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You might be puzzled by what I am about to write given that I once wrote this. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I get up around 5:00am to get to work early so that I can prepare for my 9:00am class. On those days, I tend to stop at Tim Horton’s for a medium coffee on my way into work. I spend $1.51 each and every time I go. That adds up – well over $100 per year of spending on coffee.

Consider a couple of common perceptions of how commerce has affected our lives.

  1. Evil Tim Horton’s runs advertising campaigns that sway my preference from brewing my own coffee at home, and their convenient location forces me to drive by it and think about their coffee (and donuts) every time I must head to work.
  2. The ability to buy “coffee on the go” has added to the hectic, hustle and bustle of our lives, preventing us from being able to slow down and stop and smell the coffee (pardon the pun).
  3. Buying coffee from a stranger further contributes to the decline of community, friendship and family.

There was a time in my young life when I would have bought into these ideas. Brief thoughts on each.

  1. I drive by a smoke shop on many days home from work. These evil influence and cigar peddlers have never had any success at luring me in. If we were all malleable lumps of clay then how could some firms have success and others not? If you want to argue that time, information and resources are scarce, I welcome you to do that – because then you’d have a seriously hard time reconciling that (correct) fact with some other views you are likely to hold. Further is it not possible that Tim Horton’s located where they did because that is where people wanted them to be located? After all, there were many days that I wanted to purchase coffee outside the home and drove out of my way to get it. It is in the entrepreneurs’ interest to discover their customers desires and wants and to do their very best to meet them.
  2. Having the option to get my coffee at Tim Horton’s has considerably reduced how hectic my life feels. The last thing I want to be doing at 5am is brewing coffee. What I hate even more than that is that when I make coffee at home, my poor wife and kids end up being woken up by the clanking of the pot, the running of the water, and me fumbling around for my mug, creamer, spoon and napkin. That cost alone is well worth $1.51. But further than that, the entire process of making my own coffee, and then tossing the spent (hot) grinds, and cleaning the pot and kitchen takes me well over 10 minutes. If I am spending 10 minutes doing that, either I must get up 10 minutes earlier, or have my life run in faster speed than it already is. Suppose I make $30 an hour. Then aside from the inconvenience of the whole ordeal, I am “spending” at least $5 to make myself that coffee for 10 minutes at home.

    In retrospect, getting a hotter, better brewed, tastier, cup of coffee in a matter of a 60 second detour on my entire morning commute is an enormous benefit. Indeed, buying the coffee from Tim H. has allowed me to slow down, even if only for a bit, from an otherwise hectic life.

  3. At 5am, if I am making coffee for myself, I am not sitting down with anyone while sipping it. By going to Timmy’s every day, I have ended up knowing several of the staff there, who know what I like to order, and at least are able to exchange pleasantries, if not engage in more conversation. Further, Timmy’s sells newspapers, which I always scan and sometimes buy, which further connects me to the community. Timmy’s also allows community groups and individuals to post announcements and events on a bulletin board (not a big one here, but then think of Brueggers who has a huge board for this) further connecting me with going’s on and people in the community. Finally, the proprietor of my local Timmy’s regularly runs and sponsors family events – including a Halloween scare-fare and trick or treat for kids on the day before Halloween, and a Thanksgiving event during Thanksgiving week. Had I not been engaged in “impersonal commercial culture” I would never have known about these activities, and my children would be sitting home with me on those mornings rather than having fun and meeting other children from a social circle outside of their school peers.

Even if the coffee in my home were free, I would still go to Timmy’s at least 3 times a week. I like it, and that should count for something. But if I need to justify it, I think the case is a pretty strong one that the existence of the entrepreneurs at Tim Horton’s has enabled me to lower the costs of going about my life, and that is perhaps the most civilizing thing about commercial culture. I have more time to do the things I care about, and not only that, the quality of the things I consume continues to improve. Thank you Mr. Timmy Horton!

2 Responses to “You’re Throwing Away $1.51 per Day”

  1. emily says:

    I like this. I think its a pretty obvious argument for most people with a good grasp on economics, but its seldom spelled out as clearly as it is here simply because it is so obvious. I will bookmark this and send it along when I hear those arguments (and I do hear them, all the time).

  2. Speedmaster says:

    Well-stated, as usual.

    My coffee of choice is Dunkin’ Donuts several times/week. But I also like Tim Horton’s as he was once a Buffalo Sabre. Died in a car wreck near Toronto if I remember correctly.

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