Monday, January 31, 2005

Jewels from The Wall Street Journal

I can't remember the last time I flew US Airways, but I recently received notification from them out of the blue urging me to spend my frequent-flyer miles before they expire on magazine subscriptions. Now, I have to marvel at US Airways business plan: They can't manage to compete with those yucksters at Greyhou -- I mean Southwest, but they're quick to make sure a marginal customer like me is able to get a free year of The Wall Street Journal home-delivered. To my delighted surprise, my first issue came today, and I eagerly devoured it on my train ride to work, thinking I had suddenly become ten-to-twelve times more substantial in the minds of those around me then I was when I was reading the daily Metro over unsuspecting shoulders.

The sharper of you faithful readers of Marginal Utility will have probably noticed a bit of an ideological slant to my entries, and you won't be surprised to hear that I think, shockingly enough, that corporations profit by taking advantage of consumers rather than by catering to them. To judge by their behavior (see, for example, the film The Corporation), they seem to despise their customers, despite the fact that they are generally made up of them. And they aren't making a secret of it. They announce their scorn in myriad ways, I suspect, in every single edition of The Wall Street Journal. In what I hope will be a regular feature of Marginal Utility, I will occasionally share quotes from the paper illustrating the casual contempt of the business world.

Today's jewel: From "Deal Brings 'Proctoids' to 'Plywood Ranch,'" (B1) an article about the Gillette/P&G merger:
Gillette's longtime focus has been on developing better and better products to make mundane activities, such as shaving, require high-tech tools -- a complex operation focused largely on high-tech research and development that P&G cannot afford to disrupt.

This is the glorious engine of capitalism at work: take something simple and easily dispatched and make it high-tech problem over which we can all become anxious. Thank you, Gillette, for helping me to relearn shaving, over and over again.


  1. I am idealogically slanted as well. Visit me at

  2. What I find particulary astonishing is how upfront they are with their plans of adding such unnecessary complexity to simple tasks. But as I think you stated in one of your older posts ("Notes on Conveniance", i think), it's not actually the convenience they are selling you, but rather the image of being "upfront" and "cutting-edge" when you use this thing. Hardly worth the difference in price between this and a bagful of "disposables"

    Unrelated note: I've been reading the site for a couple of months now after reading one of your Popmatters articles. You have a really insightful way of dissecting this capitalist elephant sitting on top of us, and have given me plenty of things to think about. So this is really just my long-winded way of saying: "You're site is awesome...keep it up"

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  7. Hello Rob Horning
    My fingers are broken from typing merchadiser in the search engines and finding scam artist sites. Jewels from The Wall Street Journal came up and I am glad to finally get to read posts by actual people and not some jerk who thinks that using merchadiser entitles him to sell me junk. I like your site and will return to read more posts. Have a good day and thanks for being a nice site.