The Price of Everything

How much?

This must be the most asked question in Singapore.

It seldom fails. Just talk about anything – meal in the restaurant, new clothes, overseas holiday, haircut, or children’s tuition. Invariably the question will pop up. It’s as spontaneous as checking the price tag in a shop, except we are not items in a shop.

There should be some graciousness in conversations.

When I first moved into my new apartment after over a year’s search for a suitable home, my neighbour stopped me at the lift lobby. Friendly greetings exchanged and then “How much you pay, huh?”

Why are people so obsessed with knowing the price of everything?

Is it because prices of everything are increasing so fast that we need to keep up with the market as if we are trading stock?

Could it be the Singaporean ‘kiasu’ attitude to grab everything along the way, including prices of what others pay for things? (Sigh)

There is nothing wrong with being interested in the prices of stuff but there must be a more discreet way than asking outright within seconds into a conversation.

Interestingly, the people who are most likely to ask the price of everything are the ones least likely to reveal the price of everything they know. Is this some form of selfishness? What are they trying to do? Information is so easily available and all we have to do is search online so what’s the big fuss?

Then there’s the other extreme group that claims bragging rights in our society – those who would announce the prices they pay for everything. No prompting needed. The sad part is they believe that price is equivalent to value and vice versa. Though there is a correlation between the two, they are not precisely the same.

The ‘how much’ mentality is also reflected in the way we view our development and progress as a society. Organizations are publishing impressive statistics about their performance, achievements in numbers; improvements in percentages. It is fine if these are strictly financial reports but if the readership is the general public, who cares or truly understands these figures?

People want to know what these statistics mean to them. How have their lives changed or will change? What are the impacts of these changes?

If we quantify without qualifying, our lives will be strictly based on numerical results and the society will be compelled to achieve these results no matter what, even at the expense of one’s morals.

If children today who will be our future leaders are taught to learn and work in this manner, then the future society will only be driven by statistics as it is already starting to happen.

Will we come to a point when “ people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 1890)

HOW MUCH of our true spirit will we compromise in order to achieve the material rewards that can be reaped from a result-oriented society?

Will we be happy doing this?



2 thoughts on “The Price of Everything

  1. I cant think further than “just wanting to know how much you paid because I am interested to buy one as well..of course if I have bought something expensive and would also want to find out if I overpaid the shop and I will stop buying from that shop” . Did I miss something importance in your message.,

    1. We do ask the price of things when there is a need. My point is that people become so obsessed with knowing the price of everything that they completely overlook what things mean to them and to others. Price and value are very different.

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