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Rising prices, changing habits and society

Q What cost me 28p in 2004, but will have gone up to 60p by the end of April [2012]?
A The cost of sending a first class letter within the UK.

Q What cost me around 78p in 2004, but is now priced at 145p?
A A litre of petrol

Q What was usually free in 2004, but now incurs a monthly charge and / or individual charge?
A A bank account which includes cheques.

Services and products start off expensive when they're new. As they get to be commonly used, they fall in price - that's because of the benefit of volume of production / service provision, and because better (lower cost) means of delivering them are developed. But then, as better alternative become available, volume decreases and prices rise again, leading to further volume decreases in a spiral. That's a typical economic cycle; add inflation on top, and you find that isn't uniform; some things are going up quicker than others. And when something rises rapidly, the spiral of decline is encouraged. Now - I'm not suggesting that petrol prices are rising because of a decline in use; that's a rather special case that's more to do with looming "peak oil". Prices rising way above inflation - and you get resentment. And that may be resentment that lasts ... and results in a whole societal change, especially if more modern alternatives are available.

Time was that sending a letter was by post. First class, of course - for a first class message. Second class indicated a less important message - something that wasn't worth as much - but look how that has changed with email. With the latest price rises in postal charges, are we seeing the end of "The Post" in society as we know it?

Time was we went everywhere by car; train was very "1950s" - something our parents did. Bus was for those too young / old / sick / poor to use a car. Cycling and walking was for the fitness freaks. But look how rail and bus have made a comeback. The X72 leaves people behind on Bowerhill on the way into Bath, the 14 is "nearly every seat taken" where it used to be empty, and there are now 2 buses not one on the route. Rail usage - figures for year to March 2011 published on Thursday - show a rise from 7,472,170 to 8,042,924 passengers (station entrances and exits, TransWilts stations) over a year - that's 7.64% and equates to doubling of traffic every 10 years. Are the latest price rises, and the feeling of insecurity fuelled by the tanker driver's threats so supplies, going to lead to the end of our love affair with the private motor car?

Time was that our business ran on payments by cheque. We still welcome cheques, but these days a BACS transfer is tops, a debit card second choice, credit card (because of shear ease) comes third. We accept cash. And we'll also accept cheques, and scramble around to find who's going to (!) drive our private motor car into town and go into the bank. Cheque guarantee cards are already gone. When will we see the demise of the cheque completely?

Had I turned up at a customer site in 1992 by train or in a taxi, I would have been regarded as being a bit of an oddball. By 2002, I was arriving for Central London courses in a taxi; parking a car in the city, paying the congestion charge, getting equipment from the car park to the training room was troublesome. Now in 2012, I assess each individual course location, and more often than not there's a train involved - very often a bus too, sometimes a taxi. And in 20 years, my annual private care mileage has dropped from around 25,000 to around 5,000.
(written 2012-03-31, updated 2012-04-07)

 
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Rising prices, changing habits and society
Spring 2012
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Future train services in Wiltshire - please write in to support a better service
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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