Ooo, I just got a new phone. Well, when I say “new” I more accurately mean “new to me” since it has been used by another individual, a lovely friend with beautiful hair who gave me a great deal. Anyhoo, it is a Blackberry (and no, I am not a paid spokesperson so there is no need for any full disclosure or anything so I just tell you so you know what we’re working with here – don’t you have to be some kind of super-something in order to be a spokesperson? How could I get in on that gig??) and quite different than my previous phone. And I am very unfamiliar with how to work it. I think I might be able to call someone, and I did figure out how to play solitaire, always essential, right? But here’s the question I’ve got: why oh why do I have to pay for two lines individually rather than getting to add a line for $10 or whatever? And if, technically, one could add another line for the aforementioned $10, why wouldn’t a bunch of friends and family get together, get a plan with unlimited minutes, and then just pay $10 plus chip in for the initial line in order to have super cheap phone service??

I actually have friends who banded together with their neighbors and went in on a dumpster for their alley rather than each family paying for their own individual trashcans and garbage service. True story. And what a great idea! It makes so much sense; why pay more separately than you would collectively? For the convenience of walking to your own driveway rather than an extra fifteen feet to the dumpster location a couple doors down? Certainly that can’t be the deal. I think it is because we as Americans in general think we are flying solo. It’s the whole bootstrap idea of doing a thing on your own without help from anyone else. Like that somehow makes you stronger than someone else. But what if that’s your natural bent? Wouldn’t it be stronger of you to receive assistance of some sort? But I digress. I’m more interested in the concept of community and working together to make us stronger than we would be individually. It’s like the groupon idea.

There is a growing movement for people to work together to negotiate better prices on services or merchandise. So in China, apparently, people show up to the store that sells siding for your house, for example. You, gentle Reader, probably know more about this than I do! But these people go somewhere together and say, “Look, we all want siding, and we’re willing to buy it in bulk from you, but you better get us a good deal.” Then the employee/manager comes up with a certain price. And if it’s not good enough, the people demand a better price. Maybe the manager throws in some fascia (you would never know what fascia is unless you’re in the industry or you’ve had to fix it on your home! The word gives no hint as to its identity!). And the people decide if that deal is good enough or not. If it isn’t, they stage what amounts to a sort of sit-in to get a better price. “No, no, we won’t go!” And they hang around, taking up space and applying pressure for the store to give them what they want. It’s not like the store loses out in the deal – think of the sales they’ll generate if they lower their price but give that price to tons of people instead of giving a higher price to only a couple people. How cool is that?

And I’ve seen advertisements for a similar idea here in the United States. Some company contacts a retailer and works out a group coupon, or “groupon”, for that day only, and anybody who wants to can use that discount. Now, if that coupon was on milk, bread, bananas or graham crackers, I would jump on it in a heartbeat. I can’t keep those things stocked in the house. Or diapers? Hook me up! I do hope we’ll be done with them at our house soon, but until then, I’d love to pay half as much! Maybe I could arrange a groupon for Christmas presents this year instead of trying to make mittens out of old sweaters (didn’t work) or knit hats for family (ended up being more of what can only be described as a tea cozy or toaster cover of sorts). I think everyone would thank me. Power to the collective people!