Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Raj's Random Ramblings- 3

Variable pricing

There was a time when we could only fly Indian Airlines or Air India. While the lack of choice caused misery in many ways, it made up partially by providing peace of mind on the price of tickets. There was only one fare for one sector and one class- whichever time of day or however early or late you booked your tickets. You or your neighbor or a relative would pay the same fare. 

Cut to the present. You’ll have to do some pretty exhaustive research on the fares offered by different airlines on different routes and different days. Then you’ll have to look up other online agencies who can offer you better deals than even what the airline can offer. You must check the fares for the previous or next 7 days (onward and return), as you could be saddled with  a higher weekend rate or whatever. All these precautions are necessary, as you’ll always bump into some smartass on the same flight who’ll tell you that he managed to get his ticket at a fare that is Rs 12000 cheaper than yours and ruin your entire trip. 

This article predicts that the idea of dynamic pricing that is prevalent in the airline industry could soon spread to the retail sector. Real-time, intrahourly pricing is already practiced on sites like Amazon, eBay, etc and can be applied to the rest of the retail space. So, you may spot a camera for $300 now and buy it, only to find an hour later that it has dropped to $250. One has to be alert and vigilant all the time. You can’t miss a good bargain when you spot one, nor can you rush in believing there’s a bargain when there isn’t one. It will not be enough to pick up something at a low price; you must pick it up at a price lower than what your neighbor managed to. I’ve decided that if this system comes into place, I’ll always claim that I purchased something at a price 25% lower than what I actually paid for it. I’ll have to be seen as a smart hunter of deals. 

The Hindu crossword

Over the decades, I’ve met several crossword aficionadas who would swear that the one published in The Hindu was the best. On many a train journey, I’ve seen many a passenger engrossed with the cryptic clues.

Only recently, through this fascinating article, I came to know that the first crossword-setter for The Hindu was Admiral Katari, retired Chief of Naval Staff. Hitherto, newspapers in India had merely copied and posted the crossword puzzles borrowed from publications abroad. Admiral Katari took on this labour of love and did it with such dedication to ensure that the Indianised crossword appeared every day – even when he was travelling. 

What I find amazing is that the man could do this so passionately even though his name did not appear once. Either it was due to the paper’s policy or because he desired anonymity. But day after day, readers awaited his puzzle and pounced on it, oblivious to the identity of its creator. What could have motivated him? 

Psychopaths and politicians.

I wasn’t surprised to hear this, but this article confirms that psychopaths and politicians have a lot in common. It says that “traits that are common among psychopathic serial killers—a grandiose sense of self-worth, persuasiveness, superficial charm, ruthlessness, lack of remorse and the manipulation of others—are also shared by politicians and world leaders. Individuals, in other words, running not from the police. But for office.  Such a profile allows those who present with these traits to do what they like when they like, completely unfazed by the social, moral or legal consequences of their actions."

Quite often, the set of skills required for constructive work and destructive work can be the same. Recall that Mandrake, the magician and his archrival the Cobra were trained in the same school of magic. One put it to good use, the other to spread evil.  The same qualities that go to make a good leader can end up creating a dictator or a tyrant who is consumed by his own sense of self-worth and power. All I can say is, watch out.

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