Tuesday, June 8

Italy's Economy: Business Weak

Well, as the economy takes its toll on first Greece, then maybe Spain, and really all of Europe, we settle into a general State of Denial in preparation for the World Cup.  The players, making a zillion times the average Giovanni's salary, we cheer on while our own sort seems played out by the number of kicks an average soccer ball takes in a game.  And so, as we're told to tighten our belts, as even politicians take a pay cut (don't worry, they will more than make up for it in handouts, free apartments, cash payments in small envelopes, and the 'privatization' by buddies of the most essential services - like water), some habits just seem to die really hard:  Like raising prices in a recessionary economy.

So, here are a few doozies of the week - a short list of those brainy ideas to keep business in Italy weak:

My favorite group on earth, the Taxi Drivers are upset.  They're upset because they have to charge a fixed rate into Rome (40 euro). They're upset that the guys from Fiumicino city get to charge more (€60 - presumably because they can't pick up clients in Rome). They're upset that they keep getting fined for transgressions, like running the meter on the teenie no. 2 when it's supposed to be on the teenie no. 1 (you can email me for an explanation of what that's supposed to mean).
Their solution?  Raise the fee a good 25% to a nice even €50 for all.  Italians love round numbers - just look what happened to your morning caffè after the introduction of the euro.
My solution? Send 'em all to a basic economics course about supply & demand.

Another austerity solution being bantered about is, in an effort to reduce tax evasion, to reduce cash payments.  I'm not sure if this will apply to under-the-table payments or payments to your transvestite hooker or not, nor how they'd control this, but, it's a fascinating start.
Fascinating because, as a foreign credit card-wielding consumer, I am unable to make any online purchases...say, for telephone calls, train tickets, and assorted  sundry items.  This, for 'security' reasons.
As a result? I am pushed into the netherworld of 'cash only' transactions, just like an Al Qaeda wannabe...Next thing you know, I'll be picked up by Interpol when purchasing fertilizer for my plants.  
Like the taxis before them, the Feds can't figure out the most simple rule of espionage:  get a paper trail.  All I know is that I can't wait til the law takes effect.

And, while we're on the subject of cash payments, my house guests recently asked me how much it cost to send a postcard to the USA.  I have no idea, but I think it is the same amount as a letter (6o cents).  And then, my thoughts turned to those heady, anarchic days of the Italian postal service:
When, you could send a postcard for cheap, provided that you only signed your (totally illegible) name.
When, whistfully adding a 'Rome is nice - wish you were here', that was considered a letter - and it cost more to mail.
When I finally had learnt this simple formula, it was like discovering the Holy Grail.  It explained the ridiculously plain cards from friends & relatives in Italy over the years, and why, I'd always be charged a different stamp - sometimes with the clerk actually counting the words.  I now knew how Newton felt when he let that apple fall.

Nowadays, everything has been streamlined, so it's one fee, and not up to the clerk behind the 12 inch thick window whose lips are moving but no sound vibrations  emanate your way.
And, while I'm going postal, I'd like to lodge a formal complaint against Amazon.fr (France).  If you purchase a French book from the marketplace, the price indicated is 2.99 postage&handling.  By the time you check out, they've added 3 euro to your till.
Even though it costs the same now to ship to Italy as in France, they charge you as if you lived in a tree house in the heart of New Guinea.  I received a book with 1.35 euro postage.  I was charged 5.99 for the courtesy.  And they want me to 'rate this vendor'? Really?

It's not Caveat Emptor.  My new motto in an internet age:  Caveat Venditor.

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