advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Sunday, February 17, 2008

On Harmony And Balance, Or, The Brain Takes A Short Break

A substantial amount of work has come from this desk recently that has sought to explain complex economics, change the nature of corporations, offer alternatives to a pointless corporate merger, and recognize a pair of youthful Constitutional heroes.

All of that deep thinking has begun to tax the ol’ melon, however; and in an effort to ensure continued mental harmony and balance we take leave of those subjects for today to discuss, instead, an oddly commercial look at love, a linguistically odd take on caffeine and the English language, and a story that oddly manages to link Valentine’s Day, death, and the commercial inevitability of smoked meat.

To quote Frank Zappa: “Get your shoes and socks on people, it’s right around the corner…”

OK, so we have to start with the Wal-Mart story…because it’s just so “Kathy Griffin”.

For reasons that you’ll all just have to accept, on the evening of the 13th of February The Girlfriend and I found ourselves in a Wal-Mart.

For those who don’t go into those places, I will set the picture. The passage from the front door to the sales floor (which I suppose is a sort of vestibule) is always lined with the items that are to be “pushed” the hardest; and as you enter the sales floor area there are “end cap” displays at the end of the aisles that present you with other assorted exciting “must-haves”.

You might have seen or heard stories of the “midnight madness” sales the day after Thanksgiving, and the entrance of the Wal-Mart on this day had much of that atmosphere as the entire vestibule (on both sides), the end caps of the oncoming aisles, several giant red Valentine’s gift display tables, and a variety of other standing displays all groaned with their romantic offerings.

Dozens of shoppers roamed the displays—so many so that it took me a minute to see what I saw…a sight which left me so strongly affected that I actually had to have my irony meter recalibrated after I got home that night.

What did I see?

Imagine we’re standing near the junction of the vestibule and the sales floor. As we look to the left there are tables covered with plants and balloons next to every cash register line.

The signs scream: “$4.99! Low, Low, Prices!” in a smiley face language of blue and yellow that is blinding to hear...Look to the right and we see shelves seven feet high festooned with stuffed animals of every description…and red, red, red, everywhere.

Just a few degrees to the left of that is the first of the end caps, and up that aisle are tons of shoppers…because that’s the chocolate aisle. Next to that is another aisle of Valentine’s silliness…and it’s all so unbelievably red, with pink fur trim and electronic singing and LED lights…

Right in front of us is the maddest part of the whole thing, the three card aisles…Dads telling the kids what cards to get for Mom…Moms and their daughters crowding around…”Oh, that’s soooo cuuuuute” is being chanted over and over like a mantra belonging to a religion of Saccharine Satanists…

And if you look just a bit farther to the left, in the dead center of the main front aisle of the store, surrounded by all the other vital Valentine’s supplies…and immediately next to the jewelry department…you will see what Wal-Mart apparently felt was the most important Valentine’s Day supply of them all:

The “Valentine’s hula hut” display of Bartles and Jaymes and Gallo wines.

You heard correctly, folks…and I’ll say it again, just for emphasis:

From right to left you see red hearts, red hearts, red hearts, red hearts, jewelry, cheap wine…and red hearts.

They had all the good stuff, too: the B&J that comes in that blue box, and the one that has the kind of a berry-colored box--and not just the crappy Gallo, either. They had Gallo magnums. You wanna talk about class, this was it.

Try to imagine if you went to sleep in the normal world, and when you woke up the next day the biggest store in bizarro world had been taken over by “The Jerry Springer Show”…that was exactly the atmosphere; and I swear I was looking around for Todd, in his headset, to lead the audience chants.

By the way, right next to the cards were two DVD displays, including the “Black History Month” video display (yes, Virginia, there is a “Black History Month” video display at Wal-Mart)…which contained two movies I had not previously considered as Valentine’s Day/Black History Month crossover interest films…but then again, I’m probably just not as able to see the big picture as the esteemed corporate marketing executives.

The films?

What’s Love Got To Do With It” and Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?

You come home with films like that, you’re guaranteed a very…interesting…Valentine’s Day, indeed.

With that story out of the way, let’s move on…

Starbuck’s no longer rules “upscale” coffee, what with McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Doughnuts having recently entered the business; and the folks at Dunkin’ are today running commercials that are clearly intended to take a shot at the pretentiousness they perceive in the Starbuck’s experience.

The setting is the local coffee shop, where the line of waiting customers are singing in unison about how tough it is to wrap their minds around the strange language they are encountering there…a sort of Frechtalian that features words like Venti, or Doppio, or something of the sort.

The soothing voice of the announcer reassures America that Dunkin’ Doughnuts would never do that to us, delivering a tag line that is destined to become an instant irony classic:

“Delicious lattes from Duncan Doughnuts. You order them in English.”

Rumors are that they plan to branch out into additional new menu items; meaning it will soon be possible to order other great American classics (like arroz con pollo, croissants, and Sauerbraten) in English as well.

Because after all, no real American wants to be forced to order a latte in French.

And finally, a story that, as promised, manages to ironically mix a holiday and smoked meat.

The Valentine’s Day edition of “Oddball” featured the porcine redux of the famous “Heart Puppy”…the cutest little baby piggie you ever saw, with a perfect tiny black heart on the side of his snow-white hide…and just to get it out of the way, let’s all say it together…


Before you spontaneously erupt into treacle, however, you should know there’s a dark future ahead for our little Wilbur.

The farmer who is raising the minute bit of livestock reports that the heart is actually considered to be a genetic indicator…and I swear I am not making this up…of…again, I’m sorry to have to be the messenger here…particularly delicious meat.

That’s right, in the most awful bit of Valentine’s Day irony since the Massacre, our little Heart Piggie faces the prospect of becoming…Heart Bacon.

So there you go, my friends: we have cleared the desk…if not the brain…and we are ready to move ahead with more serious stories; our harmony and balance a bit more restored.

And as for me, I’m in the mood for a bit of a “pick-me-up”.
I think I’m gonna head on over to the Dunkin’ Doughnuts and try that new English language coffee drink we were talking about earlier: the “Freedom Latte”.

With any luck, it’ll be America-licious.


jmb said...

Thanks for giving our brain a rest too.
Like Christmas there is nothing so over as Valentine's Day, so what happens to all that red stuff, do they sell it off cheap so that one is ready for next year or store it and trot it out again.

Donvila said...

It varies. Sucessful retailers discount it until it goes away. Greedy (but unsuccessful ones) pack it up and try to sell battered merchandise the following year. Often they'll pack it up again or throw it away.

fake consultant said...

and then there's valentine's "candy corn", which i believe was only manufactured once (in 1992).

as i understand it, every year recyclers gather the unused candy corn (which is nearly 100% of the previous year's supply) and christmas fruitcakes and send them to a "refurbishment" facility where they are irradiated, rewrapped, and resold.

this may not actually be true...but it's what i heard.