American Plan

by GEORGE STEVENS

Shouldn’t a rebate be offered when extra features that the customer did not want anyhow are not delivered to him? That is the question raised by GEORGE STEVENS, who divides his time between Philadelphia and New york as Editor for Lippincott.

I AM trying to buy a pair of gray flannel slacks. I do not want a pair of slacks with pleats in them. I did not want to spend more than half an hour finding them. Now it has already taken me several hours to discover that gray flannel slacks without pleats are not available, readily or otherwise, except at a premium. In short, I have to pay extra to avoid having something I do not want which must have cost money to put there in the first place. Not only the expense of the actual pleating: there is also the expense of the extra material, not only in the area where it is so extravagantly doubled over upon itself, but abundantly extending all the way down the pants legs, flopping around “shins and ankles, calves and knees,”not to mention thighs, flanks, and groins, in such a way as to give one the appearance of an elephant in the zoo.

Those who recognize the uncredited quotation in the preceding sentence from Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children can supply another appropriate sequence from the same source. When Matilda turned in the false alarm and the firemen came, they did miscellaneous damage “until Matilda’s aunt succeeded in showing them they were not needed, and even then she had to pay to get the men to go away.”That seems to be my situation.

I bought a new suit the other day. My choice was limited by my prepossession for pleatless pants, so I got something that my wife considers more appropriate for her father. Much as I desire to please my wife in all things, and to give her, in addition to the passive pleasure of financial support and orderly domesticity, the occasional thrill of unexpected adventure, there are some matters in which a man must stand alone, and the most crucial of these is his pants.

Actually what I am getting at is something else. I noticed when I bought the suit that I was not offered a vest. This was decidedly all right with me, as I gave up wearing vests years ago; but the suit cost more than the last one I had bought at the same store, and that one did include a vest. Some men like vests. They wear watch chains, perhaps, and these are not to be effectively displayed across a shirt front. From time immemorial it has been the privilege of the customer to have a vest at no extra cost. It is a natural right. But if I had wanted a vest, it would have had to be made, and would have gone on the bill.

The disappearance of the vest is of no interest to me personally; there fore my concern demonstrates the objectivity and disinterested passion for truth which informs this entire article.

The point is that, at the same time that we have to pay to avoid buying undesirable extras, we are deprived of what used to be considered essential ingredients of our purchases without a corresponding reduction in the price. Back in the 1930s, when a taxicab ride cost fifteen cents for the first quarter mile and five cents a quarter mile thereafter, the City of New York slapped a tax of a nickel on every taxi fare. The meters were all changed to begin at twenty cents instead of fifteen. The courts promptly threw this tax into the ash can, but did the passenger’s minimum investment recede to the original fifteen cents? Don’t be silly.

A friend of ours who frequently has us to dinner shares with other — “too many other — heads-up hostesses the delusion that butter is improved by garlic. The first time I noticed it, l thought it would he all right if I just unobtrusively left the bread and butter on the bread-and-butter plate, so long as I ate everything else. But she is a solicitous hostess; she found out that I am a reactionary eccentric who considers garlic inedible. So now the poor girl goes to what must be considerable trouble to provide me with uncontaminated butter. It makes me feel not only conspicuous but somehow very unreasonable and opinionated.

It is still possible to get a haircut without a massage. I wish I knew how to do it without coming away smelling of witch hazel.