Goods and services

We, at college, have just been joined by a student doing his work attachment. He’s very good at PC repair and we’re learning from each other. Last week he replaced the faulty network adapter card in one of the PCs wiht a good one from an otherwise bad PC. He approached me with the defective card in his hand.
“This needs to be stored separately because it doesn’t work”, he said, “or labled so we don’t mistake it for a good one”.
I looked at the small piece of plastic with two chips glued and soldered to it, and a metal plate for attaching it to the PC case. The words “no user serviceable parts inside” did not come to mind, but they do now as I look back on the event.
“OK”, I replied, “lets store it separately in the bin”
He laughed. I don’t think he thought I was serious. I took the card from him and tossed it into the yellow plastic waste-paper basket in the lab. He looked horrified.

I remember locking myself out of my flat in Shepherds Bush one evening, after dinner at Blah Blah Blah with Mithi. It was almost midnight and I had to make a choice: Call a locksmith and pay GBP 140 for him to open my door or break in via a window and, in the morning, pay a glazier GBP 70 to replace one square foot of glass. In both cases the bulk of the cost was from the man’s time.

Once in Leicester I had the Vailant engineer come and replace a small part in my boiler. The bill read:

1 X Diaphram 40p
1 hour 75.00

Last week I had a man come and make a pig’s ear of attaching some wire mesh to my chimney to keep the rats from falling in. I overpaid him 100 KSH and still he had the cheek to ask if I could “add something”. But two metres of wire mesh and one kilogram of binding wire had cost me 490 KSH.

I already knew that the price balance of parts and labour was reversed over here from what it is in the UK but I’m just beginning to appreciate by how much.


  1. Lydia Says:

    "Let’s store it separately in the bin" is such a fantastic line – made me smile on my first day back at work after the summer.
    Why is the price balance so different? Is it stuff being imported and that raising price? Difference in value on people’s time?
    Has the mesh stopped the rats falling in and if so are the rats trying another portal? (With shimmery silver entrance and swirly vortex)

  2. tygger Says:

    god, what a long time ago …

    yup – i remember you wrapping your fist in a piece of newspaper to keep from injuring yourself. BUt what i remember even more is the one neighbour from down the hall (the people you bought the sofa from?) who peeked out to see what the noise was. I would have been quite dissapointed with the general neigbourlyness and security if NO-ONE had had the decncy to check on what was going on …

    maybe you should fix your chimney shield by yourself …

    hugs …

  3. Raj Says:

    I usually say "File it under ‘B’", either that or it’s "The round storage device under the table". 😛

    I suppose the cost difference is due to the fact the the average income of the people in Kenya is so low compared to the cost of living in the "west", so a device which is designed as a consumable in other markets actually costs a lot more relatively. … so people are loth to throw it away when it fails.

    Its a case of "It cost so much", so maybe I CAN fix it or use some of the bits.

    I have to remind myself that I have boxes of defunct computer parts scattered around my home which I don’t want to get rid of because when I bought them they were state of the art and quite expensive – If they’re working then at least I can reuse them, but if they are broken you might as well use them for fishbait.

  4. Mark Says:

    I’m trying to imagine what kind of fish youre aiming to catch, Raj.

    I love reading this kind of discussion and, I must admit, I hoped some of you would provide theories to account for the differences.

    I have tried to explain to some of my Kenyan friends that although at any given point in time in Kenya I have much less money than I had, even as a student (and I mean undergraduate, not post) in the UK, but the velocity of money is higher there because of the cashflow. My rent in Shepherds Bush was astronomical. Everything costs more — like Mithi says, the cost of living is higher (but so is the standard of living) — and you can get seriously into debt very quickly. Whereas here, it seems, one just goes on getting poorer and poorer.

    The cost of imported computer equipment is about the same here as it is in the UK. But the labour costs are much much smaller. My Glazier charged me about GBP 65 for an hour. Here I coulid probably get a man to help me for a day for 200 Bob (GBP 1.30 ish). Go figure.

  5. tygger Says:

    this might be a little off topic but its something i was thinking about yesterday whilst watching one of those reality/documentary things on telly.

    They’ve taken a bunch of teenage school kids for 6 weeks and are teaching them ala 1950s state grammar boarding school. I can’t say i agree with all the teaching methods, but a lot of the lessons were about learning life skills like driving, and brickworking, and parenting skills and cooking (including how to kill a chicken humanely, pluck it, clean it, and cook it!). I remember the Malaysian government for a while (was during my sister’s time, not mine, and don’t know about now) including as part of the syllabus something called "life skills" – basically how to do basic plumbing, and electricals, and bicycle repair etc. I really like the idea of these practical skills being taught in schools. I think it would be better if the parents did it, but in this day and age very few parents have the time …

    anyways, the point is, I was thinking "I wish I had been taught how to deal with minor plumbing problems at home so that i wouldn’t have to call someone in to do it" – ie me asking you to fix the wire mesh yourself … but then i thought, if everyone COULD do those things themselves, how would the actual plumbers and electritians and bicycle repaires make money? So in a strange way, its GOOD that we give these people money to do these things for us (although it might be a tad exhorbitant at times), It gives them a vocation, and keeps them off poverty ….

    (god this was long!)

  6. raj Says:

    Fish – the lesser spotted deepwater "electronic" guppy of course. Officials are looking to this beast to reduce the pile of electronic waste generated worldwide. The process involves taking the electronic scrap out to sea and tossing it overboard, well at least that what I THINK they are trying to feed it with ;P.

    If not that then I suppose you could make jewelery out of it – just like when the uk government scrapped the TSR-2 in the 70’s.

    Speaking of which I’ve seen Masai wearing padlock earrings, so why not a couple of burnt out ICs, maybe a whole NIC ?, might chafe the shoulders though! … something else to barter with ?

  7. Mark Says:

    What was a TSR-2?

    Im sure I should know this but can’t think what it might be.

  8. Jan Says:

    Fish… Mackral they eat anything .. they go for feathers so why not ?? Jan

  9. Mark Says:

    This has become very surreal.
    Im going to feed the old NIC to the first Mackerel I meet.
    Thank for you all for your contributions.
    Anyopne have the number of a good psychologist?

  10. Raj Says:

    TSR 2, here you go

    The RAF commissioned a figher-bomber in the late 50’s and the project was cancelled in the mid 60’s, I remember seeing old news-pics of models wearing circuit boards which had ben scavenged from the project after it was cancelled.

  11. Mark Says:

    I don’t care if you **can** find URLs to back you up, you
    still sound crazy to me.

  12. Raj. Says:

    🙂 😀 😛 😀 🙂

    I try my best !

    We’re off on holiday next week – a week in sunny Scotland near Stirling in September.

    Work has been trying of late, so looking forward to the break !

    With any luck we’ll avoid the rain (and if I do get some I’ll put it in an envelope and send it to you in Tala) !

  13. Mark Says:

    Good. Send me a bit of scotland!
    Hey you can visit Chris!

    Have a great holiday.

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