For a number of years, now, I've been using a laundry product. I'll call it "Brand X." Its function is to pre-treat stains, and I kept using it, after an initial trial, because it worked very well, was convenient to use, didn't contain anything overwhelmingly toxic, and was reasonably priced. Every few months I'd go to Target and buy four or five bottles, and stash them in the shelves in the laundry room, and when I got down to one bottle, I'd put it on the list for the next Target run.
This was easy, effective, and satisfactory, and it gave me a positive impression of the company that makes Brand X. Call it "Acme." At one point, when Acme came out with a new product, I tried it, because of that positive impression. It turned out not to be something I needed, but I did give it a try. So far, Acme was doing well by me and with me.
A couple of months ago, I went to Target and noticed that Acme had put out a "New!" version of Brand X: "Ultra-Brand X, for the most stubborn stains!" It was a few cents more expensive than the old Brand X.
Well, up to that point, Brand X had dealt successfully with every stain I'd thrown at it, so I gave "Ultra" a pass,and bought more plain Brand X.
A few weeks ago, I noticed something: Brand X wasn't working so well anymore. Some items were coming out with remnants of the original stain still faintly visible. Odd.
Last week I was cleaning out the laundry room and found an old bottle of Brand X. Based on the location, I knew it had to be at least a year old. So, just for fun, I thought I'd run an experiment.
I took two cleaning rags of identical content (in fact, torn from the same old white sweatshirt.) I rubbed a spot of ketchup well in to each rag, and let it dry, and then brushed the residue off. I treated one with the Brand X from the year-old bottle. I treated the other with a new bottle of Brand X.
The year-old Brand X worked just fine. The ketchup stain was completely gone.
The recent Brand X had left a slight shadow of the stain.
I was forced to the conclusion that the formula for "plain" Brand X was adulterated slightly, in order to convince consumers that they really "need" the few-cents-more-expensive "Ultra" Brand X.
I, however, shall be switching to Brand Y, made by a different company.
When I mentioned this, with bitter cynicism, to my esposo, he just shrugged, and said, "Well, it's really symptomatic of the whole deal, isn't it? They think they can get away with anything. No one gives a rat's ass about a "relationship" with customers anymore, no matter how much they advertise that they do. We're just cattle to be milked until we run dry, and then slaughtered."
And I think he's right.
Granted, there have always been attempts by companies to screw consumers, and there have always been companies who believe in short-term profits over long-term sustainability. But I do seem to recall back in the dusty dark ages of the mid-20th Century that in those days such companies were frequently outlasted by companies that had a better balance between their grasping exploitation of customers for short term profit, and their willingness to actually throw us a few bones of reasonable service, quality, and price in order to maintain long-term sustainability.
Such companies have become few, and far between. And yes, I think that's symptomatic of the whole deal, really.
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