Way, way way back in the stone-age (about 1950) there was this thing called “S & H Green Stamps.” For those of you “of a certain age” this will not be new stuff but for anyone born since the Vietnam War, it will probably be something you never heard of before. It was a sort of a premium program that worked like this. Various stores, gas stations, service companies, etc would award you little green stamps just like you put on a mail envelope (if anyone uses those any more) based on say, ten stamps for every dollar of your purchase. The idea, of course, was that you would buy from Green Stamp merchants rather than ones that didn’t give green stamps.
When you got home, you carefully pasted those stamps into a little booklet that also came with the program. After a while you filled your now-bulging booklet and started on another booklet. And you saved up your booklets. When you finally had a lot of booklets you went to your nearest Green Stamp store – conveniently located near you – to buy something you had been saving up for. The Green Stamp store was just like a department store and it sold everything from lawn mowers to Timex watches. But you paid for the stuff with Green Stamp booklets not cash.
My wife and I desperately wanted a shiny chrome coffee percolator that was “the thing” to have in those days. (If you don’t know what a coffee percolator is, and I’m sure you probably don’t, Google it.) It took us about six months to save enough green stamps to have enough to get one. Then we collected our big fat bulky booklets (by the time you had pasted stamps in every page, the booklet was about an inch thick) and went to the Green Stamp store to redeem them for our new percolator.
Now here’s the interesting part. We got it home, eagerly unpacked it, read the instructions (they were written in English in those days), filled it with coffee and water and plugged it in. Then we pulled up two chairs and sat there watching it as it took 20 minutes to make coffee for us. What pride we felt! How delicious that coffee tasted!
Why? Because we had to work so hard and waited so long to get that percolator. We took very, very good care of that percolator and we had it for years.
Several years later we bought a new bedroom set and we gave our old set to a married family member. The old set was still in like-new condition because, like that old percolator, we had worked and saved for it and had taken equal, loving care of it. But when we went to visit just a few weeks later we noticed that the headboard was nicked in several spots and the end tables were covered in coffee rings where a wet glass or cup had been put down on them.
The moral of the story is clear to me. If you pay nothing for something, that’s how much value you put on it.
© Paul Burri 2016