Inappropriate Sales Pitches Insult My Intelligence

Yellow Sphere, see

This picture is unrelated to this blog post, but I needed a picture.  I hope you enjoy it.   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking for a job is so much fun…

I contacted a nonprofit job placement agency today that could be expected to specialize in My Professional Field.  I had a couple of very specific questions to ask and the response was a little lacking.  My thoughts on the matter are much more interesting than anything they wrote back to me:

1- You’re telling me that you never catch wind of anything in my field?  Did you read anything I wrote to you?

2- Oh, I see.  You want to sell me your services.  If you had read what I wrote you, you might have deduced that I have already obtained said services elsewhere for free.  I’ll give you a pass on this one because I didn’t quite spell it out slowly and simply so you could understand.

3- I can forgive #’s 1 and 2 because all funds spent on your services are going to a cause I might donate to if I were employed.  I remember a must-read article at PBS that talked about some horrible things LinkedIn and other job boards are doing to the unemployed.  Compared to them, you’re a peach.

4- I responded to you anyway because I do need a job, but I didn’t buy any services.  I doubt you’ll write back unless my reply caused you to realize that you totally botched your original message.

5- I wish I could list “dealing with idiots” as a skill on my resume.  After so much job hunting, I’ve certainly earned it.

Paying Full Price Insults My Intelligence

Models in a mall

(Photo credit: Toban B.)

Although I am unemployed, I still have to wear clothes.  (Trust me, that’s not negotiable around here.)  That means I have to own clothes and I can’t own clothes unless I buy them.

I’m not a big fan of Wal-Mart and similar stores because the merchandise just doesn’t last very long.  However, I have a fairly strict budget.  And in spite of this, I don’t have to walk around naked.   So I’d like to share an easy tip with all of you.

First rule of shopping on a budget: don’t go to the advertised sales.  Advertised sales are designed to get customers in the door to view a very limited number of reduced price items in hopes that other (more expensive) merchandise will also be purchased.  You should also know that some clothing manufacturers prohibit stores from advertising their products below a certain price point.  It tarnishes the brand’s image if everyone knows you can get Armani for ten bucks.

Instead, stop in occasionally when there’s no official sale going on.  Stores still have to get rid of unsold merchandise and they do it under the radar when there’s no publicized “special event.”  After all, stores are allowed to sell products below the agreed-upon minimum if a customer has the product already in hand to see a physical price tag.

This, incidentally, is why Amazon doesn’t list the prices for some items until you click on the product’s page.  Viewing a list is like browsing the racks and clicking a product is equivalent to looking at something more closely.

The only downside to shopping like this is that a lot of the super-clearance stuff looks really tacky on the rack.  About half of it will look good if you take a moment to try it on.  The other half was designed by clowns, and probably for clowns as well.

But if you were Bozo, you would have gone to the advertised sale instead.

Ignoring Your Love Insults My Intelligence

Natasha of Natasha’s Memory Garden has nominated me for the WordPress Family Award.  That means it’s another exciting day of shameless self-promotion here at Bumblepuppies!

To celebrate, I’ve designed my own award logo:

Slide1

Somehow, the traditional touchy-feely version didn’t quite do it for me.

And now it’s time for seven more things you don’t know about me.

1- I enjoyed teaching (which is how I could afford to get through grad school) but the one type of job I don’t apply for is teaching positions in my major.  I’m demonstrably competent and qualified to teach related subjects but I’ve had no luck on that front.

2- Even though I occasionally make jokes that imply otherwise, I have no fear of math.

3- I do not have a library card, probably because I don’t read the kind of stuff public libraries tend to offer.

4- Off the top of my head, I cannot name five movies that have been released over the past five years.  So… I’m not exactly a film buff.

5- Off the top of my head, I can name dozens of varieties of central- and eastern European pork products.

6- I also think turkey is tasty.  This is why I’ve never needed a cardiologist.  (Not that I could afford one anyway…)

7- I would love to try chocolate covered grasshoppers.  If you know of a shop in the U.S. that ships them, send me a link.  Seriously.

The 15 blogs I’m nominating will appear after a few more paragraphs.  Blogs that were nominated last time were not considered for this because everyone should have the opportunity to advertise my blog.

If you need help advertising me and weren’t nominated for this award, you can always tweet about me or like me on Facebook.  Facebook and Twitter may insult my intelligence but your expressions of love and admiration do not.  (On the other hand, the only things I send out on the blog’s token accounts are the automated notifications of new posts.  I don’t think I’ve logged into either since creating those accounts and connecting them to this blog.)

(A note to the nominees: you may use my award logo if you wish, even if you’re not dysfunctional.  Since it displays the “Bumblepuppies” name prominently, I would be more than happy to see it go viral.)

Balladeer’s Blog

http://glitternight.com/2013/08/06/liberals-conservatives-intelligence/

Dad’s Political Cartoon Scrapbook 1939 to 1940

http://dadspoliticalcartoonscrapbook.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/keeping-him-happy/

dental eggs

http://dentaleggs.com/2013/07/18/root-canals-for-ultimate-profits/

fisticuffsandshenanigans

http://fisticuffsandshenanigans.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/because-woodland-creatures-have-inhabited-my-car/

Games, Eh?

http://gameoncanada.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/lara-croft-product-of-sexism/

Homeward Bound

http://carlosddvieira.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/we-mustnt-cry-more-than-the-bereaved/

Is Everyone an Idiot but Me?

http://iseveryoneanidiotbutme.com/2013/08/04/idiot-of-the-week-an-open-letter-to-the-old-navy-director-of-email-marketing/

Kitchen Slattern

http://kitchenslattern.com/2011/09/30/saturday-night-is-bean-night/

muscleheaded

http://muscleheaded.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/anais-nin-says-3/

NOWHERE TO RUN

http://drlisamallen.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/what-would-mima-do/

ONLY IN NIGERIA

http://onlyinnigeria.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/lagos-roads-where-is-dis/

overlandscape

http://overlandscape.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/geiranger-trollstigen-and-briksdal-glacier/

See! Travel Mag

http://seetravelmag.com/2013/08/06/raging-bitch-and-heady-topper/

Seven Years Late

http://sevenyearslate.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/proposal-congressional-shock-collar/

Tabula Candida

http://tabulacandida.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/humanities/

Liquor Ads Insult My Intelligence

The Love Song of J. Alfred Smirnoff

“Let us drink, then, you and I
‘Til your senses are dulled and alight with glee
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets
So we can get some eats
Then playful nights in one-night cheap hotels
And robust condoms with moister gels.”

blind vodka tasting

(Photo credit: rick)

Ads that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming mistake…
Oh, do not ask “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit

In the bar the women come and go
hoping that they will be your ho

The drunken guy that rubs his back upon the window-panes
The blubb’ring pig that rubs his muzzle on the window-panes
Stuck his tongue into the limits of flirtation
Lingered upon the girls that have no brains,
Let fall upon his back the girl that harkens for vodka.
She’s on the terrace, makes a sudden leap,
And seeing that he was a softly drunken knight
Curled once atop the man, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the sleazy gal that slinks along the street,
Rubbing her back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a kiss to greet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to seduce and elate,
And time for all the works and slaps of hands
That lift and drop a flurry on your date;
Time for you and time for her,
And time yet for a hundred fornications
And for a hundred vibrations and relations
Before you have to go to pee.

On the page the women come and go
Falsely portrayed to Average Joe.

The American Music Industry Insults My Intelligence

Das letzte Einhorn, In Extremo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d like to introduce one of my favorite European bands: In Extremo.  They originate from Germany but they’ve toured in Mexico and probably some other places.  As far as I know, they have never made it to the United States.  Their exclusion from our market reveals much about consumer preferences in this country while enlightening us on what risks the music industry will take.  Let’s have a closer look.

1-  In Extremo has recorded songs in German, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Icelandic, and a host of dead languages… but not in English.  And unlike some other performers, they don’t offer translated versions of their hit songs.  Unless they decide to cover the Macarena or Du Hast, they have no chance here until they jump on the English bandwagon.

2- They released a CD called “Unbridled Sinners” (Suender ohne Zuegel) and that’s totally unacceptable to Americans’ religious sensibilities.  That must be why those devoutly Catholic Mexicans welcomed the band into their country.  Oh, wait, that album title came from the lyrics to a song and those lyrics were “I was searching for people like myself but all I found were unbridled sinners.”  So they’re implicitly criticizing less savory types who love metal (yes, this is a metal band) while still marketing the product to this demographic.

3- On the subject of darker types, metal in Germany is sometimes associated with certain extremist tendencies… which isn’t fair in most cases.  And then In Extremo has the medieval and occult-ish aesthetics that the Nazis also liked, plus the overly masculinized musicians.   That’s why In Extremo has to be kept out of the U.S.  That’s also why Rammstein could create a music video using clips from an old Nazi movie and still be imported into the U.S. market.

4- Americans don’t mind overly masculinized musicians, but the musicians have to play the part.  In Extremo’s lead singer goes by “The Last Unicorn” and that name isn’t particularly manly.  The original German name isn’t much better because “Einhorn” already exists in the American cultural vocabulary.  (In case you’re too young to remember, the first Jim Carrey “Ace Ventura” movie featured a crossdressing villain named Einhorn.)  Oh, and a few band members sometimes wear kilts… and that obviously makes them look like a bunch of neo-Nazis.  And then one guy plays the harp in a few songs.

5- The band’s traditional symbol is too violent for American tastes.  They use a gallows, kind of like the one you drew as a kid while playing Hangman.  I suppose crucifixes are also kind of violent, though.

6- In Extremo signed with one of the major American music labels and rebranded themselves by dropping all of their old costumes and symbols; the resulting CD also lacked flavor and didn’t earn great reviews.  A bonus CD included some of their older music performed in their new style and it disappointed.  And they adopted aviator jackets… which somehow reminded me of the giant bandages the lead singer needed after being injured by the pyrotechnics during their previous tour.  The nostalgic looking biplane on the CD cover didn’t help their image either.  Very medieval.  I suppose making it big can ruin a band.

7- I’ve told you that this metal band sometimes uses a harp.  So as you can probably guess, In Extremo’s choice of instruments lands them well outside of the U.S. mainstream.  Americans expect guitar riffs and more guitar riffs.  And three chords maximum.  I can’t list all of the instruments these guys play, but they do have one signature instrument that constantly appears in their music.  It will convince you that these guys are a bunch of neo-Nazis.

So, without further ado, I present a video clip from an In Extremo concert.  They will be performing a song from “Unbridled Sinners” called “Omnia Sol Temperat.”  It’s a cover of the Carl Orff composition that’s based on the thirteenth century poem from the Carmina Burana.

Classical music was meant to be played with an electric guitar and in the original Latin.

Monopoly Empire Insults My Intelligence

Rich uncle pennybags

(Photo credit: bernard.rodriguez)

I hear they’re releasing a new Monopoly board game (Monopoly Empire) that can be completed in 30 minutes.

For people who have ever owned a computer or video game system, nothing could be less new.  We already had computerized Monopoly games 25 years ago; once you didn’t have to count money, the game went a lot faster.  Of course, some game companies thought they could market these games by adding animations that made the “efficient” computer version slower than the original board game. It enthralled players to see the cash register pop up over Mediterranean Avenue for the hundredth time as the iron hopped by.  Especially when you were playing by way of a 28.8 bps modem and had to wait that much longer for your turn…

(And yes, those games needed a believable way to make an iron and thimble move on screen.  The self-propelled wheelbarrow was also amusing, as was the dog that always stopped running when it was supposed to.  So realistic…)

Of course, not everyone can afford electronic devices so I suppose it’s fair to offer a quicker version to people who need a less expensive format.  However, the tradition of endless Monopoly variations can die as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of variations, the emphasis on speed is hiding a more sinister change: the new “Monopoly Empire” game will lose all of the classic property names.  In theory, Monopoly has released numerous editions that have attempted to capitalize on the most popular cultural icons (and other themes) of the day, whether that be Garfield, Lord of the Rings, or city-specific versions.  This may have constituted product placement, but at least some creativity was involved.

Monopoly Empire takes that one step further by letting you purchase brand names like McDonald’s.  This new advertising doesn’t even possess the potential for cheap entertainment value like the old variations did.  I wonder how much it cost the companies to get their brands included…

If it was cheap, I’d love to get Bumblepuppies included on a future edition of Blogosphere Monopoly.  But I suspect that the real winner is Hasbro.  Even if no one buys the game, the company is surely recovering its production and marketing costs (and more) by selling ads.

The nightly news even did a segment on the game and mentioned the purchasing of brands as a highlight.  In case you were wondering if the network news programs still had any credibility left…

On the upside, the dog, cat, and horse can all die by landing on McDonalds now.  So maybe there’s some realism to this new version after all.

Or maybe not.  Their replacements (such as the Coke can and Xbox controller) just aren’t the same.  Good thing they’re directing all this marketing at little children.

Small Print Insults My Intelligence

We’ve all seen advertisements that incorporate differently sized text to make a product or sale look more desirable.  Normally, the resulting deception doesn’t stretch credibility.  For example:

Sale on Sunday!

Everything in the store

up to

50% off!

I’m not sure how many people realize that “up to 50% off”  can mean “one item for 50% off and a lot of stuff for 10% off.”  Since businesses keep pulling this stunt, it must be duping people.  After all, sufficient reading comprehension skills have become rarer and rarer.

But I digress.  Here’s a variation of small print marketing I found recently:

batt

In case you can’t decipher the whole thing, the full guarantee reads as “guaranteed for 10 years in storage.”  You probably wouldn’t notice the “for” and “in storage” if you saw this packaging in person, either.

If you believe that a battery can be used for ten years, you deserve to be fooled by this.  However, if North Korea is preparing to fire nuclear missiles at the world’s battery factories, you might need to store this product for up to a decade.

As you can tell, Duracell is looking out for the customers’ best interest.

Facebook Insults My Intelligence

I don’t have a Facebook account and I don’t want one.  However, it amuses me to hear debates about how Facebook is destroying our privacy.

Let me explain: if you post things online and expect privacy, you probably don’t understand the internet very well.  If you put information out there, people will find it.  If you make your Facebook page (or blog or whatever) private, someone can still copy and paste anything you upload and post it elsewhere.

'No photos' tag at Wikimania

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Offline privacy has disappeared too.  A friend or family member can pop out a digital camera at any time and unwittingly shoot something that will get you fired or investigated or humiliated or divorced or disowned or sued or arrested or…

And then we’re all videotaped in gas stations and in parking lots and in department stores and even in department store dressing rooms.  Didn’t you ever notice the signs?

In addition, your employer or potential employer can require an investigative credit report.  This resembles a government background check, complete with interviews of friends, neighbors, landlords, coworkers, and other people you’ve known.  Even if you and your friends remain prudent enough to keep certain information “private,” your boss can monitor you even when there’s no technology around.

Therefore, asking for your Facebook password only expedites a process that your employer could pursue in other ways.

And as we all know, these investigations always reach accurate conclusions.  For example, the U.S. government found Edward Snowden trustworthy enough to be given its secrets after researching his past.  Now imagine how negative results could wrongly damage a person being investigated.  I’m sure it happens regularly.  Facebook, Google searches, and most of the rest seem like they would provide insufficient context for the isolated data they uncover…

Unless the combined surveillance records everything you say and do.

So how else do people violate our desires for privacy?

American Express Advertising Cards

(Photo credit: The.Comedian)

Let’s start with the sale of your personal information.  Do you ever wonder why you receive special credit card offers tailored to your specific interests, or catalogs from shops you’ve never heard of?  Using your credit or debit card creates a sellable record for both the merchant and the card company.  American Express constantly sends me credit card ads that advertise plane tickets as rewards.  I don’t have an AMEX account, so they had to learn of my love for travel from somewhere else.  I doubt it’s from following this month-old blog.

And then we have the less obvious sources of information insecurity.  Did you go to college?  Many universities sell alumni data to companies that are itching to know who might have the financial resources to afford the newest products.  If you use a cell phone or GPS, your location can be pinpointed at any time.  Web search engines can keep track of what you look for and so can your internet service provider.

The NSA also watches you.

And speaking of drones…

But I am not writing this post to defend Facebook.  The whole debate over privacy strikes me as a giant distraction.  Of all the ways you’re being monitored, Facebook represents the rare instance where it’s all your fault.   You volunteer all of the information you put there and you’ve had ample opportunity to discover the consequences in advance.  Moreover, you’re not depriving yourself of anything critical by not participating.

So why does Facebook insult my intelligence?  Aside from the bells and whistles people love, it constitutes little more than a tool for businesses to conduct market research.

Money

(Photo credit: Adrian Serghie)

Have you liked a product  on Facebook lately?  Maybe you voted for your favorite reality show contestant or participated in a company’s online contest.  Because you did that, the sponsoring companies now have all of your data without having to send out a bunch of questionnaires.  They can track who uses their product, who isn’t satisfied, who their marketing influences, and where else they should be advertising.

Facebook doesn’t have to sell your information to businesses.  You’re giving it away for free.

And when you like a product on Facebook, the business receives the best free advertising possible: praise by word of mouth.  Businesses are getting more of this than ever before.  If you have 300 “friends” and receive updates on all of their likes, you’re exposed to more advertising than TV could ever deliver.

But that’s not all!  The folks at Forbes noticed that explicit advertising on Facebook vastly exceeds what you’ll find on other popular sites.  Of course, Facebook gears this advertising to the demographic information and personal interests you shared with them.  It all comes full circle.

Big Brother isn’t watching you.  You’re watching him and you’re so entranced that he picks your pocket without you noticing.  He’s the movie of the century that all the cool kids have to see.

Needless to say, my friends and relatives have tried to convince me to join Facebook.  The reason they offer always resembles 5th grade logic: “everybody else is doing it!”  And if all of your friends jumped off a cliff, you might be depressed enough to jump too.  Fortunately, you can remain sane and happy by remembering the ever-present alternatives to jumping.  That’s true online and in life.

Last I checked, I was not a lemming.

Everybody belongs to everyone else now, and “everyone else” is businesses.  Fortunately, businesses are people too.

Oh, brave new world!  1984 was almost thirty years ago.

Curves Insult My Intelligence

IMAG0122

Curvy dove, ray of hope

Imprint’s on my bar of soap.

That dove there, it ain’t free

Two percent less soap for me.

(And more profit for the soap company. How convenient!)

IMAG0121

Curves are sweet.  They’re the dope.

See them on this bar of soap.

That’s bar’s sleek, that bar rocks.

Small bar fills a great big box!

(Ever wonder why your bath soap doesn’t last as long even though the packaging hasn’t shrunk?)

Haagen Dazs Insults My Intelligence

I love Italy.  I spent a few weeks there several years back and, as you might expect, the food was excellent.  My only complaint would be the folks on the tour bus whining about how we were “always” having to eat pasta.  However, on several occasions, I got to have gelato; if you’re ever in Italy, you should do the same.

And lately the TV has been saturated with ads from Haagen Dazs announcing their new gelato product.  Now, when I think of reputable Italian food companies, the first I always think of is Haagen Dazs.  The name just oozes, uh, Scandinavian or Dutch, I suppose.  It’s hard to know because Haagen Dazs is an American company that adopted a faux European name to help it sell ice cream.

That marketing ploy was sensible.  When you look at all the world’s cultures, the ones that obviously have the greatest need for top-notch ice cream are the ones buried under six feet of snow for much of the year.  I know I love a good sundae when there’s a blizzard.  (On the other hand, very few people may realize that it snows in Scandinavia, assuming they can even find the region on a map.)

So what we have is an American ice cream company pretending to be Scandinavian while expecting us to buy Italian gelato from them.  I’m not entirely sure it worked.  My grocery store had it on deep discount recently, so I decided to buy some.  (I actually like some of their regular ice cream flavors.  My arteries don’t like it so much; they’d prefer I drink a gallon of lard.)  Speaking as someone who has had authentic gelato, I can tell you that this product bears no resemblance to the real thing.  However, it is different from regular Haagen Dazs ice cream, mostly in that it’s as hard as a brick and I was afraid of breaking my spoon in it.

In case you weren’t aware, gelato is supposed to be softer.  And if you weren’t aware of this, maybe Haagen Dazs was wise to assume ignorance among consumers.  If people don’t know what the product is supposed to be like, they can’t say it falls short.

In this case, ignorance isn’t bliss. If you want bliss, go to Italy.  If you can’t afford plane tickets, Talenti brand is pretty good and slightly less expensive than a hotel room.

In spite of everything, there is a bright side to all of this (sort of).  No matter how questionable the company’s antics are in this country, at least its American marketing executives aren’t as outlandish as their foreign counterparts.  In Germany, I once saw a Haagen Dazs billboard for a tropical flavor of some sort and they were advertising it as a taste of Africa.  And the image, which took up most of the space, was of a Black person being swirled into a container of ice cream.

Dibs on the calf muscle!