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.