Nope. You’re wrong. It was £78.42.
Now if it had been a nice round £80, I’d have summoned the manager and inserted the teapot in him. But because it was £78.42, it gave the impression that they hadn’t simply said, “Look at that rich bastard. Let’s charge him eighty quid.” It looked like they’d done some workings out. And that the actual price in that part of London of two tea bags, a pint of tap water, eight slices of bread and a quarter of a cucumber really does add up to £78.42.
Apparently this is a well-known trick. When someone phones and asks you to quote for a job, you should never say, “Oh, £500 should do it”, because that looks like you’ve simply plucked a number from the ether. Which is an open invitation for the customer to engage in that most barbaric of things: haggling. For the British, haggling is like talking in lifts. It’s disgusting.
What you must do when asked for a quote is mumble to yourself as though you are doing some long multiplication on the back of an envelope and then, after 20 or so seconds, say £512.63.
That looks like it is the real cost of doing the job, and as a result, haggling is not possible. So instead of settling on £450, you get paid £512.63.
This brings me on to the retail habit of pricing everything at something and 99p. We know why they do this. Because £4.99 sounds less than £5. Plus it makes the customer feel all warm and well disposed towards the notion of a return visit if he walks out of the door clutching a penny change.
Yes. But am I the only person who thinks that rather than knocking a penny off, the shopkeeper has simply added 99p? Or is that just my tight-fisted Yorkshire genes?
Probably not. Because if there’s one thing I despise, it’s a bargain. If someone offers me a good, or a service, that costs less than I was expecting, I automatically assume there’s something wrong with it. Usually I’m right. Cheap cola tastes less good than expensive cola. A cheap vacuum cleaner will not do quite such a good job as an expensive vacuum cleaner. A cheap holiday will be rubbish. An expensive one will be great. Unless you’re on a cruise, obviously.
However, in the world of cars, this is not necessarily so. An Aston Martin Vanquish, for instance, costs £189,995. This tells us that Aston has done its costings (yeah, right) and that this is how much the car costs to make. Plus a bit of profit added on.
It’s the same story with the Ferrari 458 Italia. In basic form, this costs £178,491 because that’s how much the metal, glass, plastic and carbon fibre cost to assemble. No, really. They do. Ferrari metal is more expensive than Ford metal because, er, it just is.
I could go on. The McLaren MP4-12C. The Mercedes SLS AMG. The Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. All cars of this type cost between £165,000 and £200,000. It’s the price you pay for having something a bit different. Something a bit out of the ordinary.
So why, then, does an Audi R8 cost £91,575? Why is a Porsche 911 £71,449? Why is a Bentley Continental V8 GT £123,850? These are exotic cars too. But they are half price.
Does that mean they are rubbish? Virgin Cola cars? Well, that’s the thing. I don’t think so. If you reduce a Porsche 911 and a Ferrari 458 to their component parts, you’d struggle to see why one costs more than twice as much as the other.
The truth is, the 911 is a bargain. So’s the Bentley and the R8. And that brings me on a wave of beige-tinted common sense to the door of the Ford Fiesta ST.
Cracking car, the Fiesta. It’s good- looking, spacious, safe, economical and, if you avoid the base models, nippy as well. But I’ve always felt that the chassis was so good, it could easily handle a bit more oomph. Which is where the ST comes in.
I do not know why Ford continues to name its faster cars after lady towels, and I’m not sure either why it says the engine under the bonnet is from the EcoBoost range. EcoBoost gives the impression that it runs on armpit hair and produces about as much power as Luxembourg.
That ain’t so. Because, actually, it’s a turbocharged 1.6-litre that produces 180bhp. This means you go from 0-62mph in a polar bear-strangling 6.9 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 139mph. That’s quick.
It’s probable the standard suspension setup could handle the extra grunt but to be on the safe side, and to make it look sportier, the Lady Towel is 15mm nearer to the ground than standard Fiestas and sits on fat 17in wheels. There’s a roof spoiler, too, that does absolutely nothing at all. But it looks nice.
Does it all work? Yes, it does. And some. Like the Ford Focus ST, it all feels loose and light and, if you reduce the traction-control system, or turn it off altogether, a bit wayward. You have understeer and liftoff oversteer and patches of cling-on-for-dear-life grip, and the upshot is: it’s bloody good fun.
You can feel the electronic limited-slip “diff” doing its best to keep things orderly and neat but you get the impression it’s like a not very good teacher, trying to organise a class full of unruly seven-year-olds. I like that. And I like the noise as well. Ford has pinched an idea first seen on the £336,000 Lexus LFA and has fitted a “sound symposer”, a tube that feeds the induction roar directly into the cabin. It makes you feel like you’re actually sitting in the engine bay. The interior is good, too. You get enormous body-hugging Recaro seats and even in the base model lots of toys as well.
I liked this car. A lot. It has all the qualities I look for in a hot hatchback. There’s everyday practicality. There’s comfort. There’s the sense that each of its body panels will cost no more to repair than it would on a cooking model. And yet despite all this Terry and June down-to-earthness, there is also lots and lots of juicy speed and joie de vivre.
And here’s the best bit. It costs just £16,995, which is £2,000 less than Peugeot or Renault charge for their latest hot hatches. In fact, £16,995 is as near as dammit what Alfa Romeo charges for some versions of its woeful two-cylinder TwinAir Mito. And you don’t even get ripped off with extras. I visited Ford’s online configurator and once you’ve selected the model, pretty much the only choice you have is the colour.
The Ford Fiesta Lady Towel, then. It manages to be something that’s quite rare these days: cheap and cheerful.
Full of juicy speed and joie de vivre
Ford Fiesta ST 1.6T EcoBoost
- 1596cc, 4 cylinders
- 180bhp @ 5750rpm
- 214 lb ft @ 1500rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph: 6.9sec
- Top Speed:
- 47.9mpg (combined)
- Road Tax Band:
- E (£125 for first year)
- L 3975mm W 1787mm H 1456mm