Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drilling the Molehill for Some Oil

Letter from my alter ego to the Editor of The Star, posted on 24th June 2008 but to date, remains unpublished:

It did get published!
Here is the link until it gets removed. And am upset they didn't use my nama samaran!

Dear Editor,

I think PDAM (Petrol Dealers' Association of Malaysia) is making a mountain out of a molehill. Frankly, my first reaction upon reading the SMS alert and then the full reports on The Star Online was “oh dear, another one jumping on the crude oil bandwagon.” Disclaimer: I do not work for a credit card company. Therefore, I stand to gain nothing commercially from supporting the continued use of credit cards at the petrol pump. I am, however, a reluctant credit card user because I use it sparingly except when it comes to filling up at a petrol kiosk.

I use my credit card exclusively at petrol stations because it allows me the convenience of filling up with the least amount of hassle. It saves me an additional trip to the ATM to withdraw cash for the transaction. Which truncates the added danger of losing greater amounts of money should I be mugged (because no one can be too careful in today’s society, can they?). A credit card transaction also makes it transparent and accountable on which all details are automatically recorded and printed. It also makes it easier to reference in case of a dispute. Now, in this day and age of wonderful technology, why would PDAM want to go back to the techno-stone age? For a couple of sen?

Let’s also not forget that credit cards encourage greater spending (which explains my reluctance as a user) at the pump and at the convenience stores that have become ubiquitous at stations. Doesn’t this translate to higher consumer spend at PDAM outlets? Not to mention the convenience of filling a full tank as opposed to being limited to the amount of cash that one has at that point in time. Credit cards now have a built in convenience of loyalty programmes which drives customers back to certain brands petrol only, ensuring repeated and continued patronage.

And it can’t be that just because petrol prices have gone up, that their profit margins are disproportionately affected? I might be wrong on this but I can’t imagine their margins being so absurdly illogical or they might as well just give up the business, right? After all, who can afford to live on fresh air and sunshine these days?

It doesn’t take a genius to conclude this; the propensity of a credit card user to spend more at any petrol station is higher than a cash-only user. And credit card companies are trying to find yet other ways to drive consumers to buy more petrol on plastic. I would imagine that among those who will benefit greatly from all these efforts are the retailers who sell the petrol to these hungry consumers. Surely, that additional 0.8 sen per liter that they must now bear is a small price to sacrifice?

My two-sen worth.

J Lo

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Question of Mortality

I was at a friend's memoriam the other day. It wasn't a run-of-the-mill memoriam. It was at a pub and if the pub had a pool table, it would have been perfect... "Jen would approve" was the general sentiment. Jen was a year older and had passed on, mercifully, in her sleep. She simply went to bed and never woke up. And i thought to myself, "She was very lucky" and silently hoped the same mercy to be shown to me when my number is up. Which is when? Anyone's guess... When was my last med check? Hmm... better get the house gate painted for ma...

Today, another "friend" had left our midst. I did not know Toni well and had only occasion to speak with her via email. I have never even met her. But we were connected by association through events and common friends. Contemporaries. Peers. One of us.

And really, this time, the issue of questioning one's mortality was more apparent than ever. At the pub-hurray in Jen's memory earlier, a friend made a passing remark about how we have crossed the threshold into another age; when younger, it seemed to be "old" people who passed on. Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, grandparents of friends... it was Jen's passing that first brought on the dawn of a new age. One that saw us mourning our own peers. People we knew and we had contact with. People who touched our lives and made some kind of impact. It wasn't about their grandparents anymore. It was about they themselves. It was about us. And ultimately, it was about me. Amongst us.

And it was Toni's passing that brought on the reinforcement that it wasn't a fleeting thing. If mourning the death of each friend is to bring on an introspective reflection of sorts, we had better start getting used to it. It is as if crossing age 40 was a physical act of moving into a new era.

As a child, I never understood the concept of death. As a teen, I experienced for myself the pain of its loss when all four of my grandparents died in succession. In my twenties, death was real but it was far away. Going into thirties, I wondered why the older ones talked about death and always relished in its morbidity. Now at forty, I realise that it isn't about relishing, nor is it about morbidity. It is a means for us to deal with its reality and the relish is in what that self-reflection compels us to observe, do and think because of it.

My mortality is temporary. But morbid, it is not.