Grunt – 25 September 2014


My wife and I went for a walk the other day, and, in the process, passed a bus stop. Plastered on the inside of the shelter is a contact number advertising abortions and the guaranteed enlargement of the male organ. Now, it seems to me that there is a certain irony about the same person or institution offering both services, given that it is probably the latter that brings about the need of the former.
Be that as it may. In a roundabout sort of way, I got to thinking about some of the words and phrases we use that blur rather than clarify the issue at hand. The first of these distinctions is between profit-making and profiteering. These words are quite frequently used as if they were synonyms. Making a profit is a basic presumption behind the capitalist enterprise. It presumes that the percentage profit you charge will be reasonable and fair for the service or goods offered. But, as you might expect, it’s pretty damned difficult to get the greedy folks of this world to agree on what is a fair or reasonable margin of profit. They’re out to get as much as possible as quickly as possible. They are profiteering, a word which has strong overtones of an implicitly unscrupulous approach to doing business.
I recall a car I previously owned needing a new bulb for a headlight. The agent said that the bulb would cost the best part of R100 from them. However, the assistant whispered, if I went to another supplier, I would get it for R20. And that turned out to be the case. Now that’s profiteering.
And I remember an old couple having difficulty with a bill for X-rays. Their medical aid would pay for the procedure if it were done in hospital but the old folks had had it done inside a hospital building, not in a hospital ward, so the medical aid refused to pay.
Ever wondered why medical-scheme CEOs earn multi-million rand salaries when these organisations are non-profit-making? The answer’s simple: because they’re not non-profiteering. Pay up folks!