Thursday, March 19, 2009

Desperation in the business world

I see things that strike me as acts of desperation.  Yes, the economy is bad, bad, bad.  For an indication of just how bad, you should really spend some time viewing The Crash Course at  

However, I've noticed some things that are real strong indicators that marketing and product folks are getting desperate.  Here are two of them:

Trader Joe's.  I love Trader Joe's.  I get really good quality food at great prices.  For example, we try hard to eat organic when it comes to raw foods; milk, eggs, veggies, fruits, etc.  As an example of the great deals, TJ's sells a gallon of organic whole milk for around $5.98.  Shaws and Stop and Shop also sell gallons of organic whole milk, but for around $8 a gallon.   

TJ's used to sell a pound of organic romain lettuce in a bag of three heads.  It was a great deal and in the Summer, my wife and I would go through two of those bags a week.  However, a while ago -- could be a year, could be longer -- I noticed that the bags were lighter and were now being sold in 12 ounce packages.  Same price, but we were now getting 25% less.  That's a big increase. Last fall I noticed that some of the bags felt noticably lighter yet again.  That's because they now sell "Three heads of organic romain lettuce"  No weight indicated.  I promise you, some of these bags have three scrawny heads of lettuce in there that barely top 8 ounces.

Same bag, same big title, a tiny fraction of the value.  

Here's the second thing.  One of my credit card companies called me and I finally answered -- I hate being interrupted during family time.  Ms. Dublin politely identified herself and thanked me for being a long-standing member.  Then she asked my permission to read a paragraph and record the remainder of the conversation.  I initially assumed that she had to notify me of some change in the terms, but was puzzled why it had to be over the phone.  Since she was simply reading a paragraph, it didn't seem like she was trying to sell me something.  But there was that recording part.  Hmmm.

In the paragraph she said that they would be enrolling me in a program that would monitor my credit reports and notify me of any changes or threats and that after some introductory period, they would bill my account $9.99 a month.  It seemed that the company was trying to say that by listening to the paragraph I implicitly accepted the terms of this service that they were foisting on me.

I said that I wanted it clearly understood that I do not want any such service and that I am not agreeing to accepting any such program.  Ms. Dublin replied that I have the choice of opting in, but by accepting enrollment, she would simply send me the materials.

Really, what kind of malarky is this?  You want me to look at the materials?  Fine.  Send them to me.  However, you don't need me to agree, on tape, to have you send me the materials.  

So, I felt it necessary to state again that I was not accepting any enrollment in any such program and do not want any charges to be applied to my account for any such purpose.  Furthermore, it seemed that by accepting enrollment in order to get the materials, the company was equating that enrollment with accepting the automated billing of this service and I wanted it clearly understood that I was not accepting any such service levied to my account.  

I'm glad they were recording that.  :-)  Ms. Dublin thanked me and hug up.

The lesson here is that both of these programs are tricky and underhanded.  I love Trader Joe's a good deal less now and I do not trust this credit card company at all.  

Is that really the way we want our customers to think of us, our products and services and companies?  Nope.  It's baaad policy.  Baaad products and baaad practices.  

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