A lot of us are well into our heavy duty consumer period, which may be why I found this story from Spain inappropriately amusing. I’ll just say up front, for the record, that I am not in favor of thievery or violence, especially in this season of good will, especially in multinational chain stores where I could be shopping myself – and already in a bad enough mood, without a criminal scare to make it worse.
However, when four thieves in a Jeep Cherokee crashed through the window of a Madrid-area Ikea, crowded with shoppers on a rare open Sunday, no one was hurt. And they only got away with 5,000 euros in cash (that’s 10 million U.S. dollars, er no, not yet; really about $7,350) – roughly what one desperate Madrileño might drop in a trip or two if he or she were attempting to furnish a few rooms.
Sure, most likely they’re bad-guy types, but maybe not. Maybe they were just humble householders driven mad in their 217th hour of following the instructions for how to build their Letspütollen chest of drawers. Maybe there was one lousy screw missing and they had to go back to the store and they said, “As long as we’re firing up the SUV let’s make a real trip out of it, har har,” and they pulled off laughing wildly and tossing rectangular pieces of wood-like boards out the windows of the car until the story ends with their very wrong actions.
Because it is cold out these days, so there’s no need to wait to serve up some revenge. Too much of the consumer relationship makes people a bit loopy, and this apparently happens on both sides of the credit card.
Like – and this is one we always suspected – with airline ticket agents. You know those things you sort of figured happened, like putting argumentative customers in seats by the bathroom? Well, apparently they do, according to an article – and some of the comments tacked on – from MSNBC’s travel columnist. Remember that while you’re out there losing your mind shopping – you might want to find a little gift for the person at the counter for the next time you fly, unless you like being tagged for extra security checks.
When we get trapped in these interactions, or in unpleasant relationships with companies, it’s hard not to revert to a more primitive primate state. Some of us though, do get to be the alpha beast.
What’s another fun industry, besides airlines? Right – insurance. Mississippi Senator and Republican whip Trent Lott had a problem with claims with his insurance company after hurricane Katrina – but he’s a senator, so that means he got to call the whole industry on the carpet. Some bloggers have suggested Lott’s recently announced resignation could be due to concerns about some impropriety soon to show related to carrying out a too personal grudge against the industry (the idea is outlined here by Slate’s Timothy Noah).
But I think he’d be applauded for anything he might have done. Let’s forget about that little confusion over Strom Thurmond and segregation – attacking insurance companies makes Lott a great American hero. It’s the fantasy of everyone who’s dealt with an insurance company: What do you mean you’re denying my claim? I’m a U.S. Senator. I’m getting my whole committee to pass laws and beat up on you and everyone who looks like you. In the made-for-TV movie version, this is where you see the huge sacks of letters of support from widows and orphans pouring into his office.
Some companies are better than others at making us feel good about being used for their profit. But let’s face it, when we we’re out there in the consumer world most of us are a just a little guy, maybe dreaming of being a big guy. Dreaming doesn’t help most of us get to be senators, but it does sell a lot of SUVs.