Capitalism Can Eat A Dick!
The United States is said to be “the greatest country in the world.” One of the major reasons this is said, is due to our adoption of Capitalism, where private citizens are allowed to own businesses and infrastructure with which to produce and sell goods, thereby making shitloads of money. In the old days, you could own a factory or what have you, produce a good product, and reap the benefits. Your failure or success would be dictated by the free market, so basically, if your product was a piece of shit people wouldn’t buy it, and you would go out of business. You basically had to build a quality product, and stand by it or you’d be on a bread line before you knew it.
There are 3 main concepts to building a “good” business. A quality product, good customer service, and demand. You could have the best automatic shoehorn in the world, and the best salesman and warranty. But, who the hell needs an automatic shoehorn? I certainly don’t, I have Herve, my dwarf manservant to service all my below the knees needs… (speaking of a good product… hmm) Conversely, if you have a product that is in high demand, like virtual reality porn or something. Everybody wants a XXX holodeck, but if the force feedback of your 3 boobed alien mistress’ crotchal caress actually feels like someone stomping you in the balls, well, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Lets not leave out customer service, if your product is good but simply not user friendly, good customer support could save your bacon with patches, user guides, or what have you. I’m primarily focusing on the production->consumer relationship above, but retailers and 3rd parties have a HUGE impact on our economic system as well. Demand is pretty much out of you, a business person’s hands, unless you are a fucking moron, you’re going to make a product people want. So lets discuss the other two.
This is probably the heart of the matter of lots of our problems today. Nobody gives a shit about making a quality product that people will enjoy. Half the battle is to hype your product to the masses, make them want it so bad, once they realize you just took a dump in a box, they’ve already paid you! Remember when you were a kid, and you were stuck with some shitty, rabbit ear, not cable ready, CRT TV? Sure you could use an upgrade, but it simply would NOT STOP WORKING. Kids today don’t have to worry about that anymore. If their 40” LCD flatscreen in their room just simply isn’t crisp enough to display the detail of brain matter spewing from the head of their latest kill, not to worry. Because that shit is probably going to break in a few years anyway. I mean, shit, what’s $850 for a new TV every 3 years when you have interest free credit at Best Buy?!
It’s not just TV’s. Appliances, cars, clothing, whatever. Nothing lasts long anymore. You know why? It’s called planned obsolescence (or at least it’s close to that.. shut up.), creating a product that will be useless in a few years, so you’ll have to re-enter the market for a new one. One of the best examples of this are GODDAMN phone/mp3 player peripherals. Not only was the plug on every single one different, if you bought the next model? Have fun buying ALL THE SAME SHIT ALL OVER AGAIN, because it’s no longer compatible. Say your 3 year old washing machine is broken, you are fairly handy, and realize it’s just a worn out bushing that simply needs replacing. You can’t find anything in stores, well good fucking luck getting one from the manufacturer. They know it’s going to break in 3-5 years, that’s why they redesigned it, with a different bushing, and stopped producing that one. If they had those on hand, nobody would need to buy the new one! $5 part, or $1200 new unit? CAPITALISM!
SHITTY CUSTOMER SERVICE
Speaking of calling customer service, who the hell looks forward to that call? You know you’re going to be on hold for at least 15 minutes, have to talk to some poor bastard reading from a script, who couldn’t think rationally about a solution to your problem even if he wanted to. Customer service in today’s world is atrocious. Shit happens in the world, people make mistakes, I get that. But trying to get a business to own up to that is an exercise in futility. If you ever wondered how I earned my moniker, look back to my experience with Orbitz when they fucked up my flight change, and then told me I agreed to take a $4 refund… Yes, because I am a goddamned moron. (I mean… I am, but not that dumb) Just look at what happens when your douchebag (ahem, Paul Christoforo) marketing director fields some customer complaints. Well you get free publicity! Oh no wait, you get a mega famous webcomic artist calling for a ban on your company. Sure, hell hath no fury like the internet scorned, but that coiled steaming dump of a marketing firm might have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids on the interwebs.
Seriously, if not for public shaming and bad press, these companies would be shitting on us regularly and laughing all the way to the bank. Which they do anyway. I am a regular reader of The Consumerist, and if your story makes it to the front page there, or on your local news, most times the company will make good. However, if your story doesn’t get picked up by a news outlet, or a high traffic blog, you are SOL. Sometimes, an “executive email carpet bomb” (essentially, finding out the bigwigs’ emails and writing to all of them, hoping for some satisfaction) yields results. The higher ups, who may be more prone to common sense, rational decision making, and who might actually be empowered to help you. However, call centers aren’t the only place where customer service has been pissed on like an R Kelly video (topical!).
Retailers, fast food restaurants, basically anyplace where you have to interact with another human being to purchase goods and services, are an exercise in frustration lately. I don’t think it’s the norm yet, but it is a frighteningly large amount. Big box stores are killing mom and pop stores. Web retailers are killing big box stores. How did this happen? Well, with mom and pop shops, you get the great customer service you deserve, but have to eat a slightly higher price. Big box stores have the lower prices, but the shopping experience is goddamn terrible. Typically, lower prices trump good shopping experience for most people. Circuit City is a prime example of the downward spiral of the retail experience. They fired all the people who knew anything about their products to save money on payroll, and made the shopping experience a journey through the 9 circles of hell. The 7th circle: home computing. Best Buy has headed this route as well, with their “optimized laptops” where they turn on the machine, sit through all the installs and updates for you, and jack up the price $180. The only issue is that they do this to ALL OF THE LAPTOPS IN STOCK. So if you don’t want the service, order it online. There are other bullshit services they advertise as well. No I don’t want my HDTV optimized for $300, I’m pretty sure I can take the stickers off, and plug in the HDMI cord myself. Not to mention trying to sell this optimization by placing TV’s side by side, with one tuned to the SD feed of ESPN, and comparing it to the “optimized” TV with the actual HD feed. I’ve heard stories of people buying “laptops” from best buy, opening them at home and it turns out to be a piece of kitchen tile in the box. Then Best Buy accuses them of fraud when they try to return it. CAPITALISM!
The American retail landscape is littered with greedy, bloated companies that want nothing more than to take as much money from you as possible, and to hell with your satisfaction. The concept of buying power doesn’t mean the same thing as it did 20-30 years ago either. Sure, prices are lower and you can afford a $1000 TV more easily, but you also have to buy a new one every few years. People just don’t seem to get that declining prices accompany a decline in quality. Not only that, companies do their best to make it impossible to repair your previous purchases. If it takes hours and hours of frustrated phone calls, wasted days off work waiting for inept repairmen, and probably a few years off your lifespan, most people will just bite the bullet, and buy a new product. Where does the old one go? Why, in the landfill! Or maybe even back to the company to refurbish, and then resell! WHAT A COUNTRY! I’m moving to Greenland, where my smartphone will make me unto a God to the locals, and I can be awash in virgins.
(apologies to anyone actually from Greenland, but I’m assuming you’ve never heard of the Internet anyway)