yeshiva educational system? Like sleep away camps? Like simcha celebrations? Like which parts of the country (or out of the country) to live in?


Rae said...

One of the problems is that lots of people spend more time on choosing a potato peeler than they do in thinking about the bigger problems that face us. Halevi that people would actually go through the process you describe and apply it to the yeshiva education problem.

I think that we jews aren't a patient people and spending thousands of hours in coming up with solutions isn't something we want to do--we want everything now.

JFMG said...

I think you should just get it if you need it. I always wait a day or two to decide if "it" really would improve my life. The little things always seem to make the biggest impact- but only if you know there is a different way. Sometimes it's a bigger change you need, instead of a bunch of "time saving" yet unneeded fixes.

Rina said...

I think we have that saying about not sweating the small stuff because that is what we do--sweat the small things. Maybe we are spending too much time on things like potato peelers. Maybe we are doing that because we don't want to have to think about the big things, things we know are going to take a lot of our time.

Unknown said...

Funny on the other comments, because my first thought was "and then you realize you're wasting waaay too much time on looking at peelers, and you grab one and get on with your life. And you're happy."

Anonymous said...

Of course, one could always designate the peeler as 'parev only', given the nature of potatoes!
Its also worth bearing in mind that the thought processes you have outlined would be considered in a matter of seconds when standing int he shop considering the options...

ProfK said...

Anon 613,
"would be considered in a matter of seconds when standing in the shop considering the options..." Or not. Some people have not yet figured out that the time spent on deciding about a small thing should be less than the time used in deciding on a larger thing.

There are people who are near and dear to me with whom I will never, ever go shopping. The potato peeler story came from a real life experience shopping with a friend. And we left the store without getting any peeler because she still needed to think about it.