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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/164

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Every one nowadays will agree that the seller should fix the price at which he will sell his wares. For the prices vary according as the supply of the commodity in question is plentiful and the demand great. An abundant wheat harvest is followed by cheap bread; but we do not all so readily understand, that not bread alone but all perishable articles must be dear one year and cheap another. It may sometimes happen that the fall in price never reaches the consumer, but stops short with the wholesale or retail trader, although this tendency is to some extent counteracted by the competition in retail trade.

Overcharging is most likely to occur where the customers cannot readily transfer their custom to a neighbouring shop, as, for instance, in isolated country places, or when the customers are in debt, or under obligation to the shopkeeper, having perhaps been supported by him during times of scarce work. It is often for these reasons that in the poorest and most wretched neighbourhoods the highest prices rule. Customers are often induced by considerations of fashion or convenience to pay high prices; but they can scarcely be said to be overcharged, since they choose to pay for such costly luxuries as spacious premises, handsome shop-fronts, numerous shop assistants and long credit. Economical people are compelled to go without these and many other things that it is pleasant to have.


But it is not only the weight and the cost that have to be studied for economy's sake. We have already seen that it is possible to starve in the midst of plenty; to starve, that is, for want of one necessary constituent of food, though all the others may be supplied in superabundance. A good housekeeper will, therefore, take care that upon her table is set a variety of well-chosen food, and very often indeed, by the exercise of a little care in dieting, she may prevent the outlay of much care in nursing and of much money in doctors' bills. People suffer from diseases of malnutrition much more often through bad management than because of a short purse. It will often be found, especially with children, that they are ill for want of certain kinds of food and yet will not take them in their ordinary form; it is then the part of the housekeeper to reproduce the food so that it is not recognized, or to find the same substance in some other form.


Again, two foods may cost the same and weigh the same, and yet one may be far more economical than the other. For one may be very nourishing, containing a kind of food that is not cheaply to be bought, and it may besides be such that it takes up water and