Somewhere Near The Tip

I was eating a whole grain English Muffin and steeping a cup of mate' when I realized how victimized I am by surges of popularity in our modern economy. I am a fan of Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point theories to the point of near obsession. Ever since I read the book I have been dissecting the marketing scheme behind everything from cat food to the Iraq War.

In my mind I envision Gladwell as the guy who plays Ugly Betty's boyfriend. (Exhibit A - Exhibit B.) I often hear myself wonder pensively "what would Malcolm say?" which in today's economy would cost me around $10,000 to verify if I hired him for a function.

Nevertheless I heard Soledad OBrien use the term "tipping point" in regards to the Iraq war and it has been buzzing in my head ever since. It bothers me that "tipping" is now the target and we are developing a new competitive arena around the concept. I suppose there are Mullah's and Imam's having similar conversations about "tipping" the insurgency.

The term will likely go the way of Kleenex and BandAids, and lose it's meaning altogether when eventually everyone will be trying to make something tip, and the mysterious psychological forces will no longer be mysterious... just mechanical.

Anyway... back to the mate'. There was a time when I saw a mate' kit on an end cap at Whole Foods and was disinclined to pay $8 because I was afraid it would taste nasty and I would want my $8 back. A few years later, just before the tip, the price of mate' has gone way down and its availability way up.

I can buy it at nearly any local grocery for about the price of other Rooibos or Specialty Tea which is cheap enough for me to try it and, as it turns out, like it very much. My wife's yoga instructor drinks it everyday. He likes it enough to buy it wholesale. You can also get an expensive version of it at Teavana if you live near a wealthy neighborhood mall.

So the lesson to learn is that if you find something you like you want to tell just enough people about it to get the price down, but must live with the fact that if something becomes too popular and "tips" it will begin to suck.

For instance... Denver used to be the coolest place to live for like 50 years. Now it's so crowded nobody goes there anymore. (ibid; Yogi Berra.) And the price of living there is going up so fast you can' t afford to live there, or at least we can't, or we would. Too bad. Denver is "post-tip."

On the other hand, flat screen TV's are just popluar enough to increase availability, but the price is still too high. You can't leave a WalMart without seeing one on a flatbed pushed by a beaming redneck. But in about a year they will be as cheap as a wristwatch calculator and then my wife and I can afford to buy one, but they will no longer be cool. Also too bad. Flat screens are "pre-tip"

Whole grains and organics however are tipping as we speak. We were ahead of the tip a few years ago when I used to put flax seed in my organic unbleached whole grain oatmeal, but we had to drive two hours round trip to put that together. Now you can get whole grain organic stuff at the Stop-N-Go and that's fine with me. It's still tipping and will likely get cheaper until the government starts to regulate it, so stock up.

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