Youth Over Experience May Cost in Style Points

I've always been a guy who believes in the value of squeezing a dollar. Until it hurts.

Even in the fanciest restaurants I'm the guy who asks for "your cheapest red wine." I know what you are thinking, and it's true: You can't take the Jersey out of the boy.

Given my tendency toward the cheap and generic, I've recntly made a startling discovery. I'm turning into an appreciator of great design. And I'm willing to pay extra for it.

It all started with my iPod. I resisted the lure of music on demand for a couple of years. And when I did decide to enter the market, I decided I would buck the crowds and go with a cheaper rival… until I ended up at an Apple store with one of those little gizmos in my hand. It was so well-designed and easy to use. But what really clinched the deal, I must admit, was iPod's obvious coolness.

Suddenly I realized that my newfound appreciation for style could apply to all walks of my life -- maybe it wasn't just about the destination but the ride, too. And speaking of ride, I recently traded in my beater station wagon for a hybrid. And I couldn't be happier. I love that every time I brake, I'm channeling heat into energy that is charging up my battery. And when I'm sitting at a traffic light watching all the exhaust streaming out of the other cars, mine is quietly sitting dormant, waiting for me to hit the gas.

Just when the Costco and Wal-Mart cheap product juggernauts seemed to be taking over the world, suddenly there seem to be more people like me who are willing to pay extra for a better working, better looking mousetrap. I'm not talking about brand names that will impress your friends and neighbors. It's more than that. I'm talking here about a product that does its job in a better and more stylish way.

That brings me to the workplace. Just as many consumers are ready for something stylish and cool, products that really stand out, the workplace seems to be descending into the land of the generic. Companies explore how to get rid of their experienced and often more expensive workers to go younger and cheaper.

Do you see the irony here? Just as the marketplace is able to extract more from consumers' wallets for products that inspire us, the work force takes a turn toward having less ability to deliver the very products that customers clamor for.

It's easy for me to sit on the sidelines and tell businesses what they should do. I'll resist that temptation. But I will suggest that I'm not alone. There are many of us out here who are willing to pay more for products that inspire us. And if that means keeping more experienced, more talentend, and more expensive employees on the payroll, then so be it. The question is, will corporations have the firepower and troops to deliver?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"You shouldn't take a fence down until you know the reason that it was put up." -- G.K. Chesterton

BOOK EXCERPT OF THE WEEK

From "American Bar Association Guide toWorkplace Law" (Times, 1997):

"Even when federal law does apply to your company, it does not regulate every aspect of the employment relationship. For example, federal law prohibits employers from discharging employees based on race, but it does not require employers to have just cause before firing someone. That means that as far as federal law goes most of us are what the law terms employees at will. We can be refused employment, be disciplined or fired for many reasons (or perhaps for no reason), even though federal and state laws make some reasons illegal."

Blog Ballot Results

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ABCNews.com online ballot:

How much does your organization support teamwork?

   A lot, 21.8 percent

   A little, 25.4 percent

   You're joking, right? 52.7 percent

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker, and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at bob@workingwounded.com.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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