Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Capitalism done Right

647 words

1. Shopping

It's been all over the news, so this won't surprise anyone: A shopping centre in Asunción burned down, killing hundreds. Probably due both to not spending too much money on fire safety and having the ingenious idea of locking the doors so nobody could leave before they had paid. That's the spirit!

So that's 10% of the body count of the World Trade Centre attack – without any effort or the perpetrators having to risk their own lives. No martyrs needed for that. Just cold-blooded 'managing'. When will 'War on capitalism' be declared?

2. Alcopops

Hail to states that love regulation. Sometimes they mean well. For example, since August 1st, we have an extra tax on alcopops in Germany. It was found that – to the total surprise of alcohol companies, I suppose – that those rank drinks appealed to kids and were mostly drunk by them. As producers didn't want to take any responsibility and vendors apparently didn't either, the state had to step in. They didn't ban them outright, but simply introduced a steep tax – hoping that prices of €2-3 per bottle will put them out of the target group's financial outreach.

I think that's nicely played within the 'free market' system. And while I'm not sure it works (just compare to the UK: high cigarette prices seem to mean less smokers, but high alcohol prices don't seem to mean less boozing), the reaction of supermarkets has apparently been to pull the products from the shelves. I wonder whether that's just PR or the tax really works.

Anyway, being the responsible 'corporate citizens' that they are – striving for the good of the society at large – drinks producers had a brilliant new idea: Invent new alcopops based on wine instead of spirits. They'll have the same alcohol content, the same sugar to hide it, a similar appeal to the kids and… the new legislation won't be applicable to them. As an added bonus they'll be even cheaper because without spirits in them, there's one less tax to pay.

When the revolution comes the marketers and lawyers will go first...

3. SMS

Another fun way of making money at the expense of clueless kids is selling them 'premium' SMS services for their mobile phone. While I think it's already a rip-off to charge people 20 cents or so for sending a few letters of text as an SMS message from phone to phone, that's not where the money is. The money seems to be with selling people 'logos' for their phones' displays, crappy ring-tones or games. Those seem to be at least €2 a pop, which is bad enough.

But even worse: By using the numbers they advertise on telly – and music television is full of those ads – you'll actually subscribe to their service, meaning that people using the service will be able to enjoy new images or ring-tones week after week, and pay good money for them. Many probably won't even know what's going on. And it's hard to complain about these things if the only way to contact the vendor is by sending them text messages – to a premium rate number, of course. This calls for things to be forbidden. Customer rights, or something. (Or perhaps make the child of a lawyer get a really high bill…)

Of course none of the parties involved, mobile phone operators, 'premium service' providers or TV stations, want to do anything about it. All of them are seeing nice profits and can handily shift the blame around: We just provide network services, it's none of our business what they're used forWe're providing a quality service with publicised terms and conditions that people agree toOur target groups really like the ads and enjoy the services. As was said in Super Size Me: People also enjoy Heroin.

August 4, 2004, 11:12


Comment by Richard Anderson: User icon

I’ve been working on a war on capitalism but with so many other wars to fight, I am falling way behind. I am always amazed at what we are willing to accept as losses. Car accidents, homes lost to fire, what have you. Recently, in northern Virginia, there was talk of re-examining the zoning codes with the suggestion that houses are being built too close to one another, allowing fire to jump from one to the next. Building codes already take this into account (allowing for fire resistant assemblies in lieu of physical separation). What gets my goat is how in America we still consider building our homes with what is little more than kindling acceptable and the attitude that comes down the pipe is: let it burn, its an acceptable loss, as long as the next house over does not.

August 4, 2004, 22:53

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