Felicity Lawrence in the Guardian, on the scandal of those exploited Chinese immigrant cockle-hunters drowned in Morecombe Bay (yes yes, it’s shocking - but you’ll be buying cheap seafood at Tesco again this week, just like BB):
…Retailers and manufacturers order “just in time” from wherever is cheapest around the globe, waiting for their barcode scanning to tell them how much consumers are buying. Instant communications allow them to relay what they need at a moment’s notice. Modern transport networks enable them to have it delivered with unprecedented speed.
Well if that’s how retailers think their systems are working, we suggest they give up now and go back to the barrow in the street market. In BB’s vast and unrewarding experience, “just in time” usually translates to “out of stock”. (And where are these “modern transport networks”? The rail network runs at 20mph, and all the motorways are jammed.) In fact, one day BB is going to open a shop called “Out Of Stock”, and it will contain nothing but empty shelves - acting as a major competitor to every other high street retailer. Tremble, Jessops! Be afraid, HMV, we’re going to eat your lunch (although doubtless the queues for bread will be huge).
Over at Debris, Matt excitedly tries to choose and then obtain a decent water heater from the vast range of ONE that’s available to him. Meanwhile, I wonder why every camera shop sells the same cheap brand of Graduated Neutral Density filter (the worst one, with the well-known grey cast) and no other. I wonder how hard it can be to buy a Well-Known Brand X printer, and why I foolishly believed PC World’s stock check when I drove there on a “day of rest” to no useful result. I wonder why a large book chain doesn’t replace its one copy of that new book I’m after when it’s been sold. I wonder why the staff can’t help. And I wonder why the same stores then issue profit warnings and report that demand has been “soft”.
It’s bad enough that the Kings of Consumer Dreams are building Jerusalem Inc. on the backs of the oppressed poor (whether migrant or native), risking their lives, paying them buttons and forcing them to live in borderline squats. But the fact that this system can’t even adequately serve its intended markets makes you wonder if its sole point isn’t simply to spread as much human misery about as possible. Miserable underlings toil half-heartedly at tedious jobs for minimal pay so that miserable consumers can search in vain for the objects they have been told will enrich their empty lives, only to find that the store doesn’t have that colour, it’s been out of stock for three weeks and nobody knows when the next delivery will be, we don’t stock brand B (not enough demand), they only make them in one size, there’s a 75% markup to pay for the advertising campaign and branding that made you want one in the first place and the staff are all bored school leavers who don’t want to serve you because they’re too busy counting down the seconds to closing time so they can erase the sorrows of this negated existence by glugging sickly, fruit-flavoured vodka drinks in a wacky fun bar chain and copping off with Darren or Debbie from Returns.
For chrissakes, exploit the underclass by all means but if, for all your crappy McJobs, temporary employment contracts, short termism and double-dealing, you still can’t run an effective business then WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT?? We are the ALL-CONSUMING GODS OF THE MARKET - we saw the ads, we read the brochures. We have the RIGHT to BUY anything we WANT - you said so. And we want it MAXI-SIZE, in PURPLE, delivered FREE, with a full range of ACCESSORIES, RIGHT NOW. So if you can’t even manage that then DON’T BOTHER SINGING HOSANNA FOR NAKED COMMERCE ‘COS WE AIN’T JOINING IN THE CHORUS.
It turns out that communism didn’t die at all, because capitalism ultimately tends towards the same result anyway, only on a global scale; joyless peasants shopping dejectedly for a limited choice of shoddy goods made to the lowest standard that aren’t available anyway. It just comes with a marketing budget as well.