Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Not Playing at Monopoly.

I was asked not long ago to attend a conference on aging and because I'm stupid, I readily said yes. 

To be frank (I'm frank and earnest with women. In Cleveland, I'm Frank, in Chicago, I'm Ernest) I'm not sure I've ever gained anything of value through my attendance at any conference. 

I know there's value to be had through networking, but I'm not much good at glad-handing and would prefer to do it through the impersonal safety of a so-called social media platform. As for provocative thoughts, information or ideas, I'd much rather read. 

Despite the deflowering of the American mind, there is a flowering of books being published and you can buy immediately and extortionately with a click, their prices being set about 80-percent too high through the monopoly power of Amazon. But all that is absolutely beside the point.

Back to my conference on aging. A young person, an employee of the host began talking. When he finished I said, "you don't know what the effect of your language has had on me. I know all the words you used, but I don't use those words the way you do.

"I don't call people curators. I don't call people content-creators. Just as I don't believe in "talent acquisition," or about one-thousand other terms that are horribly au courant."

Young and old today are from two vastly different worlds and I don't like that my world is no more.

I'm up on the Gingham Coast and my wife and I wanted to buy the weekend Wall Street Journal. If you ignore its fascist politics and pro-earth-ruination stances, it's one of the world's great newspapers. What's more, their printed edition has stories their digital editions don't.

My wife ran into two different drugstores. One from each of the major drugstore chains that control about 75-percent of the American drugstore market.

"Do you have the Wall Street Journal," she asked at Walgreen's.

"What's that?"

This leads me, at long last to today's topic.

We can call it either, "What does it mean to sell?" Or "What is service?"

I believe the way these questions are being answered today has had a huge negative effect on the advertising industry, and is the reason so many people like myself have left the industry, or been drummed out of it, and why the industry itself, in so many cases, seems to have outlived its viability. Like politics and just about everything else.

Here's what I mean.

As a shopper, no matter what I'm buying, I just about always need some kind of help. I have a question I want answered. I can't find something. I need something that's unusual and I want some help buying it, or rationalizing it. Or, since I'm spending a lot of money, I want some validation that the place I'm buying it from aren't a bunch of asses and that they value the business I'm bringing them.

I'd wager that the agency business used to do all of the above when they made a sale or serviced a client, or even, had an ongoing relationship with a client.

Now, whether you're trying to find the Wall Street Journal, some pine-nuts for this pasta dish your wife makes, a new set of tires, a garage-door opener, a replacement screen for your iPhone or a set of three or five commercials, you get nothing in return.

All shopping and all service are self-service. Woeful and confusing. 

  • An economy can't only serve the sellers and not at all serve the buyers and expect to survive. 
  • An economy can't serve only the c-suite and not the workers and expect to survive. 
  • An economy can't serve only this quarter and not think about the long-term and expect to survive.
  • Same with holding companies.

Of course, this applies to baseball teams, politics, drugstores and ad agencies.

Some powers have decided that the promise of a marginally lower price trumps all other considerations, including comfort, good lighting, respectful service, information and, heaven forfend, a smile.

Five minutes here will help. Pay especial attention around 4:04.

My personal theory is maybe more than a little red. Most everything you buy you buy from some outlet in an industry that is under monopoly control. From drugs, to tires, to phones, to candy, to gasoline, to airline tickets, to social platforms, to cable providers, to advertising.

Monopolies do the same the world over, for all time, regardless of industry.

Since you can't go anywhere else (everything's the same, anyway) they lower their costs to the absolute minimum lowering their level of service to the same standard. That leaves the greatest differential between the cost of selling something and the price they can charge. That's how you gain maximum profit quarter by quarter to the point of eventual absolute collapse, because when the only thing you offer is an undifferentiated product and your sole advantage, low cost, has been cut as low as possible, someone else will come along and either do it cheaper or better.

From this old man's point of view it seems that every industry in the world has turned into an extractive industry. Think oil company or coal mine. Or for that matter, holding company.

How much can we take out and profit from? The consequences of our extraction, be damned. 

Again it seems to this old man that the world has been strip-mined. You can't get service. There is no kindness. You never feel good about what you buy. You just want to get out without being skinned-alive.

Again: What is service? What does it mean to sell?

What is being a human?

I believe it's about more than taking from people. 

It's about giving something back.

That's what I try to do with my agency. That's why I've gained the confidence to charge high-rates for my services. I give value and of myself for the money I'm paid.

Clients keep, touch wood, calling. And coming back.

Again touch wood.

I don't sell hours.

I sell a good product:


Accompanied by caring. Accompanied by running through hell in a gasoline suit to make sure I've done right by you.

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