Monday, February 4, 2008

buying things and the man and van corporation

Saturday, we bought a car. I’m afraid I know no more about it than that. It’s silver… could be a pergeot… slopey front… four wheels… doors into the back seats… Oh, and it’s an automatic. After we decided against one of those hybrid electric ones (because they’re hugely more expensive –even after you take into account the fuel savings) I kind of lost interest.

Once you’ve got a baby in tow, you can’t really mess about trying out lots of different cars, working out whether heated window frames are more important than blue-tooth cup holders. You just have to decide what you’re after and buy it there and then before the next feed. (OK – so I have to admit I’d never have been THAT interested in what car I drive – but I’m even less so now – see I’m boring myself already).

I think this attitude to shopping extends beyond cars. We went into John Lewis last week and bought a couple of bits for George – a changing table, etc… We just went in and said – “I’ll have that” no messing about.

Afterwards I bought some clothes – having been through my wardrobe and worked out I needed clothes, I just walked through and picked them up – “I’ll have that, that and that!”

I didn’t chase round a dozen shops only to return to the shop I went to first to buy what I’d seen on a failed trip three weeks earlier. I just saw what I needed, bought it and left.

The funny thing is, you’d expect to be less pleased with your purchases when you make your decisions like that. However, it’s not the case. I’m just as happy with the clothes, the baby stuff is just as good as any other stuff we’ve agonized over. The car will, I’m certain be just as useful as if we’d test-driven a whole fleet.

Perhaps the whole product “experience” is just a big con. The comparing of slightly different products with slightly different looks, features or styles to find out which one is best for YOU as a discerning individual is all nonsense – after all, I don’t feel less individual having chosen my shirts on gut instinct than I would have if I’d spent a week comparing them.

Or maybe the truth is that it’s the shopping experience that’s the con. Maybe you actually decide what you want within a second and the myriad of different products out there in the shopping world is just there to delay and confuse your decision – to keep you wasting your time going round and round the isles on the off chance that you’ll pick up something else or loose track of what you want entirely – or just have to buy more coffees to keep you awake through the long drawn out shopping process.

Maybe if we all just bought the thing we came for the moment we first saw it and then went home, the whole of capitalism would collapse in on itself.

It’s a nice thought.

After buying the car, we went to visit Russ and Pietro – a spontaneous visit of the kind we’re making more and more. George is making us more spontaneous and making us prepare ahead more at the same time.

On one hand we can’t just drop everything and go off to the pub or to a restaurant like we did before. On the other hand, our schedule isn’t booked up months in advance, so we can just drop in if we’re in the area. We can just get in the car or on the train in a way we couldn’t before because now we’ve had to be so organized about having everything we need in a bag ready to just pick up and go.

Anyway, we ended up staying over (travel cot and spare nappies are in the car – of course). Russ and Pietro are great hosts of course – always making sure there are fairy cakes for breakfast!

We got back home on Sunday and decided to go for a Sunday lunch, but for some reason ended up going to a thai instead – and I’m afraid, however nice it was, if you’re expecting a Sunday roast, nothing else is going to do.

By the time we got home with George, the weekend had caught up with him and he balls his head off uncontrollably until bed time.

I hope he starts to get used to being in his own room soon – he’s getting tired and so are we.

Oh- I forgot - On the way home from Russ and Pietro’s we pass a van.

It’s one of those lorries with “£15 per hour man and van” scrawled on the side in running white paint along with a phone number.

A little further on we pass another.

These are clearly meant to look like one-man operations – some guy with a bucket of paint who’ll come and move house for you on the cheap. But I don’t believe a word of it. I think these are part of a massive multinational conglomerate. They have thousands of vans in 103 countries around the world and are, in fact bigger by turnover than Microsoft.

The “man and van” corporation has employed an advertising guru and spent millions on their image. They have created the ultimate trademark. A brand which is instantly recognizable to everyone, and yet, which is utterly invisible and thus utterly unaccountable.

Who would you sue if the “man and van” corporation ripped you off? Where would you complain to if the man and van you hired broke your valuable possessions or simply drove off with them? Nobody! You’d just sigh and go out and hire another “man with a van” – the corporation is not perceived to exist, so it can never get a bad name. And yet it has such a stranglehold on the van rental market that everyone ends up using them – even if they’ve had a bad experience before.

It’s pure corporate genius.

When you phone the number on the side of any of these lories, you’re immediately put through to a call centre in which banks of low-paid wage slaves in Indonesia have been trained to say nothing but “hang on – I’ll just get Dave” in a cockney accent.

You’re then transferred to a local sales representative in your area.


Pietro said...

Regarding the "shopping experience": Perhaps when you start buying things for yourself it is important to try loads of different styles of clothes, shoes etc. Once you're happy with your style, then you tend to stick to it within the means available... perhaps by bulk buying loads of similar shoes should they go out of fashion.

Pietro said...

Gosh! What time are you on? My pc clock says it's 12.48 (meaning I wrote my comment above c.12.45. Yet it says it was posted at 4.48am.

Better sort this out before the CIA becomes involved, especially the Faction

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