Consumerist concern or jibber-jabberwocky?
March 10, 2004 10:43 AM   Subscribe

... A creature with a huge mouth and an enormous gut, no brain and no soul...... How does one get past the firewall that ensures the consumers never actually talk to a grocery-store manager?...

This article from the Globe and Mail struck a chord in me. Decline of the empire or simplistic disavowal of the grease that runs the machinery?
posted by ashbury (23 comments total)
... A creature with a huge mouth and an enormous gut, no brain and no soul......

Not another Limbaugh thread!
posted by jonmc at 10:46 AM on March 10, 2004

You are a number. You have no name. Even with a mouth you cannot shout.
posted by billsaysthis at 10:51 AM on March 10, 2004

i'll vote simplistic disavowal of the grease that runs the machinery.

How does one protest now? And to whom? How does one get past the firewall that ensures the consumers never actually talk to a grocery-store manager, the way my mother did.

don't shop at grocery stores. if you have land, grow your own. if you live near a major city, you can usually buy directly from the farmers.

materialism and convenience at any cost are the bigger problems. it's not only "incentive rewards" that infantilize adults, it's the entire consumer-based economy.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:09 AM on March 10, 2004

At my local supermarket you can talk to anyone; all the departments are well-staffed, the management reads the comment cards and posts their responses for all to see; they change their stock based on customer requests and comments and you can always talk to the manager if you want to. They have no stupid promotions, they tell you everything you want to know about where they source their goods -- even proactively posting the information on a bulletin board and on signs in the various departments.

What's the price tag for this? Literally, the price tag. It's perhaps 10 to 15% more expensive to shop there.

Problems like the article describes, like lack of personal service, a dehumanizing environment, and nothing on the shelves but poor quality overpackaged and overmarketed products are the result of people shopping price over any and all other considerations. Some people don't have much choice, but those who do have no one to blame but themselves when the quality of goods and service they get are complete shit as a result.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:15 AM on March 10, 2004

Great post, ashbury.

Don't forget to have your Metafilter Frequent Poster Card punched before leaving the site!
posted by msacheson at 11:16 AM on March 10, 2004

don't shop at grocery stores. if you have land, grow your own. if you live near a major city, you can usually buy directly from the farmers.

"...and we're all gonna be naked maaan! Our bodies are beautful!"

That's not a realistic option for most of the population, mrgrimm. People working two jobs to pay the rent or living in studio apartments on polluted soil don't really have the ability (to say nothing of the inclination) to go all Jeremiah Johnson.
posted by jonmc at 11:21 AM on March 10, 2004

I hate reward cards and the like. I do have one for one supermarket, but when they ask me if I do, I say no - the time it takes to take out the card, have them swipe it and give it back, isn't worth the 0.0001p I gain from it. The checkouts are slow enough as it is.
posted by Orange Goblin at 11:33 AM on March 10, 2004

How does one protest now?

Well, I don't know about you, but the Kroger Prize Patrol or whatever their "discount" card is called thinks that my name is Johann Gambolputty and that I live in Ulm. I'm just sayin'.

(and I don't have to take it out; I use the little keychain one)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:35 AM on March 10, 2004

For best results, swap discount cards with the next person in line every time you shop.
posted by sfenders at 11:48 AM on March 10, 2004

"Hi, nice to meet you. My name's Bob, Bob Jenkins," he thought as he filled out the Jewel Saver's Card application. "Yes, I do live at 666 Bloody Gulch Ct., Assbury CT."

I often think about how the average person will lose a lot of money buying stuff they don't need at prices they can't afford. How many of us need a PDA instead of a $1.95 notebook, or a new computer every year when the one we have works just fine for what we do?

Marketing has become so effective that people will buy anything they are told they need. The games and gimmicks are just a sideshow, tiding us over until the next big thing sucks us in completely again.
posted by schlaager at 11:53 AM on March 10, 2004

I'm never amazed by the ridiculous promotions and policies that people in retail/marketing come up with. These people are among the stupidest I've ever encountered.

My local video store had a ''rent 10 get one free" and they wanted me to bring in a stamp card to track my rentals. When I pointed out that this is nonsense and that they could easily track it on the computer, they said "We could, but here you keep the card in your wallet and every time you open your wallet you think of the store and... blah blah blah." It just seems like foolishness. I said, "Do you want to reward me for being a good customer and renting a lot or do you want to reward me for jumping through hoops?" In not so many words the answer was "hoops". As a result, I walked 8 blocks further to a store I'd never been to before even though I've lived in the area for 10 years. I was surprised that the rentals were MUCH cheaper, something I would never have found out if my local would have had any business sense. I stopped going to the local altogether and... they've now gone out of business. Presumably everyone else was sick of their nonsense as well.

The majority of people I encounter in retail (and I worked in retail for 15 years myself as both clerk and manager so realize how difficult it can get at times) behave like automatons following policies written by idiots--often the idiots are themselves.

A few weeks ago I bought something through Amazon Marketplace. The seller was They sent me the wrong item completely. When I told them, they told me to return it and if the item I really ordered was still there when my return arrived, they'd send it to me. They refused to hold the item I had actually ordered or send it out now and wanted me to spend $5 to return a $4 item to them in order to get the $20 item they had already billed me for. When I informed them that this was nonsense and that Amazon would refund my money due to their guarantee that I'd get the item described they said "Our return policy is not open to negotiation." I just had to laugh. They could have written off the $4 item and its $2 shipping and kept me happy. Instead, these drones lost the $4 item, the shipping it cost to send it to me, and were about to lose the $20 when Amazon refused to pay them, and on top of that they lost a good customer and got horrible feedback on Amazon. Do these people have no brains or what? Not only does their policy upset me as a customer, it loses them money and worsens their reputation.

It just seems like, when it comes to shopping for anything these days, we're surrounded by idiots.
posted by dobbs at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2004

When you're on the phone with a machine, waiting to resolve a problem, ignore their options and press "0" immediately. You'll be closer then to speaking to an actual person.
posted by agregoli at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2004

This is silly. If you don't want to use reward programs, then don't. Or at least choose the ones you join carefully. I'm quite happy with the free blender I picked up last night (HBC reward points) and with the dividend I get back on my Visa every December, but there are many other reward programs I don't bother with as it would just lead me to spend money I would not have ordinarily spent to get things I don't really want. No one can reduce you to being a consumer if you insist on acting like a self-directed person.
posted by orange swan at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2004

This is silly. If you don't want to use reward programs, then don't.

The rational reason to protest these schemes instead of ignoring them is that they drive up the prices of everything for those of us who don't submit to them. For example, Chapters will charge you 5% more for not signing up for a card. The irrational reason is that they're repulsive and deserving of scorn. Both seem like good reasons to me.
posted by sfenders at 12:38 PM on March 10, 2004

"...and we're all gonna be naked maaan! Our bodies are beautful!"

i wish, but seriously, i would bet that most urban dwellers have access to a farmer's market or co-op that isn't considerably (key, subjective word) more expensive than the megagrocery chain. or a bookstore that isn't as market-driven as Chapters.

reduce the amount that you consume and spend, and lie to marketers as much as possible. if everyone contributes, it won't be cost-effective for them anymore.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2004

I have a job where I have to do a lot of grocery shopping, and needless to say, I have collected a LOT of Airmiles. I had collected about 9000, and decided to redeem them to go on a trip. Needless to say, I had more than enough for what I needed (2 plane tickets, rental car, hotel), but they add service charges, insurance etc. At the end of the day, I have forked out about 700 dollars. Figuring it out after, it worked out that I was getting about a 40% discount on what I would have paid if I had just paid cash. Nice to save the little bit of money, but I kind of feel cheated.
posted by Quartermass at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2004

I've replaced my lost airmiles card twice. It takes about 60 seconds on the internet.

And, I might add, this is essentially an anti-VRU screed, something that was well covered by comedians in the 80s. What's she going to write about next? ATMs replacing tellers? Self-serve elevators?
posted by jacquilynne at 1:39 PM on March 10, 2004

What these companies seem to have forgotten is that firewalls work both ways ... How many businesses have seen their sales decline and just haven't been able to figure out why?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:43 PM on March 10, 2004

an anti-VRU screed

Ah, VRU seems to be a new TLA for IVR. No, it isn't.

Coupon-clipping and points-winning mind games do not depend on computers, they're just made that much more annoying by them. They're a traditional way to confuse and ensnare the more slow-witted customers. It's not like you can really build a significant relationship with customers at a grocery store. Your customers just want to buy groceries. They do not want to earn "air miles" every time they make a purchase. Or at least they wouldn't, if they thought about it a little, rather than just assuming that it's a good thing. Which they don't.

Oh well. People do not act in their own best interest, so lottery tickets and reward programs remain popular.

The "firewall" thing isn't, really. It's just that the store manager probably doesn't control much of anything these days. It's all decided centrally. And you can't have everyone who walks in talking personally to the Deputy Assistant General Manager of Customer Retention Management Programs at the headquarters in Cincinnati.
posted by sfenders at 3:01 PM on March 10, 2004

"Greed is the emotion of the hungry ghost realm. The hungry ghosts are beings with huge, hungry bellies and tiny mouths and throats. Some inhabit parched lands where there is not even a mention of water for hundreds of years. Others may find food and drink, yet if they swallow even a little through their tiny mouths, the food bursts into flames in their stomachs. Generosity unties the hard knot of greed."

- Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on March 10, 2004

It seems she was not alone in her frustration because it was not long after that the stamps seem to have disappeared.

I liked the article, but sentences that bad should not see publication in a national newspaper.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:40 AM on March 11, 2004

1) "PIN number" - what the hell does she think the "N" stands for?

2) Three months to replace an Air Miles card? How incompetent can she be?

I have no sympathy for people who rail against the idiocy of others while demonstrating their own.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:07 AM on March 11, 2004

Do Good.

Screw the stores and their purchase-tracking bullshit and the whopping few dollars you save over the year. Trade cards with strangers, at least.

In the meantime, go find yourself an ethical bank, like the one above, and make a real difference. Every time I do a card transaction -- credit card or debit card -- 10 cents goes to charity. Doesn't cost me anything to do some good.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 AM on March 11, 2004

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