There was a time of Proprietors, gentlemen of solemn dignity, of utilitarian customer service whose masculine nod acknowledged your presence as the entrance bell tinkled. These were men whose stores were stocked with wares, replenished by their own industrial wisdom and their customer’s needs of survival, not of aspirational consumerism.
You knew the proprietor because he was your neighbor, his family seated beside you Sunday’s on the church pew. His name was also affixed to that white-clapboard building where you purchased the weekly provisions: Brown’s Hardware, let’s say, a community institution tended to by hard toiling generations of his family.
He was a specialized man, this Mr. Brown, able to appraise the quality of Woolrich flannel to the oddball gizmo in the palm of your hand that had dislodged from that fifteen year old contraption… Was it still available, manufactured? Hell, did Mr. Brown even recognize this greasy, internal organ?
He plucked it from your palm, his thumb and index finger rotating it as his brain accessed his entire inventory, rummaging about the useful and the arcane until he nodded, Yesfollowme…
Located in a corner of musty sunlight, on a turnstile rack, there it was, Here you go… A new, American made gizmo placed in your hand. Anything else today, Sir?
Sir. Sir? Hell, American. Made?
Yes, these are quaint stock images of bucolic, Andy Griffith antiquity, of a black&white era where firm-calved mother’s strutted in high heels across their kitchen floors to scrub the glistening chrome of their stoves… But, what happened to Mr. Brown? That mentality he embodied, that genuine community-driven customer service, of human service, of conducting and cultivating business that relied on sincere problem solving for the customer?
Big Box Retail, of course...
During The Globalist Age of crony-capitalist deregulation and central banking excess, America became a Bill Clinton service industry utopia. Who would ever yearn for that grimy, limb mauling drudgery of the Industrialist Age, spouted politicians. We were no longer a Nation who manufactured Products, but conjured Services. We were now a Retail Nation of Associates instead of demeaning Clerks; the Proprietor was now a Manager and Corporate morphed into Shareholders or socialist-lite Stakeholders. Workers, Management and Corporate-Stakeholders would be a collective; a symbiotic relationship devoted to the love of all things Profit.
Yes, Profit. Numbers. Those exquisitely arranged symbols in columns of Excel whose continual, oppressive pursuit has withered the retail soul. Boardrooms of suits and skirts preside over their aisles of retail serfs, demanding adherence to all things Profit as they hack n’slash store budgets, hours and personnel, maintaining these actions are necessary during prevailing economic headwinds, as year-end bonuses and stock options must be preserved.
Don't worry, because soon those petty and myopic shareholders are ousted by a valiant Activist Investor who deems the company underperforming, frittering away its profits, and demands sweeping austerity to make the company attractive to their various crony accomplices in Private Equity, where months later, a billion dollar leveraged buyout is completed, the company taken private by a horde of Banksters and their sycophants.
This new sanitized Gordon Gecko regime settling into their taut-leather boardroom chairs are not Entrepreneurs, or Businessmen, or even Retailers, this is a generation of self-anointed elites, men and women indoctrinated by the finest Ivy League MBA programs who’ve bestowed upon themselves the title of Leaders.
Of course, Leaders, is laughable, hypocritical jargon. They’re simply deluded academics, gilded students who’ve never labored with minimum wage peasants, who’ve only ever sweated during their morning runs in Harvard Square. This is a fanatical, tyrannical generation birthed from the flawed doctrines of Globalism, Greenspanism and the self-righteous business guru’ism of Covey and Blanchard. There is no romanticism, humanism, they care not for autonomy or free-thinking, instead, there is only dour conformity, rigid equations, strategizing, integrating, enterprising, or whatever else is regurgitated from the latest TED Talk.
The stores, those brick and mortar entities Leadership inherited during their zero percent interest rate spending spree, is simply a burden to profitability. To mitigate the annoyances of a business based on tangibility, a prominent consultancy firm is secured to advise on a methodical Restructuring of store hierarchies which will result in reclassifications and redundancies. Store budgets and labor are further reduced, those precious monies reallocated to Corporate so a multitude of new VPs, Senior VPs and RVPs can be hired to realign methods and processes that culminates in the grand unveiling of the Company’s Brand Mission Statement; a propaganda slogan that is vigorously ladled from the punch bowl and poured into endless emails and conference calls.
For those store workers who survive the initial culling, er reorganization, they’re soon besieged by District Leaders and other assorted Regional honchos who maniacally reinforce the company’s new, unrealistic mandates of maximizing profitability. The store manager, whose labor force was already ravaged by years of Corporate cost-savings and crony-Government Healthcare limitations, is expected to take Ownership of their Business and work the necessary 90 plus hours a week performing the multiple job duties of cashier, stocker and customer service. The minimum wage store associate is simply deemed to be an interchangeable, disposable vestige of post-industrialist America. For Leadership, there is no need for a specialized, self-reliant workforce, as menial, primitive grunts can be easily plucked from a pool of the perpetually transient and underemployed.
Eventually, after years of gloriously recouping their monies, Leadership and it’s Bankster buddies toss that corpse of a company onto The Market, a big FOR SALE sign hung around is vampire bitten neck. Minimized of humanity and hollowed of inventory, the stores are now valued simply as real estate, as they have been systematically converted to small purchase warehouses to facilitate only online/mobile ordering for in-store pickup. Such stewardship is lauded by the financial tabloids, hailing Recovery for the American economy.
Some new titans of commerce--an incestous conglomeration of global banking and political totalitarianism enacted through trade agreements such as TPP, TTIP and TISA--are able to gobble up those remaining stores of real estate for cheap, or, hell, through some clause in a trade agreement, for FREE.
What becomes of Leadership? They cash out, stashing their payouts in some new Panama style tax-free haven.
Those two or three store associates who scurried about retrieving customer’s online orders? Sold off to Government internment camps.
Hell, isn’t Corporatism great?