Tuesday, August 5, 2008

If entertainment technology providers took over the grocery industry

I could pontificate on how Gol TV is not available on DISH Network at the moment, and tie that to my previous posts on the economics of cable and satellite broadcasting.

But I won't. Instead, I'll tell a story. Again.

Last night my wife sent me to the store to get a dozen eggs and a small bag of peanut M&M's. When I got to the store I found out that they had remodeled. Instead of walking to the aisles and picking exactly what you wanted, you now had to wait for someone behind a counter to help you. This was labeled as a "customer service improvement."

After waiting in line for five minutes, someone came to help me.

ME: I'd like a dozen large eggs and a small bag of peanut M&M's, please.

BOB: We can give you that, and much more! Have you looked through our brochure of monthly offerings?

ME: Monthly offerings?

BOB: Yes. If you look at the Star Grocery Package, you see that you can get a variety of staples, including eggs, bread, milk -

ME: I already have bread and milk. I just want eggs.

BOB: Oh, but eggs are included in the Star Grocery Package. Now to get the peanut M&M's, you need to upgrade to the Premium Package. You'll see that this package includes licorice, tapioca pudding, mixed vegetables -

ME: I don't like tapioca pudding.

BOB: But there are a variety of other items in the Premium Grocery Package, and you can get everything at a stellar value.

ME: Stellar value?

BOB: Yes, the Premium Grocery Package is only $399.99 a month.

ME: $400 a month?

BOB: No. $399.99 a month. We could have charged $400, but we're working hard at controlling costs and passing the extra savings on to you.

ME: So if I don't want the M&M's and only want the eggs, how much do I pay?

BOB: That would be $199.99 a month - oh wait a minute, we have a special! We can give you the Star Grocery Package, along with a subscription to Omaha Steaks, for only $149.99 a month for the first three months. And during that initial period, the Omaha Steaks are free! That's $150 in savings!

ME: Not $149.99?

BOB: No, that's a full $150 in savings! We pass the savings on to you.

ME: Can I substitute peanut M&M's for the Omaha Steaks?

BOB: Um...no.

ME: What happens at the end of the three months?

BOB: Well, you still get to enjoy the full Star Grocery Package and the Omaha Steaks, just like you had for the initial three months...well, except that you're charged for the Omaha Steaks beginning in the fourth month.

ME: How much, may I ask?

BOB: Well, the full package with the Omaha Steaks and the Star Grocery Package works out to...let me se...$299.98.

ME: Not $299.99?

BOB: No. only $299.98. We've negotiated a special deal with the Omaha Steaks people, and we're passing those savings on to you.

ME: But can't I cancel the steaks before the three months expire?

BOB: Well, let me see...um, there's a minimum 24 month commitment for this special package. That's how we're able to pass the savings on to you.

ME: So let me get this straight. I cannot just buy a dozen eggs and peanut M&M's? I have to buy a whole package?

BOB: Well, um...oh, wait a minute. Peanut M&M's are no longer available.

ME: But I thought they were part of the super duper package.

BOB: Well, we've had a problem with the M&M's provider. They are making unreasonable demands on us, which would make us unable to pass special savings on to you.

ME: So your super duper package -

BOB: Our Premium Grocery Package.

ME: - your Premium Grocery Package no longer includes peanut M&M's.

BOB: That is correct.

ME: So if the package used to be $399.99 a month with the peanut M&M's, what is it without the peanut M&M's?

BOB: Let me check...that price is $399.99 a month.

ME: Well, shouldn't it go down?

BOB: Why should it go down?

ME: You're providing fewer service, so you should subtract the cost of the peanut M&M's. How much do the peanut M&M's cost? Just take that off.

BOB: Um...

ME: How much do the peanut M&M's cost?

BOB: I can't tell you.

ME: Well, this is completely ridiculous. I'm going to go across the street to the 7 Eleven and get my eggs and M&M's over there!

BOB: Um...you can't do that.

ME: Why not?

BOB: Well, the Federal Grocery Commission has just approved a sweeping upgrade of our grocery standards, and...the 7 Eleven doesn't meet the standards any more.

ME: Perhaps I'll just buy a chicken. And a cocoa plant.

Boy, I'm glad that's just a story. I'd hate to see an industry run under those principles.

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