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Inflation Negation

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"I remember when you used to be able to get a Hershey for a nickel!"
Old Man, Seinfeld episode "The Dealership"

Inflation is an economic phenomenon that any good economy will understand and at least try to control, certainly not rocket surgery. However, some people would rather clutch onto their old values. The Grumpy Old Man will rant endlessly about how when he was your age, you could take a dollar and buy a loaf of bread, see a film, spend the night with a nice Thai lady, and still have change left over. An old lady may flat out forget/deny the value of a dollar, and pay you 30 cents for mowing her lawn. Old people in particular are portrayed as susceptible to this trope.

Compare Ridiculous Future Inflation.


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    Film — Live-Action 

  • Conversed about in America (The Book). It appeals to elderly by reminding them of the time when bread, while it may have cost more than a nickel, was certainly not as much as it is now.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Bomb, a recurring theme is old people remembering when you could buy something for sixpence, and still have change. At the end of the book, a policeman in the 1940s gives Mrs. Tachyon sixpence for a cup of tea, but she remembers that in the 1903 you could buy a good portion of fish and chips with it, and goes back in time to do just that. And still has change.
  • In Bloodcircle, Jack first becomes suspicious that the woman who took a cab from the estate wasn't Maureen, because she'd given the driver a ridiculously-high tip, rather than tipping in pennies as was the custom when Maureen grew up.
  • Inverted in Francine Pascal's Hangin' Out with Cici. The plot revolves around the main character going back in time to the late 1940s when her mother was a teen. She actually gets a good meal for a dime.
  • Early on in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect buys six pints of beer and tells the barman to keep the change... from a five pound note, immediately turning the scene into an Unintentional Period Piece. In 2018 you'll struggle to get any change from a fiver when buying one pint. Admittedly, given the world is literally about to end, Ford's not exactly concerned with paying the right change, and the barman won't have the time to question him anyway.
  • Captain Underpants: One of Geroge and Harold's In-Universe comics depicts old people acting this way, giving their grandkids a nickel to buy a video game. No wonder the kids in the comic swap out their grandparents for robots, who give them $50 for a candy bar.
  • "Jeffy is Five" by Harlan Ellison opens with the narrator remembering when a Clark Bar cost "a decent, correct nickel".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Frasier:
    Martin: Well, I got my black coffee - of course, it was more expensive than a whole meal used to be. Time was, you could get two eggs, potatoes, choice of breakfast meats-
    Frasier: (dripping with sarcasm) And still get change back from the nickel!
  • An episode of Just Shoot Me! had a landlady who was apparently so far behind the times that she charged ridiculously low prices for her apartments, resulting in her tenants doing all her shopping for her to prevent her from catching on to the real value of the modern dollar. At the end, it turned out she has been aware of the worth of her apartments the entire time, but enjoys the small community she has built with the people who live there.
  • On The Wonder Years, Kevin does chores around the house as suggested by his dad to EARN money to go out with his friends. Kevin's dad is a stickler though, and for all his effort he gets a dollar from his dad's wallet. There are sound effects of a safe opening and closing when his dad opens his wallet too.
  • Angel, while physically in his mid-twenties, is over two hundred years old. Invoked when at one point he defends his spending habits by claiming that he's not cheap, just old, and reminiscing about how much you used to be able to buy for so little money.
  • Over the years, the dollar amounts on Wheel of Fortune have raised considerably. But ever since day one, it has cost only $250 to buy a vowel. This was actually inverted on the daytime version when it moved to CBS in 1989; the lower budget on that show meant that vowels dropped to $200, then $100 before daytime ended in 1991.
  • Family Feud has been running since 1976 with the exception of a three-year hiatus in the 80s and a four-year hiatus in the 90s. In every version, a loss in the Fast Money Bonus Round is still worth only $5 for every point earned.
  • The minimum wager on a Daily Double in Jeopardy! is still $5, which was half the value of the lowest clue on the board back in the 60s.
  • When America's Funniest Home Videos began, the cash prizes were $10,000 for the winner, $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third. These were finally doubled in Season 33.

    Standup Comedy 
  • Bill Cosby has a stand-up routine in which he says that grandparents will give you money; all that you have to do is listen to a story about how much the money used to be worth. He quotes his grandfather saying that he once had fifty cents and bought, "A house... and a car... and put seventeen cents in the bank."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Classic Monopoly still uses the same dollar values as it did when it was made in 1935. Justified in that it makes the math a lot easier than it would be if they adjusted everything for inflation. Not that they were particularly realistic at the time either, no thanks to the Great Depression.
  • Averted in Conquest of the Empire (originally VI Caesars). Prices for units increase as the game progresses, simulating the inflation that plagued the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger provides an in-universe example. No matter the era, the price for tonic is exactly the same.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Three Men and a Comic Book", Bart tries to earn money by doing chores for some old lady, ends up battered and bleeding from all the chores, and at the end of the week is paid the princely sum of 50 cents. When he complains to Homer:
      Homer: When I was your age, fifty cents was a lot of money.
      Bart: Really?
      Homer: Naah.
    • Mr. Burns is a veritable dumping ground for these kinds of tropes.
      Don't pooh-pooh a nickel, Lisa! A nickel can buy you a steak and kidney pie, a cup of coffee, a slice of cheesecake, and a newsreel with enough change left over to ride the trolley from Battery Park to the Polo Grounds!
  • American Dad! had an episode where Stan tries to teach Steve the value of hard work by getting him a job at a country club Stan works at every summer. Stan has been working there for 30 years to earn enough to buy a membership and is disappointed when a wealthy member (Roger in disguise) gives Steve a cushy job where he doesn't do any real work and gets paid handsomely. When Stan tries to defend his method by revealing he has finally saved up the $7,000 for the membership fee, Steve laughs and tells him that the membership price has gone up since Stan started working there and it's $200,000 now.
  • In The Fairly OddParents! episode "The Good Old Days!", Timmy asks his Pappy for five cents to buy a piece of candy, and Pappy protests that in his day, that amount gave you 30 pounds of candy. Later, when Timmy wishes for he and Pappy go get sent back in time to a retro cartoon, he remembers that his parents gave him money for dinner, and...
    Timmy: Uh, Pappy, if five cents will get us 30 pounds of candy, what'll twenty bucks get us?
    Pappy: Ooh, I'll tell you what it'll get us, Timmy: THE GREATEST NIGHT OF OUR LIVES!

  • Old British joke: "Five pounds! Why, when I was a lad you could take a girl to a nice restaurant, have a slap-up meal with all the trimmings, take her to the cinema, buy her an ice cream, take her boating in the moonlight and... and... and she still wouldn't."
  • Slightly more recent joke: "So hard to get groceries nowadays! When I was a kid you could be down to your last dollar and walk out of the store with a loaf of bread, two sticks of butter, and a quart of milk. Can't do it nowadays. Damn security cameras..."