Pick only two . . .
Of the countless columns I’ve written for newspapers and internet, three have remained favorites with readers and repeated every few years.
One is of Alcoholism, another of a doctor’s unusual advise for young pregnant women, and then this bit of foolishness. I’ve titled it Good, Fast, Cheap, with the admonition that you can have only two. Never all three.
Of course, when we need some household job done, we want all three. Why not? We’ll shop around and find someone who will give us Good work and materials; Fast in completion; Cheap as possible.
It was a friendly Handy Man who told me about those words. He grinned and said, “Everyone wants those same three things. They want their job to be GOOD, FAST and as CHEAP as possible, But Ethel, no one ever gets them all.” I could see no reason why not, so he went on to explain.
“You can have your job GOOD and FAST, but no way will it then be CHEAP.
“And if GOOD yet CHEAP is of vital importance, you can get those two terms, but your job wont be FAST.
“But, if FAST and CHEAP is necessary, there’s just no way you will get as GOOD a job as it could be.”
I was baffled. He still grinned as he explained, and I finally had to agree, and grinned along with him.
This is how it goes. The man you hire seldom does all the work himself, but hires other men, such as Plumbers, Electricians, and such, to do the work where they are experts. And, if you want the best workmen to do the job, and do it Cheaply, you have to catch them when their type of work is out of season, or they happen to have no assignments.
When they’re idle they will sometimes work at a lower pay rate. But the catch is, you have to ‘grab’ them when they ‘happen’ to be free, or have a day or two ‘off’, and be happy to do your work. Experts are seldom idle, and so there is no promise of time, and there goes the FAST part.
That’s how it goes, he told me. Getting GOOD material is always available, but GOOD workmen do not come CHEAP, and so your job wont be FAST.
And he went on, “I can give you FAST and GOOD, too, for I can always get good materials and good (experts) can be called from other jobs, but I will have to pay them what they are earning, or more, to get them to come. And so there goes CHEAP.”
Relentlessly, he continued. “So you want it Cheap and Fast, again that will be easy, but I will probably have to get Cheap (unskilled) workmen who are more often available, and so I can’t promise the job will be as GOOD. (well done) as if done by experts. And you might have to take medium grade material to meet your cost requirements.
I had to laugh. Try as I did, like it or not, there is no flaw. The Good, but Cheap, wont be Fast, and depending on the size of the job, might take six months to a year to get done. The Good and Fast, you can get almost any day of the year, but it wont be Cheap, and the Fast and Cheap wont be as Good.
If you want first class material, installed by experts, and not just learners, and, at the same time done within a week or two, Cheap is the one that gets tossed out the window.
Whether you have a small household job, a skyscraper, high river dam, ocean liner, or an airplane, it matters not, for when you get down to basics, it’s all the same. The three choices are facts of life. Immovable.
Public buildings are usually GOOD, but the other two, FAST and CHEAP, are seldom considered or simply get lost along the way. After all, it’s our tax dollars that pay the price, and the only way we can complain is how we vote the next election.
We have no recourse, but to pay the price and hope the job lasts at least for a few decades. We can bargain back and forth in our household jobs, but when politics get into the negotiations, the Fast and Cheap, I fear, are never even considered.