Friday, December 23, 2011

Cliché of the Day: You Get What You Pay For

Have you ever heard someone say "you get what you pay for"?  I may be naive, but for the most part when I pay for something... I do actually get something in return.  Thus if I paid for it, I would get it - and this phrase is essentially worthless.

I understand what people are getting at.  They are suggesting that if you spend a few bucks more, you will probably get a much better product, but does that really need explaining?  You mean to tell me if you spend MORE you get MORE?  You are also telling me if I buy the cheapest possible version of a product I will get the cheapest possible version?  Alert the media!

The whole idea of a tired cliché such as "you get what you pay for" is that it is used so often people fail to even take the time to really discern what the words actually mean.  Taken at face value it is mere common sense... you may as well hear people running around yelling "gravity exists" or "rain is wet". 

Of course when you start debating the merits of a cliché  there is always that one guy who has to proclaim "there is an exception to every rule".  I will admit there is an exception to "you get what you pay for" because in some cases you might actually get something for nothing, and therefore you actually got much more than you paid for.  In other cases you might pay for something and never actually get it... as is the case if you sent a check to a Nigerian Prince who promised you untold riches for a small fee to cover the import taxes.

However for the most part, the "exception to every rule"  cliché is no better than the "you get what you pay for"  cliché.  Frankly, there is an exception to the exception to every rule, which creates a double exception.  Does that mean they cancel each other out and create a positive exception?  What exactly is the opposite of exception in the first place.... is that an inception?  I suppose it could be a parcel (integral part) but that isn't nearly as interesting.

So let's discuss what is a rule and what isn't.  In the simplest example possible, we can look at the rule that states during a baseball game if the runner is tagged with the ball before they reach the base then they are out.  Is there really an exception to that rule?  Maybe some baseball expert will correct me, but I surely can't think of one.  If the defensive player doesn't have the ball or doesn't make the tag obviously it won't be an out, but that isn't the question being posed here.  Of course this is where someone will nitpick and suggest that if the umpire doesn't see the action properly they could make the wrong call and in that case the runner might be safe by mistake... but that is a stretch.  First of all what the umpire sees is a separate issue and we are merely focusing upon what the rule says, so for the sake of discussion we must admit the rule has no exception.  The rule itself is clear - the runner is out if the proper conditions are met, but there is no exception to that rule and allows the runner to be safe if some other condition is met.

Then again if there is an exception to it, is it really a rule or more of a suggestion?  Is a rule a fact, or just a general guideline?  It seems a rule should be clearly defined and not be open to interpretation... so then we start wondering who is doing the interpreting.  Clearly we need an expert opinion and we can't just take the word of anyone walking down the street... because most people offer their opinions for free and we all  know you get what you pay for.


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