NASA underwater photo of an Iceberg

It Costs What!!!

A Rabid Fundamentalist Column


John W. Cowart

He looked wicked and evil, like a guy who would sell you a parachute without a rip cord to open it?

No, I was not buying a parachute; my wife and I were in the store to buy a new kitchen stove for Christmas, one that had burners that actually get hot.

Way back when, I knew a guy in college whose wife solved the no-kitchen-stove problem in a resourceful manner. They lived in a married couples residence, a dorm where cooking was not allowed in the rooms. They could not afford to eat out, so Susan took two bricks and placed them about three inches apart on her desk. Then she placed her clothes iron upside-down between them, set it on high and cooked that way till her husband earned his law degree.

Before last Christmas Ginny and I were just about, but not quite, ready  to resort to that method of culinary preparation.

We couldn’t even remember the last time our oven worked and we were down to one working burner – working in the sense that it would heat to medium but no hotter.

Since I work at home and Ginny doesn’t get home till late, I do most of our cooking during the week. Even so, being a very perceptive guy, a sensitive, caring modern male, I had not noticed anything wrong with our kitchen stove.

Hey, I am a master with the microwave. I can pop popcorn, heat coffee,  and even re-heat Chinese carry-out.

O yes, when I’m really feeling in the mood for a creative culinary creation, I don a chef’s hat and cook a real meal. Yes, when he tastes my cooking, Chef Boyardee weeps with envy.

But you only need one burner for a pot of chili.

So for months I noticed nothing at all amiss with our stove.

Worked fine.

Cooked anything I want to cook.

Ginny, being of the female persuasion, saw things a little differently.

She wanted a stove.

One with an oven and burners and a little clock that will buzz for some reason or another while you are cooking.

She may have mentioned this desire to me a time or two over the eleven or twelve months since the next-to-the-last burner went out.

Finally, just before Christmas when I’d invited six or eight friends over for her wonderful holiday dinner, she mentioned it again.

 Actually, she mentioned it quite loudly.

And I heard her.

We took some cash in hand and went to an appliance store. We browsed through bright shiny stoves -- Did you know they make them in different colors now? – compared prices and features, and picked out one we could pay for on the spot..

This swarthy salesman accompanied us every step of the way, hovering like a vulture, his pointy ears listening to our every word, his beady little eyes watching our every move -- like I was  going to stick a kitchen stove under my coat and shoplift it.

Now, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: the price was on every stove! On an orange tag. In big black letters. A large sign over the display area said, “FREE DELIVERY on selected merchandise…”

So we knew how much the stove we picked would cost.


Not exactly.

We get up to the cash register and I take out my wallet.

The parachute salesman takes out his pad and pencil and begins to scribble.

“Tax, tags and title will be extra,” he says. “That’ll be an extra $82.”

Well, OK, you can’t buy anything without paying the Florida State Sales Tax; I’d figured that into our stove buying budget.

The devil kept ciphering on his little yellow pad.

“Delivery will cost you an extra $55 and there’s a $10 surcharge to remove your old stove,” he said.

“Wait a minute,” I protested. “Your sign says free delivery”.

He carefully explained that free delivery only applies if you spend more on an appliance than you paid as a down payment on your home. Anything less carries a $55 delivery fee.

This makes me uneasy.

As far as removing the old stove goes, if I haul it to the curb, the city garbage men pick it up the next day at no charge at all.

The parachute salesman scowled but he did scratch the removal fee from the bill muttering something about trashy neighborhoods as he did.

Thinking this infernal business transaction was nearing completion, I removed greenbacks from my wallet.

Not so fast.

There was still an extended warranty to negotiate.

This might be a good idea. After all, the old stove -- which was used when we got it in the first place --  had only lasted eight or ten years before the oven and first three burners went out. Maybe we should pay extra for an extended warranty.

I started to hand him the money.

 Silly me.

He’s still adding to the bill.

“There’s an extra $13.95 for the cord”, he said.

“What cord”?

“The electric cord”, he said.

“The electric cord?” I said.

“Yes, you idiot,”  he courteously explained, “It’s an electric stove and you have to plug it into the wall socket to make it work and for that you need an electric cord”.

“You mean you’re selling electric appliances with no way to plug them in”!!

“That’s right,” he said. “The cord costs extra and you’ve got to have it”.

This outraged me.

I folded up my cash, put it back in my wallet, took Ginny’s arm and walked out of the store. I never intend to buy anything from that store ever. And I told all of our grown children, and any friend who would listen, exactly what I think of a place that sells useless electric appliances with no electric cord.

The price kept easing up dollar by dollar till it reached  $13.95 more than I am willing to pay.

I thought I knew the cost going in. I saw the tags saying what I thought the cost was. I was willing to pay for tax, tags and title because everybody knows that’s part of the cost.

But there comes a point when the added, hidden costs make the product or service more expensive than any reasonable person would ever think of paying.

It’s just not worth it!

When the true cost becomes apparent, it’s a deal-breaker – unless you’ve already signed the contract.

Too late then.

What a hellish way to do business!

That’s exactly what it is. Hellish. Infernal. Damnable. Born of satan.

The devil never tells us what anything costs; God always does.

The evil one lures us to buy his bill of goods. O you can afford this, he says. You won’t even miss the price. All it costs is a little bit of your integrity.


With him, everything is extra. He signs you up to his payment plan. An installment plan, and you pay and pay and pay day by day by day for the rest of your life and then all through eternity. With interest. Compounded. With a balloon payment at the end… And you don’t get a power cord!

God on the other hand always tells you the cost up front.

Christ urged people who were even thinking about following Him to count the cost. “If anyone would come after me,” He said, “He must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it”

Sounds expensive.

It is.

But is it worth it?

It is.

Consider the value.

Jesus asked, ”What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul”?

Do the cost-benefit analysis yourself.

What’s your conclusion?

What’s your own bottom line?

But… to get back to our stove problem. We didn’t have to buy one with all the extra charges after all. For Christmas our grown children all chipped in together and bought Ginny her stove – one with a cord – from a different appliance store. They delivered it. They took the old one out to the curb. They even cleaned the kitchen for us and it never cost us a penny.

It’s February now and finally I have learned to cook on the new stove. It hardly ever buzzes at me.

I still only use one burner.

You only need one burner to cook chili.

That’s fundamental.


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