My September article for “The Local” is now out, this month on Lawson Crichton, manager of the Lambton Cooperative Society Store.
One interesting side discovery from researching this article came from Ralph Snowball’s 1898 photo of the Cooperative Store, where I noticed that one of the advertisements on the front wall of the store was for a product called “Bile Beans For Biliousness”.
Bile Beans was a completely fraudulent product created by Charles Edward Fulford and Ernest Albert Gilbert, and first sold in Australia in 1897. The product was a relatively harmless concoction of plant and vegetable matter, but was heavily marketed with pseudo-scientific attestations as a cure for all kinds of maladies, including constipation, indigestion, rheumatism, influenza, and anaemia.
By the 1930s the product was being marketed as a weight loss pill for women with advertisements proclaiming that …
“Slenderness can be yours without dieting or fatiguing exercise if you just take Bile Beans. Just a couple nightly and you’ll slim while you sleep.”
Thankfully the marketing of ineffective weight loss solutions using pseudo-scientific claims of efficacy, gushing about the natural origins of the ingredients, and targeting women with insecurities about their body image – that could never happen in our modern day and age, could it?
Can Kathmandu do mad? Yes they Kan-mad-du.
For years retailers have been engaging in the annoying practice of asking customers to fill in a meaningless surveys to rate their performance. They are meaningless because the respondents are not a genuine random sample, the questions asked are often ambiguous and sometimes downright leading in the responses they are trying to elicit, and because the results of the survey probably just end up in some inscrutable graph in a PowerPoint presentation of a middle manager in the quarterly sales meeting.
On Friday I experienced a new extremity of survey madness when I made a purchase at Kathmandu. When I went to pay for the purchase with a credit card, the staff member asked me to key in ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to answer the question on the screen which was something like “Did you find us upbeat and friendly today?” Yeah, so asking customers to answer that while the staff member watches on is going to elicit reliable data. Not.
The December quarter saw a 37.4% improvement in upbeatedness!
Shopping is not one of my favourite things, but after putting off a number of needed purchases for some time, today I spent more hours in shopping centres than I would normally endure. Here are some things I learnt.
- Size labels on clothing are meaningless. In the course of purchasing shirts I tried on many size L shirts, some of which were too small, some too big, and some the right size.
- A depressing number of retail outlets ask you to join their ‘loyalty’ programs so that they can track your purchases and send you junk e-mail.
- There are a number of perfumery outlets emanating such a stink that I wonder whether they ought to be reported to the EPA?
- Thin glasses cords are very thin in stock at the moment. There’s no problem acquiring a thick glasses cord (one that is visually distracting and reminiscent of rope for lashing down loads of freight) but it seems that the thin cords are in short supply. I had to visit 11 stores/chemists/optometrists before finally being able to purchase two thin glasses cord at Bupa Optical Kotara. It turns out they were the last two in their stock. So now there’s at least 12 places across Newcastle that doesn’t stock them.
In a post earlier this month I used the word “ambivalent ” when talking about iTunes upgrades. A lot of people think of “ambivalent” as meaning not having a strong feeling on some matter. More correctly, ambivalence is when you have two conflicting feelings at the same time.
A good example of ambivalence is the music that retailers play in their stores. Undoubtedly they target the music they play in the background to cater to the tastes of the demographics of customers in their store, and to make them buy more stuff. I suspect they even fine tune it by the day of week and time of day, so that the music that gets played 10am on a Monday morning will be different to what gets played 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.
So when I was in Bunnings the other day and John Paul Young’s “Yesterday’s Hero” is played, I am both simultaneously delighted to be hearing my favourite song of 1975, (and knowing that JPY will be collecting a few cents more in royalties), but at the same time disgusted that a retail behemoth is trying to mess with my mind and affect my buying behaviour. Ambivalence.
Now in a curious coincidence an interview with JPY appeared in the Newcastle Herald today, in which he recounts how he was in Bunnings the other day and was recognised, but only as someone “who looks like John Paul Young.”
Another grinchy thumbs down to Bunnings who have their Christmas stock out for sale more than three months before Christmas!
A big thumbs down to Big W who have put out Christmas trees for sale a full 3 months and 2 days before Christmas Day!
I hope all their stores and the offices of their heartless greed-obsessed upper management become infested with rancid maniacal grinches. I really do.
P.S. I quite like Christmas. But I like to celebrate Christmas …. well … at Christmas time.
Go away? Or come right in? Take your pick.
Not by my choice, yesterday I found myself for the first (and hopefully last) time in a Starbucks cafe, where it was crowded, noisy, a little bit grotty, and where the beverage I consumed fully lived up to my expectations of overpriced ordinariness. The only upside to the visit was a moment of comic relief in discovering that the service staff had noted my name down as “Rockland”.
Just call me “Rocky” for short.