Friday, February 17, 2023

The High Price of Big

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device  

"If you think the United States has stood still, who built the largest shopping center in the world?" -Richard M. Nixon

Dear Stickies and Gentlereaders,

Often, size does matter. I speak, of course, of the wild, wacky, wonderful world of retail. 


And when retailers compete, consumers win. Most American consumers, hip-deep in retail outlets, are used to winning, and take it for granted. Unfortunately, business owners and their employees often lose. 

Competition kills. 

From a storied, local family-owned supermarket to a late, great retail colossus (Sears/Kmart comes to mind), no one is safe. 

And bigger keeps getting bigger. 

A globe-straddling economy creates hooge retailers and the little guy person, as if he/she/they doesn't/don't already have enough problems, can't possibly match the big guys persons on price and selection.  

{Trying to write in a Wokie-approved manner so as to not inadvertently trigger a member of a marginalized minority gets ugly fast.}   

Right? Worth it though. I figure it's only a matter of time before an unemployed, deeply indebted individual with a Ph.D. in Critical Pottery Theory looking to break into the social justice industry starts applying ESG ratings to wordsmiths. 

But I drift. 

{As is you wont, your garrulousness. But you do you, as the cool kids say.}

Almost everyone roots for the local store owned and operated by a local businessperson. Hey, you just can't get that kind of personal, hands-on service at the area Mega Lo Mart. 

But not everyone's willing, or can afford, to pay the retail prices a local firm may have to charge because of the wholesale prices they have to pay. Also, how does the local little guy  person compete with their customer's virtually unlimited needs and wants being delivered to their customer's front door by enormous retailers offering virtually unlimited choices?

{Sure, but what about porch pirates?} 

Sociopaths have to eat too. Besides, crime is a fairly stable industry that generates a lot of jobs. 

Speaking of customer service, or the lack thereof, if something goes wrong, that's when the excrement may hit the climate control system.

Don't get me wrong, I hate shopping in meatspace. I'm an Amazonophile who would borrow money "on the street" rather than let my Amazon Prime membership expire. And this is in spite of the fact I think the cash Mr. Bezos spent building his penis-shaped rocket ship...

{It's an investment in the future!}

Would've been better spent on the millions of minions responsible for getting stuff to my front door. Of course, if something goes awry there are all sorts of procedures in place to easily straighten out the problem.

{Do you mean ih-shoe? Problems are called ih-shoes now.}

Big BUT, if your problem falls even slightly outside of established problem-solving protocols... well, I'd think twice before engaging with Lord Jeffry's army of algorithmites if I were you, buddy. At a certain point, the time you spend trying to resolve your problem costs more than the thing you thought you bought. 

{I'll just call customer service and hope that I'm familiar with the English dialect spoken by whoever answers the phone. What's the big deal?}  

Assuming, of course, you're not dealing with a company that's so large they go out of their way to discourage actually talking to customers. Once a company reaches a certain size it's no longer practical, or profitable, to answer the phone.

Regardless, you'll be forced to deal with decision trees, "Please press 13 if _______", and God help you if you press the wrong button and wind up speaking to the wrong person in the wrong department — the adventure begins! 

We're sorry, all of our customer service associates are busy dealing with other people's ih-shoes just now. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. You are caller number 1,039. Thank you for your patience. 

{I've never understood that ih-shoe. Doesn't India have like, more than a billion people?}

Hey-hey-hey. Are you trying to get us canceled? 

{Sorry, please don't delete me.} 

You can't just go around... wait, I've got an idea. 

Some are saying that we need a "Universal Basic Income" (UBI) to provide for all those people who've lost their jobs to robots, algorithmites, Chinese slave labor, etc. But others are worried that getting paid to do nothing will create a modern version of ancient Rome's mob.

Imagine an America in which most of America, including the ever-shrinking middle class, provides stellar customer service of all sorts for the rest of America, their wages subsidized by a UBI so as to keep the peace between the halves and have-nots.  


Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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