Posted by: nickgerlich | October 20, 2007

Counting the Cost

While the adoption of a new brand, and especially a new format, carries with it certain monetary and non-monetary costs, imagine what happens when we fail to buy in to the new? This choice can be one of simple economics, customer choice, or simple resistance to change. In either regard, it can sometimes be costly to not join the crowd, because you fall behind.

Take for example the people who have chosen, for one reason or another, to not buy a personal computer (and I don’t care at this point whether it is a PC or a Mac). Think about the “cost” of not conforming: no email or access to the internet (unless you go to a library or internet cafe), as well as reduced access to information. And let’s not forget that without a computer, you can’t do very well in an online class!

What about cell phones? The phones themselves are now cheap, as are the service plans. By not owning one, you are making it impossible to stay in touch with others, especially in the event of a roadside emergency. No cable or satellite TV? Then you have only what is broadcast over the airwaves. No broadband? Have fun waiting on dial-up to deliver the goods. No compact disc player? Good luck finding new releases on LP or cassette. Same goes for those who resist the move to DVDs.

Amish BuggyBut I am reminded each summer of the Amish when I host my cycling camp in southwestern Wisconsin. Invariably several of our routes take us through rural Amish communities, where the people ride in horse-drawn buggies and use horse-drawn farm implements, draw their water from a well, and live the simple life. No phones. No electricity. No email. No cars.

And you know what? For all the “costs” they incur for not “getting with the program,” they sure seem to be a happy group of people. Each June when we stop at the place we know simply as “The Amish Bakery” near Norwalk, we have a delightful time interacting with these folks. Never mind that they bake a mean pie! This bakery is in a house, and the large family simultaneously farms and sells baked goods.

I will never forget the scene this summer when, while sitting on the front porch indulging in baked delights, we heard a sound at the window. We looked up to see four cute Amish children with their noses to the glass, looking outside at my Lycra-clad buddies and me.

It was then I realized that two planets had just collided.

Although we were worried about cell phone reception in this remote area, and striding pricey titanium bikes, they were no doubt just taking a break from chores…chores that sound like horribly hard work to me.

And while there certainly can be costs of slowly or never adopting innovations, there’s something to be said for the happiness of those who don’t. My elderly uncle in the midwest is perfectly content with no computer or CDs, and likes a basic radio. My mother-in-law has no use for cable TV. And my parents even gave away their laptop. They would rather just call us.

While those of us “in the know” often make fun of these neo-Luddites, it would pay us all to remember that being the first to leap only makes a select few happy. Sometimes there is happiness to be found in not following the crowd.

Dr “Trying To Make Sense Of It All” Gerlich

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