I recently went against my better instincts and bought a cellular phone, mostly for emergencies.  It's a Nokia 3360.  Like any good product on the American market nowadays, it's customizable so I can express my conformist individuality by removing the standard faceplates and switching it with any of 15 or so replacements in various colors and designs.  If you want to show your patriotism, the red, white, and blue flag faceplate is for you.  Futuristic tones more up your alley?  Grab the shiny silver and green plates.  Feeling drab and depressed?  Gunmetal grey is for you.

These faceplates are made of plastic.  Not particularly special plastic, just plastic.  Plastic is cheap.  You can go to your local Home Depot and get just about any size and shape of raw plastic you'd like, within reason, for about two dollars.  

I wasn't too thrilled with the standard colors I found adorning my 3360 when it arrived in the mail, but I wasn't exactly losing any sleep over it.  A few days passed, and I happened to be in the mall running a few errands.  I stopped by the celphone store (actually one of the five celphone stores in the medium-sized mall), five dollar bill in hand, figuring I'd swap covers.

Suggested Retail Price: $24.99 (plus tax)

I was actually stunned into silence.  Words failed me.  The poor girl behind the counter looked at me strangly as I reeled away from the store and found a place to sit down so I could regain some semblance of my internal calm and rethink my stance on the merits of capitalism.

Twenty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents (plus tax!) for two pieces of molded plastic perhaps worth seventy-five cents.

This is not a brand-new product.  This is not an experimental price.  Careful market research has led the executives at Nokia to estimate the maximum price the average consumer is willing to pay for these faceplates at exactly twenty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents (plus tax!), and the fact that retail stores continue to sell them at this price shows us that their research is absolutely correct.  This is supply and demand.  This is capitalism.  This is the 21st century, in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Weep for the future.

Weep for us all.