Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shrinking Food, Unaware Customers

When people from my generation talk, occasionally, they remark that something seems smaller than when they were young.  The typical place this comment is aimed is at Wagon Wheels.  Everyone remembers when they were gigantic, and today they seem really small.  Honestly, when we were young, we were small, and some stuff looked bigger than it really was. However, there are many examples of things getting smaller, which seems to have been done to keep from raising the price.

Now coke comes in an 18 pack.  18 is a far cry from the two dozen that I expect coke to come in.  If they did that with beer, there would blood in the streets and revolution in the air.  I also remember buying a 600mL coke, but now it is only 591mL.  Does that seem right to you?

Most can goods have done the same thing.  The number of millilitres is always some awkward number because they started out at a standard round number, but have gradually crept it down so that instead of 750mL we get a number like 682mL.  How stupid do they think we are?  Did they think we wouldn't notice?  Of course not.  They knew we would notice, but they felt confident that we wouldn't say anything.

This must happen all the time.  We are given smaller versions of things and we accept it.  Over time, our products are shrinking. When I bought potato chips as a kid, they had to rather big bags inside one really big bag.  These days, the bag you get chips in is probably smaller than one of the two you got originally.

Only once, in the history of marketing, has this ever backfired.  One company of feminine products decided to reduce the number from 30 to 24.  This was met with a conscious and subconscious boycott which forced the company to rethink its strategy and sell the product in its original size.
It isn't just food.  Comic books used to have a hundred pages, now they have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20.  Remember Mad Magazine?  I would say that fewer pages mean fewer laughs.

Why can't the rest of us do this?  Why are we towing the company line?  Next time I find a company doing this I will report it here, and I will send off as many emails as I can, and join any boycott I can.  If you find a product like this, attach a comment to this blog.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Christmas in October

It happened on the weekend.  It caught me by surprise, though you would have thought that I would know better.  I saw my first Christmas display.   We haven't even gotten to Halloween yet, and already the Christmas decorations are out.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, but shouldn't we tackle things in some sort of chronological order?  It seems a little premature to be getting ready for Christmas when you're busy looking for a costume.  (and based on the advertisements for costumes, Halloween is not a particularly holy occasion)  As a Canadian, we've already gotten Thanksgiving out of the way, so we're doing our part.  For any of my other readers, you've probably got other holidays or celebrations before Christmas, but I am sure the decorations are already out.

Again, I love Christmas, and when my shopping is done, I love all the store decorations, Christmas music, and wholesome TV shows (Maybe this year we can get a Dexter Christmas special).  I am happy that so many people go to the trouble to brighten up the world, talk about goodwill, and promote happiness.  Sadly, I am cynical and believe that some of this is more target at the quest for greater profits than the greater good.... but it still does look nice.

I have heard, though not actually seen, some people have already started turning on their Christmas lights.......... sorry, but that's just wrong, regardless of how beautiful it looks.  I am impressed if you have already hung them (or still have them up from last year), but there really is no need to turn them on until we are much closer to the holiday.  If I were a Member of Parliament I would introduce a bill banning all Christmas displays to stay packaged up until at least November 15.  If I get my message out, I might actually win on this promise alone.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are Free Newspapers Really Free News

Every day I take the bus into work I am greeted at the subway station by people offering me free newspapers. Since I like news, and like to be informed (and like to occasionally glance at the Sunshine girl) I avail myself of these offers..... but I am a little cynical.

First of all, why do these papers, who are so willing to hand them out for free, often call my house (despite being on the so-called "do not call list") offering papers for what they claim is the rock bottom price.  Really, if you don't mind handing out thousands for free, why in the world would I think 25 cents is a great bargain?

Secondly, when these newspaper companies hand these newspapers out for free, are they telling their advertisers that their readership includes all these non paying customers?  That seems a little unfair, doesn't it?  Free newspapers shouldn't really be counted in the readership.

If I were less cynical, I would think that these free newspapers were part of some great marketing scheme to get more customers.  It makes sense.  If you give people a free taste, they might come back and pay for more.  Unfortunately, I am too cynical to believe this idea, especially since there really doesn't appear to be any real news, or in depth analysis in these papers--there are several crosswords and Sudokus, but in depth reporting and scathing editorials seem to be lacking.

At the same station I am offered two of the commuter papers, which have always been free, and rate less cynicism from me (that is if you don't count my general cynicism over advertising--but we should leave that for another day)  These papers, which carry the same stories as their parent company papers (which are included in the ones they are handing out for free) only edited down to fit into the stricter confines of the free paper.  While not badly written, they don't convey the whole story.

Overall, I shouldn't complain too bitterly.  I read these papers, do their Sudokus, read their sports columns, and glance at whatever else they consider news.  However, don't for a minute think that they've got me fooled.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Smart Phone. Smart Owner?

I was on the bus the other day, minding my own business, overhearing some people talking.  (okay, I wanted to mind my own business, but they were sitting right next to me and talking very loudly)  What really caught my attention, other than tales of drunkenness, was that one of them claimed his cell phone bill was more than 200 dollars.

More than 200 dollars!  Is that really possible?  Was he calling the International Space Station?

Granted, we are talking about a smart phone, so this bill includes some sort of data..... but still.  Is everybody out there running up these whopping phone bills?  Are all of you paying hundreds of dollars for the convenience of sending text messages, and checking twitter messages?  (Couple this with the cost of some of these smart phones, at least I can understand why we call the phones smart......)

Honestly, I am not a big fan of cell phones.  I am not unaware of their advantages.  I am also not unaware of their coolness factor.  My problem is less with them and more with the owners.  Is the information being conveyed really worth hundreds of dollars?  Is what you have to say, and who you have to say it to, really worth so much money?  Just asking.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Deal? Now?

Well, there seems to be an offer on the table to end the lockout of NHL players.  Great!  The sooner the better.  I miss hockey, and would love to see it again. (now I know you're wondering where I am going to go with this.....aren't you?)

The newspapers all mentioned how shrewd a movie this was of Gary Bettman.  Shrewd.  When I read that in several newspapers, it gave me pause to think.  If this was as shrewd as reporters have mentioned, then why are they telling me it is shrewd?  They make it sound like it was underhanded (this is Gary Bettman after all). If this is so shrewd, then if really isn't bargaining in good faith, is it?  Trying to back someone into a corner and forcing a deal on them doesn't really look or sound like a team effort to get people back on the ice.  I guess I am just unclear why bad faith is shrewd?  Shouldn't the papers be trying to find out why this deal is happening now?  Shouldn't these papers be dissecting the deal line by line.

I am already tired of the games, the brinkmanship and everything else that has come with this lockout.  I still can't see the owners side of anything--my view is blocked by those massive contracts they handed out before they had to lock out the players so that they didn't really have to pay for those contracts.

I am not going to follow this in the news until the day it is settled.  Until then, there has to be something on the sports channels. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012


As if I didn't need another reminder that winter is coming.  The gigantic pile of leaves that I have to rake up should be enough.  Rather than let us think we have some time left before we are waist deep in the white stuff, the flyers for the local stores have to remind me that winter, and the need to shovel all that snow out of the way is nearly upon us.

When I look through the flyers, anticipating some great sale, or some knowledge of a new and wonderful product that will change my life (sadly, neither of those two things ever happen) the last thing I want to come across is a page full of snow shovels, snow blowers, car scrapers and ice melting salt.

Had I come across a more positive winter image (think Santa Clause, or a snowman, or maybe some reindeer) I would still be a little underwhelmed.  Coming across such a bold slap in the face, winter is almost here, advertisement really doesn't sit well with me.  Couldn't we just cancel winter this year, just this once?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Running Free in the Toy Store or Liquor Store

Sometimes when you go to a store, you see kids running amok.  They race from aisle to aisle, from item to item.  It can be pretty intense.  Most of the time I don't mind it, unless I have a headache--but then what in the world am I doing shopping. 

When the store in question is a toy store, I really can't blame the kids.  They are in childhood paradise, and they should revel in it.  Since I can easily channel my inner child, I can see how stimulating the experience is.

There are times when I wonder what their parents are thinking, though.  I watched the same scene that was wonderful in the toy store take place in a liquor store.  Call me judgemental, but somehow I don't think a child running wild in a store full of glass is really a good idea.  I have even seen some people let their children push the cart.  I can't be sure, but maybe the children were in better shape than the parents (it was a liquor store after all.)

When I was a child, we weren't allowed in the liquor store.  Of course, child abductors and the general decline of our civilization has made leaving children in cars or alone in front of stores a rather bad idea.  In fact, it was probably always a bad idea (like riding tail gunner position in the back of the station wagon) but we did it anyway.

I wish I could say that things are better.  Sadly, I think that though children are more computer and technology literate, they aren't better behaved. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Where's my Jet Pack?

Technology is pretty amazing.  We have wafer thin phones which can 1000 more things than my first computer could do.  We have cars that have don't need keys, and can park themselves.  We have televisions that are bigger than some of the screens that were at the Eaton Centre movie theatre (when it was still open).  Great as this is, couldn't we redirect that at some other areas.

When I was a kid we were promised jet packs.  Where are they?  Why do I have to drag my sorry self onto a bus for an hour or more, or drive (concrete bound) on a crowded highway for the same amount of time.  I should be jetting across the sky to work at a speed only a Porsche on an empty highway could achieve.
virtually unchanged in my lifetime

Since that seems so far away, could I, at least, have more modern vending machines?  In Canada, we've been dealing with the same model since long before I was born.  They might have reorganized the buttons, and updated the pictures, but that's it.  In Japan, they have machines which have 24 or more choices, can serve hot or cold beverages (at the same time) and accept $100 bills.

We are putting all our technological eggs in one basket.  We are working on faster computers, more talented phones, and probably cars that can drive themselves.  Maybe we need to look in other areas to invest all this energy and innovation.  Why can't we have remote controls that don't need batteries?  We put all kinds of kinetic energy into them by using them.  We should be able to power them with that.

hot, cold, and lots of choices
Why can't we have a toaster that will evenly toast your bread, and never burn it.  We can put a rover on Mars, but I have to spend many of my precious morning minutes scraping the carbon off my breakfast.

We have the technology, but we need to think of a better way of applying it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Plastic Bag Debate

Recently Toronto city council voted to ban plastic bags some time next year (it could be January first, or June first--I am not really concerned with the date)  It was covered by all the major newspapers and found its way onto the local news for several days running.

I don't live in Toronto, so most people would argue that I shouldn't really think about it.  True, except that when Toronto passed a by-law requiring all stores to charge for plastic bags, it quickly became store policy.  So pervasive was this that most store clerks thought it was the law in the province, rather than store policy.  So, if this happens in Toronto, it is likely to be adopted by all stores province wide.

As for me, I don't really understand the resistance to the idea.  I remember when we didn't have plastic bags, and things worked out fine.  The only time there was any trouble was on sitcoms, where the main character had to struggle in the door with multiple bags, leaking fluids, fumbling with keys while the phone rang.  These days, they would just let it go to voicemail, and I would hope that you could put down your bags while you are opening the door.

I have embraced that bring your own bag to the supermarket, and so it seems have quite a few others,  It was difficult at first, but I always have some of the bags in the car.  When I am planning on going to the store I always manage to bring them with me.  If I forget, or don't have enough, I am sure paper will do. 

I realize that plastic is convenient, but I don't recall the last time someone tried to tell me that plastic was good for the environment. (though people are still debating global warming, it seems that we've all accepted that plastic will never go away)  Most people seem to have embraced the blue box concept.  Maybe a sensible first step is to force the blue box program to accept plastic bags......

I am prepared to lug paper bags home (or at least to the trunk of my car) and I am sure I will soon see bundle buggies full of paper bags being hauled across town.  Will the plastic bag go the way of the dinosaur?  Since the dinosaurs became oil, and oil gave us plastic, it seems only fitting.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Where No Cell Phones Should Go

Once again, I am forced to admit technology is amazing, truly amazing.  People, however, are not.  They definitely amaze, but not in a good way.  They adapt well to technology, and make it part of their lives.  They bring it into every part of their lives, including the bathroom.

I find it pretty disconcerting when I enter a public bathroom and hear someone talking on a cell phone.  I really don't think that is the place to make a call.  It isn't the acoustics either, it just seems like a point of etiquette.

It might be an old joke, but men are not supposed to talk in the bathroom.  Stare straight ahead, take care of business, wash your hands (yes, I believe in that religiously and so should everyone) and get out.  It is supposed to be a time of sombre reflection, or at least quiet deliberation.  I don't think somebody yammering on about something should interfere with that.

Forget my peace and quiet for a moment.  What is the person on the other end of the call thinking?  They must be wondering why this person chose that specific moment to call them.  They can't feel too valued, can they?  Today, a person flushed in the middle of his call.  There is no way someone would miss that, is there?  Usually when I come across this scene I try to flush as often as possible, and use as many hand driers as I can.   This is environmentally unfriendly, but some sacrifices must be made if decorum is to be established.

There was a very good TV commercial on that dealt with this over attention to one's cell phone.  The tag line, after people ignored their children, ignored their lingerie clad partner, and dropped their cell phone in the urinal, was "Really?".  I could only nod my head in agreement.

Gas Price Update

Though I am loathe to admit it, the gas price actually went up today.  I guess I should interpret that as the oil companies, not messing with us.  I should interpret that as the economy working the way it should.  Sadly, I just can't do it.  Deep in my heart, I know it. I know it to be true with every fibre of my being.  We are being messed with.