Monday, May 30, 2011

No discount for lawbreakers and bad paymasters, please

A COUPLE of weeks ago, a local TV station ran a documentary on a farming venture.

Towards the end of the show, as the anchorwoman was summing up her presentation, she was shown purchasing a bag of organic fertiliser.

As she placed the bag on the checkout counter, she blurted out: "Got discount?"

I am not sure if the question was in the script but the cashier seemed to be caught by surprise as he could only manage a nod and a meek smile in response.

I am sure the anchorwoman did not intend to embarrass the poor fellow, especially in front of his boss who was likely to be present on the set to watch the filming.

But the ease with which "Got discount?" left the anchorwoman's lips gave me the impression that it was a question she asked frequently, so much so that it had become second nature.

You know, like when you see someone getting into the lift at noon and you greet him or her with "Sudah makan?" (Have you eaten yet?) or "Sudah minum?" (Have you had tea?).

Or when you see someone holding that nice handbag that you have been eyeing for the longest time, and having ascertained that the price was still out of your reach, you quickly follow it up with "Got discount, ah?"

The two words "Got discount?" is uttered by many -- automatically and unthinkingly. The thicker-skinned among us would press further with "How much?" or "If I buy a lot, got some more discount, ah?"

I once saw a woman haggling with a petai seller over the price of the stink beans. When the seller asked how many dozen pods she wanted, she said three. The price was RM2.50 for three pods, she offered RM2.

When he refused to reduce the price, she chided him, little knowing that the petai is not easy to grow and harvest.

Would she have gone easier on the petai seller if she knew how high one had to climb to pluck petai? And if she had known the risks, would she have been too embarrassed to ask for a discount?

Recently, I read that the authorities were taking the offences of errant motorcyclists seriously. Those who break traffic rules by not wearing helmets, zipping past zebra crossings, using a mobile phone while riding, and jumping red lights will be slapped with the maximum RM300 fine. They will not be given discounts.

However, motorcyclists who commit what the authorities consider "less serious offences" such as making illegal U-turns, parking next to fire hydrants and on pedestrian walkways, and hogging right lanes, will get a discount on the fine if they pay early.

Why we should reward those who flout traffic rules, even if they pay early?

Why should we give discounts to bad paymasters such as errant property owners who do not pay their assessment taxes? Some local councils did exactly that to get these rate payers to settle assessment arrears.

Are we aware of what this "discount" mentality is doing to us? I am sure it is no less harmful than the "subsidy" mentality, which we should all learn to discount.

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