Caveat Emptor


In the days of pagan Rome, daily business was conducted on the basis of distrust. Merchants tried to cheat other merchants, and finally, as is generally the case, the mass of consumers were so victimized by unscrupulous merchants that it became a kind of `warning system' to be reminded: Caveat emptor!

Caveat emptor simply means "Let the buyer beware!"

The essence of `paganism' is selfishness. To be `selfish' simply means to place oneself in the center of everything. Thus, things and other people become just so many objects to satisfy the needs or wants of the selfish person. There is no morality _ no `right' or `wrong' - there is only `what I want.'

We even have words in our language that express honesty as opposed to dishonesty. Take, for example, the word `sincere.' What do you think it means? And, how do you think it originated?

`Sincere' is from the Latin `sine cere' which means "without wax." Now, you probably would never suspect that `without wax' would become such a common word.

You see, in the old days of Latin culture, it was common to see marble sculptures in gardens and in homes. Not to mention public places. When the sculptor worked the marble and made the finished product, he would examine it carefully for blemishes. These he would fill in with wax. The wax would blend in with the color of the marble, and the unsuspecting buyer quite often bought an inferior product because he did not inspect it very carefully for tell-tale wax deposits.

Once bought, the deal was made. There were no "thirty day return policies." When you bought something, you bought it. Period.

So, as time went on, buyers became more wary _ not to say weary _ of this entire matter of checking for the presence or absence of wax in their statues. Thus, after an examination of a work, the buyer would be satisfied that the product was "without wax,' that is to say, it was a fine piece of artwork devoid of any imperfections or blemishes.

With the increased sophistication of buying and selling, the avenues for trickery and fraud increased.

It is not enough to say that merchants are `greedy' anymore than it is correct to say that consumers are less greedy.

Someone once said that the difference between Capitalism and Communism is that the Capitalist has money and the Communist doesn't.

Unfortunately, even with the coming of Christianity and the command to `love one's neighbor as oneself,' this beautiful ideal is oft forgotten in the market place of life. Generally speaking, the victim of trickery and exploitation is the humble consumer _ the man on the bottom of the ladder.

But, we little `bugs' are not all that impotent. If we unite and create a ground swell of disapproval, things would change.

Of course, the immediate challenge is that we ourselves must not adopt the mercantile mentality of the pagan. This may prove difficult in many cases. Yet, it must be done.

Here's where we can begin. It's only one instance, but, chances are that many people have experienced this same abuse.

I refer to the peculiar business practice that started some years ago. It's called `S & H.' This stands for "Shipping & Handling."

How much does it cost to ship something from one place to another? Of course you don't know _ unless you do a lot of shipping or work for the UPS or FedX or the Post Office.

But note well: you are not only told that `shipping' is extra, but that there is a `handling' fee. What is a `handling' fee? Have you ever been charged a `handling' fee when you bought a bag of groceries or anything else in a store?

The clerk did not charge you a `handling' fee for going to a shelf to get something for you. He went because you either could not find the item yourself, or he wished to spare you the minor inconvenience.

And when you checked out at the cashier's counter, you were not billed twice: once for the item purchased and once for the clerk `handling' your purchase.

Certainly, everything had been built into the price of whatever you bought. All this is called "overhead" _ the expenses hanging over the seller's head before he makes any profit.

I recently bought a book by phone. I placed the order and obediently read off the numbers on my credit card. Then the voice on the other end told me how much the book would cost and how much it would cost for "Shipping" _ not for "handling." We usually don't notice this. But, the shipping is usually very minor in comparison with the `handling.' Well, how would you feel if your book that cost you $39.95 arrived and the invoice stated that the "Shipping & Handling" cost was $24.90?

Wouldn't you be ready to hit the ceiling? But, do you have much practical recourse from such financial rape? Actually, you really don't. And the reason is because you will not be re-imbursed for the `S & H' already charged, and because it will cost you extra money to send the item back. Not only that, but you may also be required to pay a "re-stocking fee."

Admittedly, this is an unusual example. But, if you look at how much you are being charged whenever you pay `S & H' _ you will be surprised. Many companies make their profit on this little gimmick alone.

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