No Time for Bargains!

I am almost loath to use the term “BF”, but it does inspire ones thinking. The bargain hunters out there are looking for bargains. However the type of bargains being hunted is rather restricted. The only bargain that most hunters seek is what I will call “Bargainus Discountus.” This is the species of bargain wherein you “reportedly” pay less for any item than its reputed worth. Thus a Sony 42 inch HDTV that normally retails for $500 dollars is sought for the bargain price of $200. Those that are able to bag such game must have fortitude, patience and a certain amount of aggression. There are many other “hunters” out there today who are seeking the same game. But what of the other types of big game “bargains?”

• The Free Online Dictionary has the following definition for the term Bargain:
1. An agreement between parties fixing obligations that each promises to carry out.
a. An agreement establishing the terms of a sale or exchange of goods or
services: finally reached a bargain with the antique dealer over the lamp.
b. Property acquired or services rendered as a result of such an agreement.
3. Something offered or acquired at a price advantageous to the buyer.

V. bar•gained, bar•gain•ing, bar•gains
1. To negotiate the terms of an agreement, as to sell or exchange.
2. To engage in collective bargaining.
3. To arrive at an agreement.

As you can see from looking at this definition, there are many other possibilities that await the true bargain hunter. There is the possibility of negotiating a price with some skillful trading skills and there is the possibility of negotiating a service or trade agreement. The last has to do with time perhaps more than money. For instance, what if you could find a bargain in “Time” rather than in money? As an example, let us say you wanted to get a BA degree in Business. The average time for completing such a degree is close to four years. However, what if you could bargain with a University and get a 20 or even 50 percent discount on time so that the degree would only take 2 or 3 years to complete?

Imagine the possibilities if we could start finding and negotiating more bargains and discounts around the concept of time. If time is money and the two are (if not interchangeable) at least linked, it makes perfect sense to be able to negotiate time as well as money. Here are some examples of where it would be great to negotiate time:

• The time to get the government to do just about anything it currently does
• The time it takes to get your car repaired
• The time to schedule a doctor or dentist appointment
• The time to complete any education program
• The time to wait until I can retire
• The time it takes to get my driver’s license renewed

What can you add to my list? I would love to hear your ideas on what you think we could negotiate or bargain with in terms of time. Why should we only be able to bargain on money? As time becomes more valuable in our multi-tasking environment, perhaps we should all become hunters of “Bargainus Timus.” Now if I can only get there before the rest of the bargain hunters!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Nov 26, 2011 @ 22:59:58

    I remember something I read by Garrett Hardin (the originator of the “Tragedy of the Commons”, among other things) in which he discussed two ways of allocating scarce public resources. His example was permits to camp in a national park. If you had a lot of money, you could buy a permit for, say, $1000. If you weren't that rich, you could get on a waiting list and wait your turn. We aren't officially supposed to allocate organs for transplant that way, but the examples of Steve Jobs and Mickey Mantle argue otherwise. If you've got the money, it can save you the time of waiting.

    The whole idea of “comparative advantage” in economics is that we do best by concentrating on what we are good at (for example what can make us the most money) and then paying other people to do the things we are not so good at. By not doing those things ourselves (even though we could), we save the time they would have taken and can use it for more productive activities or for personal enjoyment. For example, I can replace my own brake pads, and it will probably take most of a day on a weekend, or I can pay somebody else $75 and have my weekend day for myself. The brake mechanic does the job so frequently that he can get it done in less than an hour, but, since I only do it every couple of years, I have to relearn it every time and it takes longer. Since I'm mildly irrational (I don't value my time because I psychologically refuse to face how little of it I have; I'm cheap; and I don't trust other people to do the job right), I do my own brake job. Even if I screw up my car, I'll at least know what happened. I'm making a bad “bargain”, but does anyone benefit from my foolishness?


  2. John Persico
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 14:23:16

    Funny, I would have thought you would take the “rational” approach to having your car fixed. Instead, it sounds like you fit the arguments of Kahnemann and Tversky on behavioral economics. For the most part, I examine the arguments you give when it comes to doing “outside” work, that is outside my area of expertise. I rather concentrate on making my 35-55 dollars per hour doing what I know how to do.. IF I think it can beat the time spent and opportunity cost curve, then I might do it myself. Some times I am “irrational” but not too often when it comes to money.


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