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Chatterbox: That tired line


Last week, I whipped through the grocery store for a few essentials and zipped through checkout. Hurried, I didn’t have my usual cloth shopping bags. So, I was shocked to discover that the plastic bags no longer fit the paper bags.

A small thing, but it doesn’t seem to make sense as many shoppers who take paper bags put them into a plastic one. I chuckled, saying that some corporate executive just got a new desk blotter and a pay raise for cutting the corporate budget by one penny per million plastic bags (the figure is fake, of course). Whatever the real figures are, he earned his kudos, while the customers stand dazed and confused at their cart. The employee told his perplexed customers that the store was phasing out the plastic bags. How? Two inches at a time? “It’s corporate.” Oh, we see now … it’s corporate.

Every employee in every store in every town in America mutters that whenever a customer complains, or when something changes but doesn’t make sense, or when prices go up, service goes down, the store is too cold, or something gets discontinued. “It’s corporate. There’s nothing we can do about it.” Okay, kick it upstairs to the invisible, incommunicado, lettered execs making millions doing stupid stuff in retail or service.

Ten days before cataract surgery this spring, I lost my reading glasses. I needed a cheap pair immediately to use just for a few days. Flea markets sell them for about $3. The shopping channel gets $15, but you get three pairs and they’re guaranteed and good-looking. The chain drug store? $25 each.

I was shocked. Immediately, the store manager uttered those words, “It’s corporate.” I couldn’t hold my tongue, though I did hold my temper, because it truly wasn’t his fault. He patiently searched prices while I told him how overused those three words are. Everything in America today is of, by, because of, resulting from, and illusively changed/handled by “Corporate.” A few weeks ago, I asked the manager of my local chain grocery store why several items were no longer being stocked. He hit me with those three little words.

Our community had a family run grocery store for decades. Once, I repeat, once, I told the manager, who was also part owner, I wasn’t able to get a specific item anymore. He responded with a smile, “We’ll have it for you next week and thereafter.” Done. Ah, business as America used to know it, and he kept his word until the day the store was sold – to a corporation.

America is in a pickle. Large corporations make life easier in some ways for consumers. Buy a gift for someone from a chain store in Virginia, return it in New York. Good. However, much of what happens when large corporations take over only services the corporations. Their lettered execs have no clue what’s happening on the store floors. Employees may kick the feedback upstairs but it doesn’t go far or make a difference. “It’s corporate,” and whisper down the tunnel speaks well for no one. There’s no communication between corporate heads and customers.

We also forget to remember that America now features corporate control over many businesses that need a heart, not a calculator, and Chatterbox has listed those many times.

A doctor I know worked at a hospital run by Catholic nuns. It had run like a Swiss watch for over 90 years until “Corporate” got it. He told me patients were being denied services that cut too deep into profits – a fact only inside people knew. He left; what a loss of a great doctor.

When I was a kid, I got a coat I adored, with a lining that was fake fur. I wore it a few times, but something was amiss. Every time I wore it, my skirt wriggled up to my waist inside the coat. I realized that the lining was upside down. We returned it. The store owner actually worked in the store, every day. Despite the fact that it was an older purchase and that I had, admittedly, worn it several times, he saw we were right about the defect, took the coat, and refunded our money. Today? No refunds after 30 days. You wore it. No exceptions.

In America, people think capitalism and democracy are interchangeable, or one requires the other. Neither is correct.

Democracy is a form of government of, by, and for the people, and capitalism … well, that’s corporate.