The World According To Damien
in a World gone mad – one sane voice emerges…

Damien on… How To Avoid Being Ripped Off By Government And Big Business

…which is probably the longest title in these columns.

But it IS possible. Oh sure, many of the rip-offs are unavoidable, without breaking the law – and prison beckons those who do not appreciate this.

However, for those in the know, there are alternatives – and what is life without alternatives, eh?

So let us start with something that affects ALL of us, every week – the provisions shop.

All name-brand supermarkets have “loyalty” cards. And some offer credit. Needless to say, credit cards are an abomination that must be avoided at all cost. They are like mafia loan-sharks: all they want is for you to max out your credit – then they will collect their high-interest minimum payments from you for LIFE.

But even the ones that just offer “points” are to be avoided – said points amount to a saving of just one or two percent, while allowing the store to track your purchasing habits, for free.

Furthermore, the name-brand goods they sell will ensure you not only pay for the products – but their ADVERTISING costs as well.

Better by far to use one of the growing number of “no-frills” supermarkets – then experiment with their NON-name-brand lines, which typically retail for THIRTY percent less than those sold by the name-brand stores.

You will find most products to be comparable to the name-brand ones (ALL products are covered by the SAME manufacturing regs) and a few are often SUPERIOR.

Those which are INferior – do not purchase again. Simple.

Then if you are a smoker, there are ways to avoid the (literally) ONE THOUSAND PERCENT TAX imposed by many governments. If you live in New York – buy your cigarettes in bulk, in Virginia, where they are MUCH cheaper.

Being British, I know of no reason you cannot do this – I cannot imagine there are customs points at STATE borders.

And as far as Brits are concerned, FORGET hopping over the channel for cheap ciggies. Customs will be all OVER you on your return – and they are not much cheaper in France anyway.

No, go further afield – to the Algarve (Portugal). There, they retail for about ONE THIRD the price of British ciggies.

And under the Single European Agreement, you are entitled to bring back a CASE (that is 50 cartons, containing 500 packs – which is 10,000 cigarettes, 27 a day over a year) provided it is for your OWN USE. You will save about TWO GRAND a year per person – AND get a free holiday to boot.

The method is this: take a package “mid-week break” – then hire a car at the airport (remember – Portuguese drive on the WRONG side of the road) and on Day One, test-smoke some ciggies from a sample batch of their local brands – then order a case of the ones you like best.

Any decent tobacconist (they still have them in Portugal) will provide one within 48 hours (they will probably want a deposit – just make sure you get a receipt).

There is however one catch: while Customs rarely hassle those returning from Portugal, if you ARE stopped, in theory you are required to PROVE purchases are for your consumption.

In which case you could tell them they are welcome to have one of their officers follow you about for a year, while you SMOKE all 10,000 of your cigarettes – preferably an attractive one.

But probably better is to point out they are a FOREIGN brand which could only be sold on the black-market – and according to newspaper reports you have read, the selling price would be less than you PAID for them.

A tip for getting through Customs without HASSLE is hang around the baggage area, fiddling with your wallet or something – then when you see a BUNCH of people heading for the Customs hall, blend into the BACK of the bunch, keeping your eyes fixed on the back of the person in front.

Customs officers tend to look for those at the FRONT of a bunch who are unwise enough to make EYE-CONTACT with them. Of course, it goes without saying that this advice is intended for those who do NOT have contraband on them – I am not about to go into print with advice on how to SMUGGLE.

And while we are looking at the advantages of being European, CARS are often much cheaper when bought in EU countries. Thus Brits can often find the hassles of buying a full-RHD-UK-spec-and-warranty automobile (which can be lessened by working with an agency that specialises in such purchases) are more than compensated for by the massive SAVINGS involved.

This one is more obscure – but these days, more and more people are buying copier-scanners to link to their computers. These are VERY CHEAP – but you discover WHY, when you go to buy INK refills (and photographic paper) for them. The cartridges cost a FORTUNE and run out QUICKLY.

But again there is an alternative. From Korea comes “Only One” – a kit consisting of four bottles of ink (black, red, yellow and blue) with four syringes. Just drill small holes in the top of your cartridges and squirt away. The kit will cost you around a tenner ($16) – less than the cost of a single cartridge – and save you up to FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS (eight hundred bucks).

Oh, and to avoid paying a fortune for their shiny paper – use A4 and then encapsulate (laminate) your pictures. They will be more durable as well.

Next: if you can stand leaving the rest behind – obtain your dog or cat from a dog’s or cat’s home (animal shelter). Breeders charge a mint for “pedigree” animals (and do not even ASK what happens to their “rejects”) while muts are generally stronger and healthier (not to mention more grateful).

And then, a PLETHORA of cheap goodies can be had from Customs, government and military auctions. Cop-cars are RARELY driven like they are on TV. Mostly, cops just sit parked – or bumble around, pestering motorists. And to retain credibility, their cars HAVE to be well-maintained – and are thus good buys.

Anecdotally, a friend once bought two brand-new HUGE amplifiers at a Royal Navy surplus sale, that had been designed for ships’ PA’s. He then wired his record deck to them. The boxes they came in were so well built, he used them to house his speakers.

One time, during a party, the police arrived saying the neighbours had complained about the noise. Unremarkable, until you consider he lived on a FARM – and his neighbours were THREE MILES AWAY.

Finally, while supermarket chains often sell stuff for LESS than wholesalers (look particularly for “two-for-one” deals, which will eventually rotate past items YOU buy – then buy as many as you can consume before their use-by date) good deals can be found at cash-and-carries (wholesalers for convenience stores).

Now in Britain, these establishments will usually only sell to SHOP-KEEPERS or BUSINESSES, who have cards and accounts with them (here in Thailand, they don’t care). But this can be side-stepped if you get a rubber stamp for a ficticious business made up – then write your order in a duplicate book (both obtainable from any good stationers) stamp it and pay CASH.

Since you will have to include a ficticious VAT number, this may be illegal – but it WORKS (I understand).

The above are just a FEW of the ways a consumer can avoid doing what most do – GRUMBLE – then bend over and brace themselves.

Look around and you will doubtless find others.

And if they are LEGAL – please leave the details in the “comments” for this article…

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