Author: Level Of Consumerism Is Out Of Control
ARI SHAPIRO, host:
Well, whether we're on the Internet watching TV or pushing a shopping cart down the store aisles, consumers are constantly inundated with marketing pitches. And they are all fodder for Sam Pocker's blog and his new book, "Retail Anarchy." This retail critic and consumer anthropologist came into our New York studios to share his concerns.
Mr. SAM POCKER (Author): You know, when I started writing this book, we were at the peak of all this stuff and I was watching consumers go to the store and just overload their shopping carts with the most ridiculous garbage - you know, blueberry-raspberry-flavored dish soap or something, you know, and it doubles as a chewing gum, and it's got a slogan in the commercial and people are filling the carts with it like it's nothing.
SHAPIRO: You know, you're making something, blueberry-raspberry-flavored dish soap chewing gum, but you actually have things on your blog that are not so far off from that.
Mr. POCKER: You know, one of my favorite recent ones is the freeze and eat fruit tubes, which I did a whole exposé on my blog about different ways that fruit is being processed. I'm fascinated by the notion in this country that we've stopped making quality products, that we stopped aiming to make quality products, and now we kind of pride ourselves on how we're able to confuse the consumer into giving us their money, and then the result of that is these absolutely insane products.
SHAPIRO: You also rail at great length against marketing tactics that get people to spend more of their money, and one of my favorite passages in your book is about one of your favorite holidays.
Mr. POCKER: Yes, Lobster Fest.
(Soundbite of song)
Unidentified Man: (Singing) At our Lobster Fest we do lobster best. No one else even comes close…
Mr. POCKER: It's utterly ridiculous, I mean, who in their right mind would ever say, hey, let's go celebrate Lobster Fest. I mean what marketing person really thought anyone was going to fall for this holiday.
SHAPIRO: But people do fall for it.
Mr. POCKER: People fall for the ads. They see the ads and they think, wow, we haven't had lobster in a really long time, and they go to Red Lobster.
SHAPIRO: But as you write, Lobster Fest presumably identified the month when they were selling the fewest lobsters…
Mr. POCKER: Sure.
SHAPIRO: …decided to brand it Lobster Fest, and now they're no longer selling the fewest lobsters in that month. Sounds like a success to me.
Mr. POCKER: Sure, I suppose it is, you know, from a financial point of view, but is it successful from a cultural point of view? There is no benefit. This thing exists entirely to sell more lobsters.
SHAPIRO: So what's your ideal world?
Mr. POCKER: I wouldn't say I have an ideal world. I just think that the level of consumerism is so out of control.
SHAPIRO: Even now with the recession, you think the level of consumerism is way out of control?
Mr. POCKER: It's still outrageous. If you just watch television or listen to the radio or read the newspaper, you know, you hear recession, recession, recession. If you go to a mall on a Saturday, you've never seen the mall so packed. People may not have as much money to spend, but still they desire those items.
SHAPIRO: Are there any companies that leave you speechless because you've nothing to criticize in them?
Mr. POCKER: Sure. There're lots of companies…
SHAPIRO: Give a couple of examples.
Mr. POCKER: …that I think do a great job. I love Spirit Airlines. I mean Spirit Airlines - this is a traditional American company that offers a quality product, that's the flight, at an outrageously cheap price. And they don't make any qualms about it. They're saying we're not going to give you any customer service. If you want a drink, you got to pay for. If you want to check a bag, you got to pay for it. But if you want a bargain, we're going to give you a bargain and we're going to be fair about it. And they are quite fair about it. I think that's an excellent company.
SHAPIRO: So what's your direct straightforward message to companies?
Mr. POCKER: Stop focusing on your marketing and start focusing on making a quality product that you can offer for a reasonable price.
SHAPIRO: Retail critic and retail cynic Sam Pocker writes the blog and now the book "Retail Anarchy."
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