Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mustache Rides: After 30 Years, Still 5 Cents

Everyone knows the economy has been getting a little rocky of late. There is one group that has definitely suffered. I'm talking about Mustache Ride Providers.

The fact is, as prices of fuel and other basic necessities have continued their relentless march upwards, the unsung mustache provider has had to make ends meet selling his service at a price of $0.05 - five cents. And that price hasn't really budged in 30 years. I ask: why?


Based on my research*, the prevailing cost of a mustache ride remains, after more than 30 years, mired at the level of $0.05. Five cents. That's not to say that there aren't some providers out there able to charge a quarter, 50 cents, even a dollar. But they are exceptions, probably because they bundle their rides with other services (car wash, income tax preparation, etc.), or because they have a local or regional monopoly.

The fact remains that in general, over the last thirty years, the price of a mustache ride has barely budged, while the costs for other indispensible consumer items have increased dramatically. Why?

Substitute goods/new technology. This is a possible culprit. After all, we live in an age of technological revolution. It's possible that, in the whirlwind of advancement in the area of personal electronics (and here I'm thinking of cell phones and ipods, and nothing other than those two things), the humble mustache ride has been bypassed.

Oversupply/New Competitors. I don't think this is the answer, since, according to my research* the number of mustache ride providers has ebbed and flowed over the years, reaching a high-water mark in the mid- to late seventies. And in the nineties, the number fell, and yet, prices remained the same: a nickel.

Intensity of Competition. Again, the number of competitors has ebbed and flowed, but prices have remained remarkably constant.

Decreased cost of production/new technology. Again, it's possible that over time, the costs of production have decreased, much like personal computers. However, the basic cost inputs to making a mustache ride are the same for all providers, and appear to have risen considerably over the last 30 years.

Buyer power. It's possible in theory for a buyer or buyers to concentrate sufficient might in the market so as to be able to name their price - not unlike a "company town" that has its pick of all the laborers in town. But in this case, the buyers are diffuse and unable to collude effectively, so I discount this as a cause.

So in the end, I don't know what is holding down the price of mustache rides. What I do know, is that it's hard out there for a mustache ride provider.

*I didn't do any research. I did loosely apply the "5 Forces" Analsyis, pioneered by Michael Porter of Harvard Business School. Thanks, Mike.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Have Some Opinions About Stuff

Well, I still don't know if I want to blog, or what to write about, but I'll see what I can figure out. And by the way, isn't that an irresistible come-on? Just in case the title of the post didn't clinch it for you.

Hey! Come read the blog I may or may not write, I haven't decided! What's it about? I don't know! I'm totally uncommitted!

So whatever. I'm the Fred Thompson of blogging.

One of the things my comedy sensei, Miyagi-san, taught me was a trick to help generate material when you're out of ideas*: make a list of things you have negative opinions about about which you have negative opinions.

Okay, that's one right there: the prohibition on dangling participles. I mean, you start caring too much about where prepositions go and before you know it, your dialog doesn't sound conversational anymore. It just sounds fucked up.

Or perhaps, grammar fascists, I should say, "it sounds like a thing, up which is fucked." Happy?


Another thing I hate: most TV ads, starting with the current ad campaign by Southwest Airlines featuring "Nick," the sales guy who's flying Southwest, which is enhancing his productivity, resulting in speculation that he is somehow cheating to gain an edge. You see? It's really a clever commentary on the current scandal involving athletes and performance enhancing drugs. stupid, stupid ad campaign. So stupid is it, that I hit "mute" the instant it comes on so that I don't have to listen to it for the .05 seconds it takes me to change the channel.


Another Ad I Hate: those Schwab ads featuring the cartoonized people speaking directly to the camera. Oh, yes, those are very persuasive. Again, as a comedian, I am constitutionally required to wonder out loud how that pitch meeting went down:
Ad Man: "So the idea is this: did you see the movie 'A Scanner Darkly?'"
Schwab Guy: "Scan her what?"
Ad Man: "'A Scanner Darkly.' Great flick.
You really ought to see it. Anyway, it had this great look, with real actors made to look like animated cartoons."
Schwab Guy: "What? Like mimes? Or clowns?"
Ad Man: "Hm. Not quite. They used digital effects, not makeup."
Schwab Guy: "We should use cartoon characters to sell investments?"
Ad Man: "Again, not cartoon characters per se. [Ad Man makes mental note: look up the term"per se."] They're real people."
Schwab Guy: "Well... if you're sure we can't get the gecko or Jared, then go ahead."
Color me unconvinced. Here's my problem:

Do you see why I'm having trouble with it?


One last one: the ads for "Lunesta," the sleep aid. The ones that feature the creepy glowing butterfly of death, which flits down upon your restless body and with a single touch, snuffs the life out of you puts you into a deep relaxing sleep. Ah, sweet release of death sleep.

I would probably be asleep already if I weren't afraid that a large radioactive butterfly might float into the room to send me on to eternal rest.


Update: Yeah. So apparently some time in the last 6 months or so, I became a cranky old man. I really am the Fred Thompson of blogging.

You kids stay off my lawn!

*This assumes you have actually tried to write. This doesn't really help you if your problem is that you're too lazy to actually engage in the activity of writing jokes.

Next: What's the matter with young people these days?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Welcome to my annual blog post!

fanofIsh said...

will you please start writing again in the new year? or today, today would be cool too. I really liked your china stories and the stuff before that. thank you. happy new year.

10:34 AM

Happy new year to you too, fanofIsh. Thanks for your nice comment. You've been waiting AWFULLY patiently for me to write more. To which I say:

Thanks mom. But what took you so long? (Bada-BING! See? Still got it!)

Truthfully, I don't know if I'll post more or not. What would I write about? Write about comedy? Like what is wrong or right about the comedy scene in San Francisco? Or write posts with comedic intent?