Amazonian Space–Time Continuum
Who likes to wait? Not me! That’s why I went back in time to write this post. Ah, here it is! What took so long?
Once upon a time I was in a serious quandary. I wanted some cheap, plastic, materialistic consumer shit made in China and I wanted it now. What to do, what to do?
As I saw it, there were two choices.
I could haul my fat ass up and out of my chair, somehow make it to the car, drive to a big-box store, somehow make it inside and navigate the maze to (hopefully) the right section where the object of my desire might be found. All the while being blasted by a tasty mix of songs scientifically designed to make me spend more money. (The mix is a rotation of two songs. Happy, by Pharrell Williams and anything by Mumford & Sons.)
I say “might” because I’ve tried this in the past and it didn’t quite work out. Ever go to the store to buy one specific thing? After expending incredible effort (see previous paragraph) you learn it isn’t even there. Out of stock. I do not believe there is a worse feeling in the entire universe.
And that other choice I mentioned earlier? Amazon. Duh.
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Don’t cross business streams
True. The tweet above had absolutely nothing to do with this post. It was actually about me going insane. (A very worthy topic.) But not, alas, the topic for today.
Instead, the word “stream” caught my fancy. Yes, I’ll admit. At first it was in a “don’t stand under this” sort of way. But then my thoughts turned to things like revenue streams and product streams. While in that place, I wrote the following little ditty (sung to the tune of The Streets of Laredo):
As I walked out with my Wall Street Journal
As I walked out with my Journal one day
I spied a rich douchebag with a bad hairpiece
A hairpiece as fake as the the caring I feigned.
I see by your outfit that you are a douchebag
I see by your hairpiece that you’re a douchebag, too
I think we should do business we’d both make a killing
There are lots of dumb marks that we can both screw.
We both love money so much that we eat it
We both use work to avoid our home lives
A partnership formed in our quest for more profits
To chase that worthy dream we’re both willing to lie.
Oh cheat and lie and gray the lies lowly
We’ll giggle and laugh as we roll along
Take it the bank and pull the wool o’er
If wealth is right we don’t ever wanna be wrong.
I’ve got greed in my chest and so I must lie.
This sad story is one about the “free market.” Yeah, that free market. You know the one, right? The one that people on the right love to ejaculate about so much? Yeah, that one. This story will provide a glimpse of insight into how that sucker really works.
It started with a phone call…
“Hello, this is Blowhard.” (That’s my boss! And no, that’s not his real name.)
“Hi, this is Madame X with Acme-Fun-Time Distribution.”
Madame X (not her real name) is a representative with a product distribution company. Blowhard has been courting a business relationship with her for some time. It’s very important to him and he worked very hard to build it up. He milks her for information that she probably shouldn’t share. When they met at the convention in Vegas, she took him out to dinner on the company credit card. When he recently toured their plant, she arranged to have his room paid for and got him the all-you-can eat buffet for free. He was as happy as a pig in shit. His two greatest loves are free and food, and she went and gave him both.
You’d think he’d be nice to her after that, right?
“Hey, Blowhard. I need to ask you a question. Have you ever heard of a company called Decepto International?”
My boss didn’t miss a beat. When lying becomes a way of life, you get real good at it. “Nope. I’ve never heard of them.”
I love it when chickens come home to roost.
“Oh,” she said. “That’s a bit odd. You see, they have the exact same address as you.”
Uh oh!! The jig is up! One of our dummy companies just got busted. It turns out that the boss greedily used the dummy company to sell products on Amazon.com but forgot to use a different address. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Mom was right. When you tell lies, it gets increasingly difficult to keep things straight. Obviously, since my boss was hatched, he never had the opportunity to learn this lesson.
How do you show someone that you respect them and care about them in the world of business? Yup. You lie unabashedly right to their face. Classic.
You see, Blowhard had set up a dummy company to purchase products from Acme-Fun-Time Distribution. He did this after his main company had been blacklisted by certain product manufacturers. He was blacklisted for selling products at prices lower than manufacturers wished. Yes, this cousin of “price fixing” is alive and well here in the United States. For more about this, see my earlier post entitled “Term Stomping” and Wikipedia’s page on “resale price maintenance.”
I guess most people would feel somewhat shamed after getting caught red-handed in a lie like that. Not my boss. Not when money is involved.
I could only chuckle at how he had just taken a major shit on the relationship he had worked so hard to build. Oh, they’ll still do business with us. After all, that puts coin in their pockets. And that’s the way the game is played. You deceive me, I’ll deceive the manufacturer, and we’ll all make money.
And this “free market?” It is one where product manufacturers exert a lot of pressure to maintain prices artificially high. It’s a murky world of blacklisting, contracts, gray markets, and companies ratting each other out. And, I’m willing to bet, most of the players are just like my boss.
Get your coupon freak on
A question I’ve often asked myself: If you have to spend money to “save” money have you really “saved” anything?
Something tells me Benjamin Franklin would say, “no.” Saving is saving and spending is spending and never the twain shall meet.
Last night we went to visit some friends we hadn’t seen for a while. We handed over our coats, settled in and made idle chit chat while their kids ran around screaming.
I’m not sure when it happened, but at one point our hostess disappeared and starting fiddling around in their pantry. She left the pantry door open and I peaked inside. My first thought was, “Wow. Look at the size of that thing.” My second thought, however, was, “Look at all that stuff!”
On those pantry shelves was an amazing accumulation of stuff. It looked very much like a well-stocked grocery store. There were multiples of every item. Five boxes of Cherrios, five boxes of Frosted Flakes, five boxes of Fruit Loops, and multiples on practically every other item as well, like Dow Scrubbing Bubbles, shampoo, deodorant, Rice-A-Roni, air freshners and much, much more.
“Holy cow,” I said. “You have your own little mini-mart in there!”
The wife of a fireman who works 48-hour shifts, our friend has had some interesting hobbies and habits as she spends a rather unusual amount of time home alone. She has always really been in to watching TV. She has all the channels and a DVR and has made it a way of life.
But now, she explained to us, she has a new hobby. It’s known as couponing. My web browser may not understand the word (and highlights it as misspelled) but punch it in a search engine and you’ll see that the internet certainly does.
“It’s a great way to save money,” she said, “especially if you aren’t picky about what you get.”
So it’s her new hobby. Her latest obsession. She says she can often go hours at it and gets things she doesn’t even need. (I even saw containers of anti-constipation stuff.) She also admitted that she’s spending money to get some of these deals – like “buy one get one free” or “save 50 cents on purchase,” etc.
Is it just me or does that sound a bit nuts? Spending money to get things you don’t really need and sometimes things you don’t even want. And I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the things she gets are highly processed and/or full of chemicals. Ugh.
I’ve heard modern lore that if you apply yourself, do it intelligently and put in the time, couponing can lead to cart-loads of deals. I’ve heard of $125 trips that we completely free. I admit if it is usable stuff that I’d otherwise mostly want then that’s probably pretty cool. No doubt it would be a more productive use of my time than sitting on my ass.
So my friend has a hobby and like most hobbies, it isn’t too surprising if it ends up costing a bit of money. If she enjoys it as such then good for her.
When we left their house that night she loaded us down with four bags of stuff. I tried to refuse but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. We had breakfast cereal (although she kept the Fruit Loops for herself, dammit), scrubbing bubbles, body wash, deodorant, and chicken-flavored Rice-A-Roni. Since we’re vegetarian we gave the Rice-A-Roni to the gerbil who seemed quite excited to have a free meal and immediately made himself a box.