Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Problem with Communism

I try to avoid Walmart. Something about the place just rubs me the wrong way. I could get into the nitty gritty of labor relations, support of cheap and inhumane Chinese labor, etc., but that's not really the problem. I don't know what it is. Despite my disdain for Wally World, in Laramie, Walmart just sucks you in. It's like a huge black hole sitting on the eastern edge of town. It sucks in everything and everybody. At any given point in time, it seems like half the town is there. We don't have many places in our fair "city" where we can part with our hard earned cash for crap we don't need, and Walmart often has what you don't really need at a really cheap price. That's their shtick, I know. I don't really want to write about Walmart, except it is a good point of departure for where I want to go.

Most of time when I go out to buy something, I want to be left alone. I don't want to be harassed by "helpful" store employees, even the Helpful Hardware Man. There are times, however, when you must throw in the towel and ask for assistance. Everybody who works at Walmart is easy to identify by those blue smock/vests with that saying "How may I help you?" plastered across their back. Yet, for some reason, whenever you need some help, you can't find anybody to actually help you. When you do find somebody, you see this stupid saying on their back as they're walking AWAY from you! It's very ironic.

There are other times when you need help, too. Let's say you go to Ace Hardware. You want to buy a bunch of some product that is heavy and bulky... let's say concrete mix. Yes, I need twenty 80 lbs bags of Quikrete. I need somebody to help me load it into my truck. The gal at the register rings me up and then gets on the mic and announces to the store, "I need someone to help this pansy load a ton of concrete into his truck." No, she didn't really say pansy, but allow me some poetic license. I go outside, and pull my truck around to the concrete. I start loading it myself, waiting for one of the five young guys in red vest/smocks to come help. At bag 16, I realize nobody is coming. Why did nobody come?

It's pretty simple, really. When something is everybody's responsibility, it is nobody's responsibility (think of the office refrigerator). When some undesirable task needs to be done, and it is assigned to one of you people out there, it is easier to assume or hope that somebody else will do it. In fact, there is no punishment for not doing it. Those five guys are all thinking the same thing, "It's cold out there. That concrete is heavy. She didn't say my name. I'll let somebody else handle this." Or maybe one or two of those guys are thinking, "Why do I always have to do this shit? It's Marc's turn. He never does anything." This, my friends, is the problem with collectivism. When it is really easy not to do your part, then many people will choose not to. When you can do nothing and get the same reward as somebody who does something (or get no punishment), why not do nothing? It is easy to cheat. Given enough time, cheating will overwhelm the system, and it will collapse.

By paragraph four, you should be asking yourself, "What the hell does this have to do with bowling?" Nothing really. Instead, it's about that donate button on the top of the page. Let me very briefly explain its genesis. This whole blog grew out of my spreadsheet. I started tracking stats and reporting them to the team. My spreadsheet is a useful tool, so I made it available for free to the whole world. Then, people started asking for changes... more stats, different configurations, etc. I spent a huge amount of time completely revamping it into its current form. One guy who made a request suggested I add the donate button. I did. [He never donated.]

Here were my thoughts on the matter. The spreadsheet is a useful thing. A lot of people like it. A lot of people use it. It is the product of my hard work. I have a product for which I control the supply, and there is demand for it. I should get something back for it. BUT... there are already plenty of bowling stats things out there already, some for free and some for sale. I don't feel like getting into competitive entrepreneurship. Instead, I'll just give it away for free and reap the benefits of the good will of the people. Holy cow, am I a naive idealist! That spreadsheet has been downloaded HUNDREDS of times, maybe more. I don't really track it very often. It accounts for something like 20% of the traffic to this blog. That's something like 1,500 hits. How many donations have been made? One donation. All of my hard work has yielded $10 (before PayPal took out their cut).

Why don't people donate? It's just like the kids at the hardware store. Everybody thinks to themselves, "I'll let somebody else do it." Plus, they have no idea how much money I've made. Perhaps they think, "He's probably made a grand on that spreadsheet. That's plenty." So... yeah, I feel a little cheated, but that's ok. I never expected to make much money on it.

Which brings me to my final point. I could, if I really wanted to, stop giving it away for free. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of copies of it out there already, if not more. I intend to keep updating it and improving it, so yeah, the old versions are out there, but the new ones won't be. I could make people pay a small amount for it, say 100 pennies. If I do this, I think they'll just go elsewhere. Instead, I think I'll just remove the button. I gotta say, though, it makes me feel a bit like people just keep bending me over and having their way.

It gives me relatively little incentive to make it better. My good will has its limits, I guess. In the end, this also speaks to the problem with capitalism, which ironically is also the problem with bowling. I SUCK AT IT.


  1. You can't beat the $3 Merlot (Wal-Mart's answer to two-dollar Chuck in Calif.)...

  2. You should put the button back! One donation is better than no donations. Also maybe people will eventually get the point. The problem is that people don't understand how time consuming, frustrating, and difficult it is to program. I would bet that the BM spreadsheet is one of a kind. Perhaps, the only one out there. We need to sell it to the USBC - but they probably are the ones that downloaded it a 100 times for free. - Just like the big man to take something from the little man!

    Also other reasons to keep the button: The button looks cool on the website and who knows when we will need that button - we might come up with something else to sell. Perhaps BM merchandise, such as hats, t-shirts, and calendars. Okay the gear is a little out there - but we could some cool stuff with calendars (poses of your favorite movements, bowling mural art, the possibilites are endless)

  3. Or maybe I should sell it at Walmart!

  4. EB, sounds better as TWO-BUCK-CHUCK. Nonetheless. THE GEAR will happen! "Bowl Movements - Join the Movement!" bowling tees' have already been trademarked, I just need cash (and motivation)to print a few dozen.

  5. You guys are crazy. Who would buy a tee shirt that says "Bowl Movements"? I'm sure you could give them away for free, though. There are only 11 people who "follow" this blog. Of those, six of them are ourselves or our spouses. Of the remaining five, I'm pretty sure only two or three of them even pay attention. it's not like we have a product that anybody really wants. Generally, I think we are an amusing diversion to the occasional passerby.

  6. I feel the same way every time I read, "The Tragedy of the Commons". If only the recognition and high-fives of your peers was enough to pay the bills. We just need George Clooney to endorse this blog.

    PS- I didn't donate because I thought Marc was going to. That no-concrete-carrying oaf needs to be taught a lesson.


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