Saturday, August 20, 2016

More Spin Than a Legion of Vinyl-era DJs

I enjoy jabbing my finger into the carefully-coiffed and studied figure of big business. In a perfect world, I'd be the tiny stone in their shoe they could never find.

It was with this in mind that I wrote Dannon Yogurt after discovering they had shrunk their cartons of Light & Fit yogurt by seven tenths of an ounce while maintaining the price of the previous configuration.

You should know that Dannon isn't the only manufacturer attempting this sleight of hand. Not by a long shot. 

Snack foods, toothpaste, toilet paper, soup—you name it. If the lead bean-counter thinks shaving an ounce or two from the serving or a couple of dozen sheets from the roll is likely to go unnoticed by most consumers, it is as good as done.

It's a beneath the radar price-hike, which is why I delight in telling these folks "I see you!"

I half expected a response informing me of a yogurt shortage, or that the Chinese had developed a sudden craving for the stuff. 

I should be grateful Dannon didn't shrink the serving and raise the price, which incidentally, is the reason for 'New and Improved'. (Displaying their shrewd marketing prowess, you'll notice manufacturers make no attempt to say for whom products are new and improved.)

Without further delay, here is my missive:

Dear Dannon,

I was very excited to see that your new tubs of Light & Fit yogurt have been reduced by .7 of an ounce.

You see, I am recovering from hernia surgery, and the new, lighter packs are so much easier to remove from the refrigerator. It's an older model—you know, the kind with the freezer on top? And when I'd stoop to drag the old tubs out, it put a big strain on my abdomen. So I am very grateful!

Plus, my doctor is also after me to drop a few pounds, so these smaller servings will definitely help me accomplish that. Of course, lifting the older, heavier tubs burned more calories. So I guess we should call it a draw.

I also noticed there was no change in the price. Considering that I'm getting less yogurt, doesn't this amount to a price hike? Trust me, doc is doing a great job of lightening my wallet. He doesn't need the help of a multi-national conglomerate!

I think that in between all this marketing and strategizing you guys are working too hard. Take it from me, that is how I got my hernia in the first place! Instead of lightening my servings and my wallet, you should do one or the other. It's just too damn hot.You know?


La Piazza Gancio

Their response:

August 16, 2016

Dear La Piazza Gancio,

Thank you for taking the time to contact The Dannon Company. Comments from consumers are very important to us and we certainly appreciate yours.

At Dannon, we take great care to ensure that the highest standards are met in everything we do. In our products, packaging, marketing and advertising, we strive for excellence. When a valued consumer like you takes the time to contact us, we take it seriously. Please be assured your comments will be shared with the appropriate individuals. I know they will find your remarks interesting, and will consider them carefully as we work toward continuous improvement in all areas.

As always, we appreciate your interest in our products and are always available to answer any questions or concerns that you have. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call our toll-free number 1-877-DANNON-US (1-877-326-6668), Monday through Friday, 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. Eastern Time.

(name removed)
Consumer Response Representative

Again, like so many of their peers, Dannon completely ignored my question. You have to love how corporations like these reduce consumer inquiries to an occasion for PR. 

Way to stay classy, guys!

I'm trying to imagine the fun I could have at such a place. For instance, when a superior asked me a question I could respond with a verbal resume, informing them only of my latest and greatest accomplishments.

One needs to applaud the (ahem) vigorous work ethic. The unswerving commitment to R&D.

I can hear the executive board now:

Gentlemen. What's the best way to fatten the profit margin? Do we develop an irresistible new product?”


Work up a compelling new marketing campaign?”


Explore new markets?”


"Shrink the serving?"


I am left to wonder if they expect as little from their employees.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Wildlife-Imposed Time Out

There aren't many times I enjoy coming to a stop while driving. Possessing a full-blown case of driving fatigue (the result of the miles I pile up as a professional driver), each stop is yet-another speed bump which endangers a schedule perpetually short in time and rich in distance.

Traffic lights, farm equipment, construction, accidents (which no longer seem very accidental for a population bent on texting and phoning)–all conspire to prevent me from the timely completion of my appointed rounds.

Which is why I drive like you—aside from the texting and the lane departure stuff.

But every condition, every circumstance, every rule has its exception. And this is no, well, exception. Yes, you heard that right. There are times I actually like to stop. Or at least, don't fucking hate it.

You are pregnant with anticipation. Swollen by a single-minded curiosity to discover under what conditions I could possibly be willing to apply my size thirteen foot to a brake pedal.

Let your water break. Let the contractions begin. Wonder no more.

You see, I frequent a roadway which winds around a retention pond favored by Canadian geese. An expansive green lawn sits on the opposite side. This, too, is enjoyed by the small flock.

But a problem exists. At some point each day, the flock wish to go for a swim. And for reasons known only to them, they desire to cross the two-lane road on foot. And so they begin their march.

Inevitably, traffic appears. And to my eternal wonderment, it stops. Even dudes with shaved heads and goatees driving obnoxious pick-ups trucks that scream “I am badass! Fear me!” do.

It is remarkable.

And this isn't an isolated incident. 

Twenty-years ago and much nearer the sturm und drang of Chicago, four lanes of rush hour traffic came to a halt because a mother duck needed to lead her eight charges across the street to another portion of the wetlands bisected by our noisy concrete.

Even as we routinely treat our fellow motorists like obstacles and endeavor to sweep each other aside like so much roadside trash, we willingly indulge these creatures as they haltingly make their way across the street.

Instead of provoking stress, this inversion of mankind's hierarchy has the opposite effect. There is no anxiety. No impatient sighs. Fingers don't tap steering wheels. This wildlife-imposed time out quite literally forces us to remove our feet from the gas pedal. I smile.

Thoreau, wherever he is, couldn't be happier.

Eventually, their crossing is complete and we resume the rat race. We fight each other and our self-imposed barriers; the signs and stoplights which impede us.

One explanation for the rise of religion is that mankind needed to believe in something greater than himself, presumably to lift the curatorial burden of the world from his narrow shoulders.

And while I see a distinct lack of Christianity from behind the wheel of my bus, these geese, in some small way, give us pause and put us in touch with something apart from our schedules and our texts and our angst.

Bless them.