February 2009

The price is right?

By David Feela

People are struggling to find a better way to survive these uncertain times. Some have put their faith in the president while others have embraced patience and a sense of history to see us beyond this crisis. I’d like to believe in our American automakers, a think tank of latent innovation that sadly cannot seem to reach outside the box they’ve created. I mean, if they can’t sell the vehicles they’re producing, why would Americans be excited at the news that the automakers are giving them away?

It’s not just the automobile industry. Consider Frontier airline. This company recently announced a new fare structure to “put customers in the driver’s seat.” It will now offer three classes of flights: Economy, Classic, and Classic Plus. Traditionally, it had only two classes: First class and economy. A cynic might conclude that the new fare structure will shrink the number of economy seats available, forcing passengers to “choose the upgrade” because, of course, they want to fly that way. I would recommend, instead, that the automaker’s strategy be applied: Buy one seat and the seat next to you is free. That way, no matter how smelly, overweight, or obnoxious the person assigned to the seat beside you turns out to be, you’ll have the option to keep both seats, securing an insular flight, one that might encourage you to patronize the same airline the next time you fly.

The housing crisis is full-blown. Properties that homeowners purchased only a year ago are barely worth half the seller’s investment. Never mind that the banks that received bailout money to help with foreclosures have used that money to buy up the banks that didn’t get approved for bailout money. What to do? Why not follow the automakers’ lead and offer two houses for the price of one? Apparently, there are plenty to go around. Homeowners will be able to make their payments by renting their second house. I’ll bet they’ll even set reasonable rental rates. No sense in having an unoccupied home next door to you that decreases property values.

The jobless figures continue to rise. Let’s follow the automaker’s strategy for financial solvency to its logical end: Get hired for one job, have to work a second job for free. Of course, Americans have been doing something like this for quite some time just to make ends meet, but once it becomes official, employers won’t have to be portrayed as the bad guys for laying off workers in record-breaking numbers. They’ll have the freedom to employ their pre-recessional workforce at half the salary. And if we can repeal the child labor laws, maybe the kids can fill in for mom or dad while one of them is at home trying to make dinner.

Naturally, America is worried about the escalation of violence in the world. What with Iraq and Iran, India and Pakistan, North Korea and South Korea, Russia and Georgia, Israel and Palestine, Americans realize something drastic must be done. Once again, I propose the American automaker’s answer for survival: Conquer one country, get the one beside it for free. I know, it sounds ludicrous, but remember where we live -- in America. All it takes is a trip to Wal-Mart to realize survival is just a matter of marketing, and that the human heart will only be as strong as Wall Street.

David Feela writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.