I’ve recently come to appreciate that good therapy can arrive in many forms and can count this column as a valued, albeit surprising, contributor to my mental well-being. Much of this has come about from me treating it as something of a confessional. For example, when I mentioned a guilty predilection for the sweeter things on a restaurant’s menu some months ago, I found a sympathetic audience waiting for me when I spoke at events up and down the country. It turns out that I was not alone; others also had a challenge with that most innocuous of questions, ‘Would you like to see the dessert menu?’. I know there’s nothing calorific about the menu card itself, but in my experience, it does tend to spark a chain of events where one thing leads to another.
Now, this outcome could quite easily have gone the other way. Rather than introducing me to some fellow sweet-toothed sufferers, my article could have prompted meeting hosts to ply me with bucket-loads of tiramisu at every event I spoke at. People would have said, ‘We’ve got Ritchie the Pudding King speaking next month. We’d better get a pastry chef in’, and then I’d be twice the size, but I suspect only half the man. And while there’s probably a part of me (mainly my stomach) that secretly (ok, blatantly) wants to stipulate a crème brûlée rider at every speaking gig, the reality is that meeting fellow sufferers has done me the world of good.
Unfortunately, having a sweet tooth isn’t my only vice. Another one I need to get off my chest is the fact that I really like a ‘deal’. I can’t recall the last time I purchased anything of any substance without negotiating a better price. I see it as a personal challenge, unlike my wife, who sees it as a source of acute embarrassment and refuses to go shopping with me. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t haggle in the supermarket, but don’t expect me to leave a car dealership or travel agent without first negotiating the deepest possible discount. I like to see the salesperson wince when we shake hands on a deal, and it has nothing to do with my grip strength.
It turns out that, just as with my dessert affliction, I am not alone in liking a great deal. When I speak to our property developer students, I know many also possess the same deep urge to get a discount. They don’t usually like to talk about it, but when it comes to developing property, it doesn’t take long before this affectation can land them in a spot of bother.