Neil Young and the 1 cent change


Neil Young is no longer so young: he must be well north of 70 yet his high tenor voice is still in mint condition. I recently bought his latest album, Storytone, and it’s superb*.

For a double-disk album Storytone is remarkably inexpensive. At my local music store, the price sticker said $19.99, but the sales assistant asked me for $20. I handed him a $20 bill. “Where’s my change?” I inquired politely. He just laughed. I sniggered back and we shared the unspoken joke – a derisive chuckle at the ridiculous pricing policy of retailers.

As you know, this practice is encountered in almost every bottle shop. It’s vaguely irritating. Why can’t retailers be honest, and just put $20 on the price sticker? Are we punters really so dumb that we can be tricked into thinking $19.99 is a better price than $20?

I recall once seeing a bottle of wine priced at $199.99. Who did they think they were kidding?

For those readers in Siberia and Outer Mongolia, I must point out that Australia no longer has a one-cent coin. Or a two-cent. They’re for kids, and coin collectors. We gave them up years ago. So why pretend they still exist?

I guess if I’d paid with a credit card, as most customers probably do, they might have charged me the correct amount.

But seriously, if every transaction resulted in the music store stealing one cent per $20 sale, after each million dollars in sales they would have creamed $10,000. That’s not to be sniffed at.

*Footnote for Neil Not-So-Young fans. The album contains the same 10 tracks on each disc: on one disc Neil is accompanied by other musicians including an orchestra; on the other, he’s accompanied only by himself on various instruments. This is Neil Young in a gentle, reflective mood. It’s the opposite of Rust Never Sleeps, for example. His singing here often reminds me of the landmark After The Goldrush and Harvest albums. Not bad memories at all. It’s subtitled ‘An album of rare beauty’, which would seem a little pretentious if it weren’t true. 

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