Monday, January 14, 2013

Occupy Wall Street and Cash Register Protests

Ever have one of those days where you wind up with a lot to do and everything seems to go wrong?
And things start to happen in an extremely bizarre manner?

(This was first posted on Open Salon September 26 2011; since then I have followed up on this more in a series of posts under the author tag A small sucess against planned obsolescence.)

Yesterday I got up as usual and put on the coffee before taking a shit and shower. I had to use more shampoo because it was getting watery again; presumably they will soon come up with a new improved shampoo that costs more; although it will be advertised at a much lower price than the ridiculously marked up one. When I got out of the shower and went to grab my first cup of coffee I noticed that the pot was only half full; the rest of the water was still in the reservoir and it was no longer brewing; broken….again! So I pulled the pot out and the filter and poured what was left through the filter by hand and nuked it; which is what I learned to do when these damn things break down long ago.

photo source

Then I put some bread in the toaster and sat down to watch TV for a little while; after flipping through several commercials I came to a news story about how they were clamping down on the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

WTF, something’s burning!!

I quickly forgot about whatever was on TV and checked to see what was burning. It was the damn toast which didn’t pop; it was totally burnt on one side and the other side wasn’t toasted at all. I had to watch closely while toasting the morning’s breakfast one side at a time.

Damn two appliances breaking down in one morning!

I’m sick of this and I’m not just going to replace this as usual I’m going to make them fix it. But I don’t want to go through the headaches today so I’ll just get another ready for the week and handle it later. I put the appliances down in the basement, next to the other three broken toasters and four broken coffee makers, and headed out to the department store to get new ones.

photo source

While waiting in line at the cash register things started getting strange. Out of nowhere someone comes up and starts speaking loudly but clearly enough for those in line at the register to hear him. He said something like the following:

Corporations including this department store have been participating in a massive epidemic of consumer fraud and they have also been working with the government and the Mass Media to suppress criticism. The fraudulent activities that this corporation has been involved in include the use of planned obsolescence, the charging of slotting fees to make sure that small startup manufacturers can’t compete and price fixing, among other things.

They have been donating large sums of money to political campaigns; and, coincidently or not, the politicians have remained silent about this and even passed laws to enable corporations to do this in secrecy by passing laws they refer to as protecting the secrecy of proprietary information.

They have increased the interpretation of the first amendment so that corporations can consolidate the Mass Media and obtain complete control over it. They have also passed several laws and arranged for several court cases to rule that protestors don’t have nearly as much protection under the first amendment. Yesterday they arrested dozens of people on Wall Street for using the rights that they’re supposed to have under the first amendment. Clearly the first amendment now only protects the corporations not the victims of corporate crime.

(He looked around quickly at this point and saw the manager approaching with security guards, all with angry looks on their faces.)

This has been a hit and run use of the first amendment which no longer protects most of us; I will now depart before they have a chance to put me in their Gulag just in case that is what they have in mind.

(He then ran out the door and quickly disappeared.)

Everyone stared at each other not knowing what to do. The person in front of me looked nervous and picked up her things which she had just paid for. The cashier looked nervous and rang up my items; while I thought about what he said a minute.

Damn, he was right for the most part! I was sick of my appliances breaking down all the time but didn’t want to go through the hassle of arguing but now I feel as if I should at least ask about it. Before paying for the appliances I asked if they would replace them if they broke in less than five or six years. I then proceeded to tell her about the fact that I now have four broken toasters and five broken coffee makers counting the new ones and none of them could be more than nine years old since that is when I moved last and I didn’t start collecting these damn things until after that.

This means that they aren’t lasting much if any more than two years each; maybe less if I actually threw out some of the past broken appliances instead of putting them in the basement; which I probably did. She said she didn’t know anything about that she was just a cashier.

At this point the manager was walking back in the door; presumably the security guards were still out chasing the evil protestor that was illegally using the first amendment. I waved at him and asked him if they would replace it if it broke. He said that I shouldn’t pay any attention to that protestor who was a lunatic or something and that the store had an impeachable reputation despite the slander from that “hippie.” He then said that the store would honor any warrantee as written on the box by the manufacturer; and that I should just forget about it.

I asked again what the manufacturer offered for a warrantee then.

He looked annoyed then proceeded to pick up the box and peer at it, pushing his glasses down on his nose and squinting to read something that took him a while to find. Then he said something about the manufacturer being willing to handle the warrantee directly; so I wouldn’t have to deal with the store at all I could just write to the manufacturer, who was quite reputable and I really shouldn’t worry about it. He said that I shouldn’t worry about the fact that they no longer offer warrantees nearly as long as they used to because they were really quite good companies.

“So I should just trust you?”

To make a long story short that was enough for me I wound up leaving without the appliances and I think the manager was mumbling something about how I was just another lunatic like that other guy who they were never able to catch. Perhaps they caught him on the security cameras, hunted him down and threw him in the Gulag for all I knew.

I decided to worry about this later and pick up some groceries. After picking up my groceries and loading them in the cart while waiting in line it happened again! This time a girl ran in and said something like the following loud enough, but clearly for all of us waiting in line:

Grocery stores have been using price fixing practices for years to nickel and dime the consumers and they have been gradually reducing the amount in any given container so that you get lees each time you buy something without realizing it unless you watch closely.

They have been using other practices to suppress wages and reduce the quality and selection of products available to the consumer, including the use of slotting fees to keep small manufacturers from competing, and this has been getting worse since the corporations have gone through a massive consolidation.

Politicians collect a lot of money from these same corporations in campaign contributions, which they don’t like to call bribes, and they spend a lot of time discussing polies with the high paid lobbyists from supermarkets and other corporations without spending much if any time listening to consumers and their complaints or those that use scarce research to study this.

The Mass Media collects an enormous amount of advertising money from these same corporations and, coincidently or not, they do little if any reporting on this. On the rare times where they do discuss this it is on boring times at obscure time slots which receive little or no promotions and they do so in a manner that seems benign and puts the listener to sleep or makes them change the channel.

The politicians who collected the money which they don’t call bribes pass laws that enable the corporations and the Mass Media to have total control over the press and to boycott any discussion about these activities on national TV. They just arrested dozens of people yesterday on Wall Street proving that the first amendment now only protects corporations; it no longer protects the rights of those that have been victimized by white collar crimes committed by campaign contributors.

(At this point she started moving closer to the door as she began speaking louder and with more urgency)

This has been a hit and run use of the first amendment that may now be considered a thought crime since it may no longer be legal to protest against the corrupt white collar crimes of the corporations.

(At this point she ran out the door just barely before the manager caught up to her.)

Weird, that is the second time I have heard this term “slotting fees” in one day; I’ll have to look that up on Google and find out what they were talking about.

After thinking about this I started looking at the items in my grocery cart and thinking about the shampoo I used this morning. I wasn’t buying shampoo but I’m quite certain that the amounts are smaller than they used to be; some of the cans don’t even feel as big as I remember they used to be.

I’m quite certain I haven’t grown any in the last couple of decades so it isn’t that I am getting bigger making them seem smaller. I asked the cashier about this and to make a long story short after the manager of this store came over and started acting like both me and that girl were idiots I wound up walking out of the store without buying anything.

I had one more stop that I had to make for the day. I had to pick up a prescription for some medication that treats a disease that I wouldn’t be caught dead admitting that I have. This time while handing the prescription to the pharmacist, you guessed it a protestor came in and said something like the following:

Pharmaceutical companies and other corporations have been taking government subsidies to research how to create more drugs and instead of making these new drugs available in the public domain so that they could be manufactured by any one they have been obtaining patents for them so that they could charge excessive prices for them even though the government was the ones paying for the research and they risked nothing. This is blatant corporate welfare for the benefit of the corporations at the expense of consumers…..


(At this point I just put my head in my hands and stopped paying attention but I’m quite certain he said something about the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protestors and the accurate fact that the first amendment clearly provides much more protection for corrupt corporations than it does for the victims of these corporations.)

(When he was done he ran out the door at the last minute just like the others but this time just as the manager and the security guard went out the door following the manager had to put his arm up to stop the guard from aiming his gun which he had pulled out and tell him not to shoot.

I walked out without discussing my prescription any further; I’ll go to Canada to get it and save a lot of money.

Skeptical? Well, yea I made it up; but it seems to be the insane direction this country is heading into and there are some good points in there anyway, if you ask me, or even if you don’t.

The corporations really have consolidated and eliminated the competition that they used to argue will keep them competitive and make the Capitalist system more efficient than the version of Communism that they routinely demonize. The current version of Capitalism has become almost as corrupt and inefficient as the system that has been demonized in the old USSR and it is worse than many other systems that are being ignored around the world. A very good description of how both consumers and workers have been “Nickel and Dimed” was written by Barbara Ehrenreich (free online copy) ten years ago. Joining a protest organization can help to act more efficiently but it isn’t absolutely necessary. By discussing this with family and friends at the grass roots level this can be grown into a much larger movement.

As I began to consider in my previous post about Complacent Consumers have few if any rights one way to increase awareness of this problem could be to save receipts and return products when they fall apart much sooner than they should, which has become standard procedure; and instead of going quietly to the return department out of ear shot of the majority of the customers discuss this at the register in a loud and clear manner, in front of other customers, preferably when it is busy, assuming you’re not too bashful. If people plan what they say ahead of time they can discuss the fact that things used to last at least two or three times as long, in some cases five times as long. The amount of money being lost could be roughly estimated, as I did in the post cited previously, and more people could be made aware of the fact that this is costing the public hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars a year in the US alone. This would run into thousands of dollars for the average consumer. And the fact that they’re using “free trade” to preserve the right to use sweat shop labor and suppress local wages could also be discussed where people could hear it. Additional things that could be discussed could include more details about slotting fees and how corrupt they are, the price fixing scandal that was exposed with the help of Mark Whitacre and many other things. A well prepared protestor could hand out fliers that include web pages for a lot of educational material on many different subjects. In many cases the strongest evidence isn’t even hidden at all; anyone over thirty or anyone who talks to someone over thirty should know that the quality of merchandise is deteriorating rapidly along with the consolidation of the corporations and the escalation of the amount of money required to run for office which enables the corporations to have almost complete veto power over most candidates for public office including all presidential candidates. However in some cases sources better education would be helpful.

Until we have major dramatic reform this will not be a sincere democracy and without it there is good reason to believe that things will get steadily worse judging by the behavior of Washington and the Mass Media.

My bus is going to be leaving for Canada in about an hour now; I can’t afford to pay for my medication here in the US so if I don’t respond I’ll get back to it tomorrow or the day after. That’s right I decided my story was true after all and that I really do need a prescription; if the Mass Media and the corporations can make up a version of the truth and present it as fact without allowing any scrutiny then I can put my own version into the pot. If I wind up on top then I can burn anyone at the stake that challenges my version of the truth or throw them in a Gulag.

photo source

For a couple of follow up posts on the Occupy Wall Street protests see Are Cain, Cantor and Romney campaigning for Obama? and Missteps with Rangel, Lewis or Mass Media misrepresentation?  Or for related web sites on Occupy Wall Street see the following:

About two months after I first posted this the following article appeared and I thought it was worth citing even though I doubt if there is any direct conection.

Wal-Mart invaded by Occupy protesters on Black Friday (Video)

On Black Friday, Wal-Mart shoppers in San Diego got a surprise announcement courtesy of Occupy Wall Street protesters. Rather than an announcement about a special in aisle five, customers heard about the “corporate beasts such as this one [that] bleed our communities dry.”

In a flash mob, protesters entered the store, pretending to shop by filling shopping carts and joining the long lines at the cash registers. As the crowd gathered, one man called a “Mic Check,” the call-and-repeat style of announcements popularized by the Occupy Wall Street protests. As bewildered customers looked on, dozens of protesters implored the shoppers to visit local retailers.

“You, your communities and your workers are being abused. Wal-Mart intentionally underpays employees, forgoing real benefits for social services, costing California taxpayers $86 million annually,” the crowd yelled. complete article
Since then the occupy Wall Street movement hasn't been quite as strong but it hasn't ended and there are many more protest movements that ahve taken it's place; but the corporate media isn't reporting them.

On top of that there are more small complaints like the ones I ahve been describing in my posts about planned obsolescence which are leading to some reaction from some corproations even if they aren't being ackowledged.

The protest continue with or without coverage from the corporate media; and they will bring more results eventually; perhaps sooner than many expect.

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