A misplaced piece of supermarket equipment starts a dreadful carry on.

I was not going to go for the lockdown fad of starting a new project but I have decided to write a book. This was not my original retirement plan. I thought I had done my bit for economics aside from sitting on a few well-provisioned commissions.

However, a recent incident led to a eureka moment. I suddenly saw the opportunity to make economics relevant again. I better explain.

Our wonderful building manager is seeking to maximise our welfare in line with economic theory.  He organised a storage place for a shopping trolly that had been borrowed and used by us to help transport our shopping from our cars to our apartments. It was a huge boon as carrying bags is quite a chore and involves a number of exhausting journeys. So far so good.

However the management company that employs the building manager, paid for by our service charges, was having none of it. It is a subsidiary of the owner of the residential complex which still has 30% of the apartments to sell. Its view was that the shopping trolly in the entrance lobby was not a good look when it came to sales. It instructed the building manager to dispose of it and he did. 

“The shopping trolly in the entrance lobby was not a good look.”

The outrage and protest from us residents was huge at least within Covid-19 limits. First we rang each other and complained. Then Thomas sent a letter which at least six residents signed. We got no response.

I proposed we hold a management committee and pass a motion to bring the trolly back. It was at that point that Thomas explained that the residents didn’t actually control the management committee. The developer had retained control until all the apartments were sold.

At this point I was hit by inspiration. This involved a whole new type of market failure. Capital was trumping consumers by making the rules in its interests. It was at that point I knew I had to write a new book. This had to be fitted into the market equilibrium model.  Maybe that Nobel Prize could still be in my reach.

The problem is getting any peace to allow me to think. Thomas is continuously on the telephone now organising various actions against the management company. His most recent is an attempt to get all residents to boycott the annual open tea.  The management company used this to invite potential apartment buyers to give the idea that they would be joining a wonderful community. Apparently 19 inmates still turned up to eat the free cake.

“The outrage and protest from us residents was huge at least within Covid-19 limits.”

Unfortunately Thomas is not giving up. His next move is guerrilla disruption of sales visits, which turns out to be quite a popular idea with other residents. The saleswoman had taken on herself to police Covid regulations under her interpretation and not made herself popular. I just wish he would desist from direct action so I can have the peace to write my book which will make economics great again.

Verity Bastion

Verity is an emeritus professor of economics now living in a retirement apartment with her husband, Thomas, after a distinguished career. She writes a regular column for The Mint on …

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