Saturday, February 12, 2011

Corporate Control: Handling the Masses

Market of Choice
Market of Choice is a chain grocery in our area; a lot of high priced, gourmet stuff, with bakery, fish, meat, deli, cheese and wine departments. You can eat upstairs or downstairs by a fireplace, or outside. Very upscale. I shop there every week because in spite of the overpriced stuff there are good alternative items, and it just depends on what I'm buying. I avoid a lot of things; just get what I'm getting.

However, Market of Choice has a notoriously lousy rep as an employer; fascist tactics, such as point systems and typical heavy handed and trivial rules that contribute to the grinding down of the hoi polloi . All about control.

This corporate world view is applied to customers as well. Every week, without fail, the baggers would put all the cans in one bag, all the glass bottles in another, and not seem to understand that (since we always brought in our own bags) the insulated cooler bag was obviously for perishables. Instead, they'd put fish in the canvas bag, or lettuce, and, say, a bag of walnuts in the cooler bag.

So we started bagging our own groceries, which took weeks of training the cashiers that, yes, we do want to bag our own groceries, thank you for the offer but we prefer to do it ourselves. We had to literally "fight" with cashiers over this; and experienced many a dirty look from them. Now they're used to it and most of them know us and don't hassle us.

Over Christmas, we noticed a new control tactic. We're next in line, waiting with our cart, and an employee comes along and just starts unloading our items from our cart onto the conveyor belt! She didn't even say anything to us. We said (nicely) we're fine doing it ourselves, thank you. This did not help move anything any faster in any way. Happened again today; we're in line, and a woman comes over and starts to take things out of our cart. We had already emptied most of the cart anyway, so I don't see what the purpose was. She was pretty snippy with us. As we're finishing up bagging our groceries, and I'm putting the bags into the cart, she comes along and takes an empty bag out of my hand and puts it in the cart! This after I told her I "got it" and didn't need help.

Under the guise of being helpful; this is really about control. Making sure the customer is moving along, fast enough, confused enough, not chatting with the employees, not hanging around, not stealing anything...

I haven't taken a train in a long time, but have been thinking of taking a train trip to Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia... but now I'm rethinking this. The following item addresses the control factor: Why take the fun out of rail commuting?
 Last month, we began to see first-hand the results of our Big Brother from Washington. First, they issued directives that no one was to sit in the lounge car for more than 30 minutes, and they must purchase food and beverages to sit there at all (this car sits virtually empty in the early morning without commuters). Now there is a plan to intentionally block Internet service in the lounge car in order to discourage passengers from using this as a space to work and study. And this is on top of Amtrak's already poorly thought-out commuter schedule and ever-increasing monthly pass rates.
As the Vicki Walker and Doug Walker point out in their article, these controlling actions don't do much to encourage citizens from seeking alternative transportation. (To be fair, as some of the comments state, taking up a table for four with all your books and laptop and a cup of coffee for the entire trip is rude and selfish.)

Eugene's Municipal Exclusion Law
The city of Eugene has an "exclusionary law" which means that, at their whim, police can prohibit citizens from certain areas of downtown. (such as it is.) Not coincidentally, Oregon has the highest homeless population in the nation. In the city's report one police officer gave an example of how the law is beneficial, citing homeless people as the victims, with the excluded in this case a person who was attacking homeless people.

While this law is unconstitutional, it hasn't been fought hard enough; so far, it's been ruled as sound, though the city says it will take another look at the ordinance soon.

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