Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Same Same, But VERY Different! Pt. 12: Businesses

A simple BBQ stand in Bangkok

Costco is currently a large chain of warehouse stores with over 600 locations worldwide (including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for you "Asiaphiles"). It's the 7th largest retailer in the entire world, and conspicuous consumption for the masses in it's finest form.

The other day I was pushing my cart away from the check-out area and happened by a computer monitor displaying some sales figures for the location I was at. Being curious, I looked at it, and saw sales goals for the unit and the results of goals vs actual sales: the day's goal of $743,000 USD, and actual sales (an hour before closing time) of $689,300 and change.  That's one hell of a lot of sales. If you extrapolate those figures out for an entire year that comes to roughly (entirely my guess here) $255,000,000.

Shoppers pushing oversize carts from a Costco checkout area. Internet image, not mine.

While wheeling my cart to the car I couldn't help but think of a family I'm acquainted with in Pattaya who operate a little shop on wheels, offering those little sticks of BBQ chicken and beef for sale. The single mother who runs the cart business buys roughly 200 baht's worth of raw product daily, cooks it on the street and - on a good day - sells enough of them to make a meager profit that helps keep a humble roof over the heads of her and her three children.

When her husband was around for the first handful of years they were a family they lived with his parents in a simple home a short distance from where many of you would probably stay while visiting Jomtien, an area adjoining Pattaya.

The father used to collect recyclable items from the streets and dump areas, but his alcoholism and penchant for other women finally got the better of him and he walked away from his familial responsibilities a few years back, leaving the mother to make the best of things.

To compound her misfortune, when her husband's family learned that their son had left they blamed her, and decided that she and their three grandchildren didn't belong under their roof any longer, and put them out onto the street. They stayed with friends briefly before she found shelter for herself and the kids, and after working some odd jobs here and there she managed to scrape together enough to buy a cart and begin her own business; a trade learned from her own parents in another part of the country decades before.

Now, I realize it's an extreme stretch to make the comparison between the cart she wheels about to wherever she feels the sales are for the day and an enormous warehouse location, but a business is a business, and if you do the dollar-to-baht conversion that brings us to a daily sales comparison of roughly $700,000 vs $12.

Same same, but VERY different.  Chew on that one a while the next time you think you're not doing well financially, and thank your lucky stars - or whatever - that you're living the life you've been graced with.

While you're at it, pass me that ten pound bag of mini-pretzels, will you?

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