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> credit transactions tend to be 20%+ higher ticket sizes than cash purchases. In a way, the credit card surcharge baked in is something of a volume purchasing incentive

Funny you mention that, because that’s yet another case where it’s expensive to be poor. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet, you likely don’t have the cash flow to stock up on a sale. So rather than buying 18 months worth of TP when there’s a sale + coupon on the 64 pack, you are buying the 4 pack at regular price that costs twice as much per unit.






“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”


I have read the book when I was a child but seeing it everywhere on HN is starting to get on my nerves. There is a shorter way to get the idea across. "If you buy cheap you buy twice."

> "If you buy cheap you buy twice."

And for the kinds of goods I buy, in most cases it doesn't hold up. Cheap shoes might be only 25% of the price of good shoes, but in my experience last 50% as long, costing less overall. Compound that with other chances of loss (getting dusty in the back of a cupboard and eventually being thrown out in a declutter), and cheap works out far cheaper


I read the books as a child, too, and I appreciate when those quotes come up. They demonstrate something about the books that never became clear to child-me, something I only dimly started to grasp when I was older and only fully realized a lot later: Those books go far far beyond an entertaining story. They are a pointed critique of society and politics. They have an opinion. They're not mere books for children.

And the point Samuel Vimes is making goes far beyond a simple "If you buy cheap, you buy twice." It extends that basic knowledge by realizing that some people have no other option than to buy cheap, forcing them to spend resources over and over and over again and still get a worse result in the end, and how this is a fundamental and systemic social unfairness.


Note: this is a market inefficiency. In an efficient well-operating system, if you can afford ten dollars a year for cheap boots, you should be able to get some agreement with your employee or a local bank to get a loan for $50 boots plus some interest that's still gonna be less than the cumulative $10 you pay for fresh boots every year. If you will reliably have the money for $10 boots and can prove/provide evidence that you will, you should be able to get the $50 boots now. The problem is twofold: first, proving you are reliable can be hard, and second, even given credit people still often make purchase decisions that don't last long, partially because they simply don't know what sort of purchases are prudent.

Also there is a huge risk that the $50 boots aren't actually any better.

I don't disagree that this is regressive and unfortunate, although the bigger issue in my mind (and I get we can have two problems and solve both at once) is free parking. The poor tend to use transit but the cost of parking is baked into each purchase thereby subsidizing the wealthy, too. [1]

[1] https://www.vox.com/2014/6/27/5849280/why-free-parking-is-ba...


There’s a lot of transaction costs to charging for parking. Maybe with technology it can be completely automated but historically that’s been a huge reason for free parking.



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