The unfairness of competition

What better way to ease oneself gently into a relaxing weekend than to peruse the wit and profundity that is the South China Morning Post’s letters page? Cynics may mock, but the five humble columns of print often contain more common sense, sanity and even wisdom than a pile of Legislative and Executive Councils high enough to reach the moon.

The paper gives pride of place to a modest suggestion that resolves the Great Impossible Nomination Committee Gordian Knot Conundrum, and does so elegantly. While Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen gets kicked about for taking the name of the Heritage Foundation in vain – it seems the think-tank is in favour of full, not quasi-, democracy – an ordinary member of the public puts pen to paper for five minutes and does his job for him, envisioning a system where candidates can be…

 

The formula allows for an open nomination of Chief Executive candidates upon approval by 100,000 electors or a well-represented political party. And it allows the Communist one-party state to screen out undesirables through admirably objective and reasonably workable loyalty tests.

So that’s that sorted out.

Other letter-writers correct Commerce Secretary Greg So’s deranged estimation of Hong Kong’s ability to accommodate more shopper-tourists, tell Financial Secretary John Tsang all he needs to know to fix our narrow tax base, and warn our leaders to beware the Heung Yee Kuk’s attempts to entrench absurd and unsustainable entitlements via the small-house policy. A few more pages of this, and our entire policymaking and legislative functions can shut down and go home, job done.

One letter takes issue with a small and slightly bemusing recent item in the SCMP’s Lai See column, apparently criticizing convenience store chain 7-Eleven for unfairly competing with Lan Kwai Fong bar owners. The 7-Eleven sells a can of beer for (say) HK$15, while the adjoining establishments charge (I’m guessing) five times that for the identical quantity of liquid, albeit served at a table in a fancy glass and in badly-lit, noisy, fake-‘exclusive’ surroundings.

It’s a mark of how other-worldly the Big Lychee has become that the opening of an outlet giving consumers a lower-priced alternative is viewed as a bad thing – unfair to the precious and noble incumbents who signed an extortionate lease with a landlord in the certain belief that no competition could possibly undercut them. It reminds me of the time a few years ago when the open-air Indian and Malaysian restaurants of ‘Rat Alley’ just off classy, stylish Lan Kwai Fong were busted by the food and hygiene gestapo. Local super-landlord Allen Zeman sniffed that ‘they don’t pay any rent’ for the sidewalk space they occupy. Which of course is why the food is better value for money than in the plastic, inauthentic dining places in Zeman’s adjoining high-rises.

One of the great mysteries of Hong Kong is how so many 7-Eleven stores can operate 24-hours a day just yards apart selling exactly the same 20 brands of chewing gum, 10 flavours of snack, 20 varieties of condom, and little else. Obviously, the idea is to package certainty with the convenience: you know exactly what they don’t sell, as well as what they do, and they save on costs by limiting their inventory to the highest-turnover, dollars-per-shelf-inch items. (I remember a time when my local 7-Eleven sold eggs, singly – showing my age.) The point is that the convenience stores are hardly paragons of consumer choice.

But that doesn’t compare to that even greater mystery: how we got brainwashed into thinking the interests of rent-seeking cartels are supreme and the role of the consumer is to serve suppliers of goods and services. It is the most pernicious form of trickle-down. Taking their cue from the property tycoons, whole swathes of economic players have come to see competition as not merely harmful to their interests, but as unfair. Political leaders handed power on a plate presumably don’t see the irony.

I declare the weekend open with a helpful shoppers’ tip: the 7-Elevens more than two minutes’ walk from Lan Kwai Fong (think Escalator-Land) sell a can of beer for a good 30-40% less even than their counterparts ravaging the pretentious overpriced wine-bars in D’Aguilar Street.

 

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14 Responses to The unfairness of competition

  1. Joe Blow says:

    Alan Zeman did not pay any rent either for the outside seats in front of California. Neither does he pay rent for his other restos/bars because he owns the building. But he still charges absurd prices for the food in his ‘concept’ restaurants. You know the kind: 1/F ‘authentic’ Japanese, 2/F ‘authentic’ Mexican, 3/F ‘exclusive’ French etc etc. (who actually goes there ?)

    As a long-time and satisfied customer of 7-11 I always guide my out-of-town guests there, stock up on cold Heinies ($10- for a king can) and give them a tour of the tourist trap (“look, a fake monk from China !”, “look, a hooker from China !”) that is LKF. Once we reach the top of the street, we toss the empty cans in the bin and make our way to Wyndham Street and Soho.

  2. Gumshoe says:

    Once again, affordable solutions aimed at lower income come under fire for being “unfair” while collusion between local business owners is seen as the system. It extends all the way from 7-11 to new housing projects, I can’t see why anyone is surprised.

  3. PHT says:

    Guess you haven’t been to 7-11 lately. You can generally get 2 16-ounce cans of Tsingtao for less than $15.

  4. Oneleggoalie says:

    Proboscisman and his like give us an indication of why many of them were “employed” in the orchestra in 40’s Germany and Austria…

    …fact he sought a Mainland Chinese passport does explain so much Western history…regarding the chosen ones…

    …but back to levity…ie…local politics…ooops…lunch.

  5. Stephen says:

    With all this cheering about 7-11, especially if it means giving Allen Semen a slap, isn’t it true that 7-11 in Hong Kong is run by that great bastion of free competition, employer of Caroline Mak (build shopping centres’ and from the mainland they will come) and let’s put Domestic Helpers in Carparks – Dairy Farm, (Jardine Matheson)?

    BTW in my local 7-11 you can buy two ordinary sized cans of Tsing Tao for less than two cans of Coca Cola. Well sugar is the new nicotine, alcohol, heroin.

  6. Nullah says:

    oneleggoalie: trolling and antisemitism par excellence

  7. reductio says:

    @Nullah

    Exactly. oneleggolalie you are a scumbag. And what’s with the all the 3-dots?

  8. Maugrim says:

    The only thing I’ll add is that the aforementioned 711 and the gutter out the front, is a defacto clubhouse now for International school students . Hemmers was right, how can competing 711s make a profit ?

  9. reductio says:

    “During the operation, three male expatriate officers posing as tourists visited Lan Kwai Fong on Saturday evening.

    The “mama- san” approached them and said she could arrange a multiplay sex party.

    The officers were led to an Admiralty hotel, where nine call girls entered a room.

    Drugs were also supplied to stimulate the customers.”

    Nine call girls and you need drugs ? !

  10. Maugrim says:

    Reductio, I saw that. I wonder if “cuddles” went lol.

  11. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    @reductio – I assumed the “…” was short for to “[you know what I’m talking about, eh eh, but I’m not racist, some of my best friends…]”

  12. Sid says:

    reductio, Remember, all white policemen are of a certain age… At which the regenerative (and indeed creative) capacities are…

  13. @reductio – I suspect the drugs were blue and diamond-shaped. But you’re spot on about Oneleggoalie’s nauseating piece.

    What I want to know is why every convenience store and supermarket in Hong Kong stocks exactly the same 10 types of candy bar. A few larger supermarkets have a slightly bigger choice, but you would think someone would offer a different selection.

  14. Sojourner says:

    Wow … Out and out anti-Semitism of the most repellent kind from our friend, Oneleggoalie.

    Come on, Hemmers, I know you are very tolerant and leery of censoriousness concerning what get posted here, but can you at least issue a yellow card on this occasion?

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