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Is ‘value’ a dirty word?


As I sit here admiring my 88-cent container of mustard, I can’t help feeling self-conscious.
I know that restaurants advertise their “value menus” and retailers offer no-frills knockoffs of their glitziest products, but I keep picturing the corporate CEOs loathing such concessions as a necessary evil to appease the (ugh!) cheapskate rabble.
(“I thought all the franchise owners got the memo to partner with Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and upsell customers the Eternally Happy Meal!”)
The overused word “value” grates on my nerves, anyway. Shouldn’t it be a “given” that all shoppers seek value for their hard-earned dollars? Who walks into a True Value hardware store and says, “I want a ball peen hammer that contains 999,999 insect parts per million — and keep the change”?
Sometimes it’s readily apparent which functions, ingredients or durability expectations are surrendered when passing up premium products. Other times, not so much. A modestly priced haunted house tour should be judged by the entertainment value of severed heads and swooping bats, not by the thread count of the ghosts!
Okay, I understand that “value” has become a buzzword because it’s only one of many factors that enter into a purchase decision — factors such as medical issues, i.e. making your sister eat her heart out when she sees your awesome new carpet!
Yes, rampant consumerism places mystique, flair and other intangibles on a pedestal. Speaking of intangibles, your car may soon be out of your reach when it’s repossessed because of your top-of-the-line shopping sprees. Maybe the new owner will grant you visitation rights for those coveted windshield wiper blades that mimic the aroma of Gwyneth Paltrow’s nether regions.
I’m not obsessed with status symbols. With few exceptions, I am happy with store-brand foodstuffs and toiletries. I hate paying extra for “the name.” Unless I need a fake passport to escape Nazi Germany, I’m not paying for a name!
My wife and I recently clawed our way back into the middle class, but we remain frugal. Time-tested furniture, an unassuming 28-inch TV, coupons, portion control and duct tape are the order of the day. I can manage without overpriced “decadent desserts.” Slightly off-color desserts are more my speed.

I’m glad neither of us had appendicitis during our lean years, because a doorknob and a string are mighty tempting for such operations.
Fun fact: a recent Gallup survey reveals that feet are deliriously happy with reasonably comfortable shoes and generic odor-eaters and couldn’t care less that LeBron James ceremonially broke wind in the general direction of the sneaker assembly line. Go figure!
Granted, people can run the risk of being penny wise and pound foolish. Melissa and I want our cats to have good nutrition. After years of bad luck with used cars, we have gotten comfortable with buying brand-new, brand-name vehicles, but only after due diligence of studying “Consumer Reports” for gas mileage, safety features and maintenance issues.
Regardless of sticker price, we’re not buying a Horseless Carriage-mobile assembled with slave labor in The Only Former Soviet Republic That Putin Wouldn’t Take Back On A Dare.
Situations evolve. Shopping advice is not one-size-fits-all. Figure out your own balance of practicality and ostentation, of quality and price.
Just don’t let social media influencers endanger your health.
“I’m choking! No, don’t perform the Heimlich maneuver! It’s too simple! There must be bells and whistles! I need bells and –gakk!!”

Copyright 2024 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.