Friday, November 21, 2008

If Life Gives You Lemons..

Once upon a time a person decided to open a lemonade stand in front of his house. The lemonade was decent - nothing to rave about, but it was good, solid lemonade that made a great thirst quencher on a hot summer afternoon. He did well, as people from all over the neighborhood and surrounding areas came to buy the lemonade. As a result, this entrepreneur made a tidy sum of money from his venture.

A couple of other people on the block saw how profitable the lemonade stand was, and decided to open ones of their own. While this cut into the original stand's business, there was still enough to go around because there were plenty of people from the neighborhood and adjoining areas who were willing to make the short trip to the block that now had three competing lemonade stands.

Was any one of the lemonades better than the other? They were all pretty close in quality. It came down to a matter of personal preference, or which one happened to be priced a little bit cheaper than the others on any given day.

Despite the block having three lemonade stands, all of them continued to prosper.

Then one day, someone on another block opened her own lemonade stand. This new competition worried the three, but they figured they already had a lock on the business and why would anyone want to go elsewhere? Besides, their loyal customers told them that the lemonade made by the newcomer was horrible. Weak, insipid, way too tart for their tastes. They didn't trust it. Even though the newbie's lemonade was cheaper, it tasted cheaper as well.

As time went on, the original three lemonade stands, who now called themselves "The Big Three" altered the original formula of their lemonade; the dosage of sugar went up and up and up. Then they found it was cheaper to use high fructose corn syrup instead of real cane sugar so they began using that to cut costs, while still charging the same price for their products. People still kept on buying.

The Big Three's lemonade became more and more syrupy. Meanwhile, the owners of the stands were raking in the dough but never was it enough - so they found more ways to cut corners while making their lemonade, meaning more profit for themselves that they could take home. What the heck - they had all these loyal customers who didn't seem to care what the drink tasted like. They were the only game in town, anyway.

On the other block, the newbie kept experimenting with various recipes and people began to take notice. What once was a bitter, unappealing concoction now was tasting pretty darn good. For the same price as what the Big Three were charging, folks could get a quality, tasty glass of lemonade.

"I'm concerned about my sugar intake," one patron told her. "Can you make a low-calorie lemonade, but one that tastes good?"

The newbie went back to experimenting and came up with a low-calorie lemonade that was nearly indistinguishable from the regular calorie version.

On the other block, the same question posed of the Big Three resulted in their shoving a glass of unsweetened lemonade at the customer. After the customer's mouth managed to untangle their severe pucker, they spit it out and asked what that drink was supposed to be.

"It's low-cal lemonade. It's lemons and no sugar. Take it or leave it," they said with obvious disdain.

So the patrons left it. Meanwhile, the newbie on the other block continued to attract new customers, many of them former patrons of the Big Three. The newbie said she gave her customers what they wanted, simple as that. And she didn't skimp on her ingredients.

Incensed and outraged at losing business to this upstart newbie, the Big Three spent a lot of their time and money trying to shut down the newbie's business. Their enlisting of politicians, lawyers and policemen proved unsuccessful, though. They even tried to convince their neighbors that it was unpatriotic to buy from someone on another block, but their neighbors, who could discern the difference in quality, ignored their pleas and went to the newbie's stand.

Eventually, the newbie's lemonade business surpassed that of the Big Three. Times got bad in general for the neighborhood and most people didn't have the spare change (actually greenbacks) to buy much lemonade. The Big Three suffered more and more.

"This isn't fair," they declared. So they all went to the local government and asked for a handout to keep them going. "If you don't give us some money to tide us over and help us pay for our ingredients and our salaries, we'll go out of business and that means disaster for our neighborhoods. No one will have lemonade to drink anymore!"

The politicians thought about that. Some wanted to immediately raise the local property taxes in order to bail out the poor Big Three lemonade stand owners. "It will indeed be a disaster," they proclaimed, "if these great stands that represent lemonade history close down and there's no more lemonade available."

Other politicians with cooler heads spoke up. "Uh, excuse me, but there's the newbie stand on the other block that still makes lemonade and on top of that, it tastes better and is the same price. Why should we prop up the Big Three whose lemonade keeps getting worse and worse every year when there's better lemonade to be had elsewhere?"

"Because it's unAmerican!" shouted the Big Three. "We've been dealing in lemons for such a long time, how can you just turn away from us in our time of need???"

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