Supply and Demand. It’s an easy concept. The more a product is in demand, the more you supply it. And if you have more supply than demand, it goes down in price. If you have more demand than supply, then the price goes up. Just ask Apple. They have that one down to a science.
Supply and demand wasn’t something drilled into me. I honestly can’t remember where I learned this lesson, whether it was school, observation or just my first job hocking pizzas at the local food mart. It was something I just knew. Like how you naturally know snow flakes are awesome to eat, but yellow snow isn’t, or that you can’t give mouth-to-mouth to a fish. Well, you can, but don’t expect much by way of results.
Actually, the latter example was discovered by direct experience. Please don’t ask me to explain. Everybody else thought it was funny as heck, though.
Anyway, it’s an easy concept to grasp. Any store clerk can figure it out, or any kid who wants the latest toy and suddenly finds that it’s fifty dollars more than before all of his friends wanted in on that action. But here’s the point of this post: This plain and simple concept is not always a plain and simple concept.
Let me regale you with a tale of yesteryear, and let me assure you, this story is true.
Back in my early twenties, I had a chance to visit Hungary for a while. This was in the early nineties, so Hungary, as a country, was fairly fresh out of Communism, the dust from the Iron Curtain falling hadn’t even settled yet.
ADHD moment! Did you know that very recently, there was an underground bike race held in Budapest? Seriously, why couldn’t that have happened when I was in the old country? In case you don’t believe me, here’s a link! Underground Bike Race in Budapest
And by the way, it’s pronounced Buda Pesht. Whenever you see an “S” in Hungarian, it’s pronounced “Sh.” But that’s neither here nor there.
So back in the bad old days, my buddy and I would go down to the corner store in a city called Pe’cs (pronounced “Peach” with a long-A sound) and pick up eight cinnamon rolls (two for each of us, two each for our buddies who lived down the street). But these weren’t ordinary cinnamon rolls, oh, no. These were the kind of cinnamon rolls Cinnabon wishes they could be. These were the warm, bready, icing-laced clouds of pure cinnamon Nirvana as close to as it’s ever going to get, AWESOMENESS that most cinnamon rolls aspire to be. They were CHOCOLATE cinnamon rolls.
Just when I thought nothing could be better than mixing chocolate in my peanut butter, these babies came along and made my life something special. And they only cost 50 cents each! Seriously, it just didn’t get better than this!
So the new, every day ritual was to wake up, hit the snooze bar a few dozen times, walk down to the corner store, buy a little slice of heaven for my three buddies and me, and begin my day.
That was, until one fateful day…
We walked into our favorite establishment, and walked to the wooden crate that would bring me such magnificent joy and happiness, and it was empty. We stared in dismay, my bosom buddy and I. We turned to the shopkeeper who looked at us with stunning indifference.
“What happened to the cinnamon rolls?” I’m not sure, but all these years later, I think I screamed it.
“We don’t sell them anymore.” He told us.
“Why not?” I’m pretty sure that was a scream, too.
“Because you keep buying them.”
I hate to say it, but it was true. We stared this shop keeper, this store owner square in the face, and he said, absolutely, that he would no longer sell his wares because we kept buying them. He also said that the reason why was because, if we kept buying them, other people couldn’t buy them also.
I have long since searched tirelessly to track down even a cheap imitation of these scrumptious delights. My life has never been quite the same since I tasted these, and then they were taken from me. Coming back to America hasn’t helped at all because, let’s face it: Doughnuts were never European pastries. I’ve tried everything. Once I was even caught sticking a candy bar in a cinnamon roll in a vane attempt to make that blessed state of perfection yet again, but alas, it was to no avail.
I also think back to that day, and that store keeper’s reaction. Sure, there’s a chance he didn’t want to sell to us because we were Americans. Prejudice has never been ignorant of country lines. But somehow, I don’t think that was the problem.
See, years under Communist rule must have had an effect on him. I never met a Hungarian who didn’t deny knowing Russian, even though it was a required course for all school children. But there was something else there. I think that shop owner had lost (or never had) the idea that we were what everyone else calls “Solid Customers.” We were always there, every morning rain or shine. It’s the kind of thing most shop owners would give a toe for. But we were turned away for being what every retail establishment dreams of.
I honestly believe that the concept of supply and demand, something that the free world wears like a second skin, was about as alien and foreign to this gentleman as dipping your fries in your Frosty from Wendy’s (Seriously, try it. It sounds super nasty, but once you start, you just can’t stop). On several levels, I think he was manipulated to think that there were always limited supplies of everything, because he had no control over his own store. Maybe, if I were to play devil’s advocate, he really turned us away because he felt it was unfair to others. He never once thought that if he just made more, we and his other customers could have some, and then we all win. Of course, this is all speculation and viewing facts as I understood them over twenty years ago. But if I’m right, I feel bad for that guy, because we could have given him a lot of money for a very long time. Then again, maybe I’m over thinking this.
After all, when you have something as divine as a chocolate-based cinnamon roll, it tends to invite your thoughts to dwell on the subject.