Predetermined and Preconceived Expectations (My Take on Encores, Bartering, and Who Pays for Dinner)

Yes, the title is redundant.  But there isn’t a more appropriate way to describe how ridiculous some of our modern traditions are.

Since the 7th grade, I have been to more concerts than I can count; starting from  when Christian rock music was still awesome (from 1992 to 1998) with now defunct bands like dc talk and Audio Adrenaline, to current favorites like Guster and John Mayer, to class acts like Michael Buble.  I love music and I love concerts.  (Yes, there are people who don’t actually like music at all.  They are the ones who say they like all music, including both rap and Country equally.)

After you’ve been to a few concerts, you become overaware of how virtually every concert will end:  After the “last song” is finished, the band hurries off the stage while saying “Good night (enter name of city where the concert is), you’ve been great!”  But the lights stay off in the auditorium or arena.  This gives the necessary opportunity for the audience to cheer “Encore!” or “We want more!” until the band predictably returns to the stage to perform a few more songs- where they typically include at least one acoustic version of one of their songs and also one of the band’s most notable songs they conveniently left out of the main set.

Fact: Encores are lame.  I say either [crap] or got off the pot.

In my mind, this concept clearly relates to the mostly un-American tradition of bartering.  During my first summer teaching English in Thailand, I paid full price for souvenirs.  If a price tag had said that an imposter Hard Rock Café: Bangkok t-shirt would cost me 7 or even 10 bucks, I paid it.  Because that sounded pretty reasonable to me.  But by the end of that first summer, as Thai friends starting accompanying me, I learned that the asking price was not meant to be taken seriously.  If the asking price was $10, the after-barter price was typically as low as $5 or even $3.50.

As an American, I had been used to finding my own way to negotiate prices in America: With coupons or Internet specials, or simply just “price shopping” until I found the store with the cheapest price.  I pride myself in never paying full price for anything if I can help it.  But in Thailand and in so many Third World and developing countries, there are no coupons or Internet specials.  Instead, you barter with the merchant.  Otherwise, you get hosed.

Unnecessary map of Koh Samui, Thailand

Granted, bartering does indeed exist in America.  Like when you buy a car, go to a garage sale, or buy something off of Craig’s List.  But typically it’s not worth my time to do business that way.  I’d rather spend my time finding the product somewhere else where the price is firm and already low.  Otherwise, I will not be an active consumer.

Fact: Bartering is lame.  Instead of getting involved with the predictable “buyer asks too low a price, seller asks too high a price” banter, I will simply find another way to buy the product.

Lastly in my trilogy of examples is the awkward game of “who’s paying for dinner?”  If I am going to buy someone’s dinner, I am very clear with them up front before we arrive at the restaurant: “I am taking you to dinner.  I really appreciate how you (I name the reason I am buying their meal, even if it’s as simple as thanking them for their general kindness and friendship).”  There is no guessing to be done.  I am buying their meal.

That means when the waiter comes by the table when it’s time to pay up and asks, “Will this be together or separate?” there is no grabbing for the bill by both me and the other person.  I don’t like the feeling that I owe someone for anything unless there’s a good reason for it.  So this whole idea that “you bought my meal this time, so I’ll buy yours next time”, it doesn’t work for me.  Because then I have that “IOU” hanging over my head.  Let’s make it simple.  If you want to buy my meal, tell me up front.  As I will do the same.  Otherwise, it’s assumed that we’re paying separately and the only bill anyone grabs for at the end is their own.

Fact: I can’t truly enjoy a meal if I think there’s a chance that I am expected in the least to grab the other person’s bill.

I live a simple life where clear-cut expectations make me happy.  This is my version of reality.



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