Thursday, March 23, 2006

Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?

I'm a consumer. We all are. I think I'm fairly discerning. I like to study what I'm buying, compare it with the competition, make a judgement, and then, I tend to live with my decision. All a retailer has to do is give me a decent product, sell it at a fair price, that turns you an honest profit and gives me the product I want and I'll put my hand in my pocket and everyone's happy. This seems to me a simple way of doing business that makes everyone go home with a result. What pisses me off though, is I no longer believe any of the bull that comes with selling me something.

Everything that is sold these days has to have marketing literature that is riddled with superlatives.

Let's try a few examples. Go into any chain restaurant.....not something I do very often but sometimes, especially where children are involved, you can't avoid it. You're presented with a huge laminated menu with razor-sharp edges and pictures of the food for the hard-of-reading. Let's say I want a steak. The menu will not simply say "10oz sirloin" which is all you really need to know when buying a steak - the size and the cut. Perhaps some information about the provenance and lifestyle of the beast would help but really there's not much more I can think of. No no no. It will say something like "A juicy and tender 325g of prime sirloin, lovingly prepared by our expert chef, coooked to perfection on our flaming grill, served with a sauce of your choice made to our own secret recipe." Right, so your chef's an expert, that's a relief, cos you look like the kind of place where the staff look like one day, they might aspire to the minimum wage. Your steak is juicy and tender? Well, that's the least I fucking expect. Do you have other steaks on the menu that don't reach this criteria because that's the only goddamn reason I can think why you feel it necessary to point out the fact for this one? Cooked to perfection? So am I normally to expect it will cooked to imperfection - do I need to be told it will be cooked correctly? And I'll bet the sauce will be made to a recipe that is more familiar to a scientist than a cook, and prepared in a vat the size of the hold of the Titanic somewhere in a factory in Skelmersdale or some other hellhole.

Why do credit cards all have to be platinum? Premium? Ultra? Fish? Egg? If you ask for the regular credit card you'll be told that the Premium, Platinum, Ultra Fish/Egg credit card is actually the entry-level card. Platinum, despite it's implications of exclusivety and elitism is, in fact, the bottom of the heap. No credit card has ever given me anything more than the ability to buy things and therefore not have to carry around substantial amounts of cash on the hip. That's all I want it to do. But the advertisers think that having their card will somehow give you more. Hell, some of the advertising implies the card is buying the stuff for you - well if you're stupid enough to believe that then you're going to get a shock on the 1st of every month when they start asking you to pay them for all this stuff they were privileged enough to buy for you.

Hyperbole, superlatives and a stunning array of smoke and mirrors now seem to be the norm when deciding to buy the simplest of goods or services. It's all bollocks.


Aunty Marianne said...

Britain's particularly bad at the superlative business. Go to the same sort of restaurant in Brussels, and you'll get the same picture, but there won't be room for all the fluff because of the three-word description having to be printed alongside the photo in at least 3 languages.

And yet there are still people I have to translate menus for. Sheesh. Learn a language, dammit, it's not that f**king hard.

Which brings me back to Britain. Time was, if you wanted to look posh, you did your menu in French. If for no other purpose than to get Brits started somewhere on the foreign lingo bit, but also to start kicking out this stupid three-page description of your chapati being lovingly rolled on the thighs of the restaurant owner's teenage daughter, the time has come again, if you ask me.

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