Consumer Society


Is it just me, or is the customer starting to get less tender loving care from producers and retailers?

Take bacon for example. Now it comes prepared in two different ways: “Smoked” and “Unsmoked”. To make distinguishing between them easier, some producers colour the packets differently, for example red for the former (to evoke a sense of fire, perhaps) and blue for the latter. Then there are two types, Back bacon and Streaky bacon depending on which part of the pig it comes from and the ratio of lean to fat meat. As a slight complication, some rashers of Back bacon are “thin cut”. Different consumers go for different products according to taste. For me it has to be Smoked Back Bacon. The Unsmoked doesn’t taste quite right and the Streaky is too fatty. The thin cut are hopeless because they curl up in the frying pan and become very small during cooking, so ordinary cut it is.

But what good does all this do if the supermarket shuffles them altogether willy nilly? So the compartment for Back bacon is full of Streaky, the Back bacon when and if you can find it has the thin cut mixed up with the normal. What a shambles. Now I realise that followers of some religions find consumption of pig products offensive, but in a predominantly Chinese society we should be OK unless ISIS has somehow infiltrated the ParknShop supply chain.

Which brings me to the important subject of crisps (note to American readers: known to you, erroneously, as “chips”, which must be wrong because chips are cooked fingers of potatoes to be eaten with fish, preferably when drowned in vinegar and wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper).

A well known brand of delicious crisps used to come in a large blue bag. The contents were all different shapes and sizes, you never knew what you would get the next time you dipped your hand into the bag, but never mind there was always the pleasure of licking your fingers later. Now someone in a spirit of political correctness or some such nonsense has scrapped the bags, and the crisps – which are all the same shape and size and in pristine condition – come in a tube. They have less flavour, nothing comes off them to be licked from your fingers, in fact you probably could and maybe should eat them while wearing white gloves. Now where’s the fun in that?

There used to be a great Swiss artificial sweetener which came in the form of very small tablets, ideal for tea and coffee. Almost overnight the main supermarkets and related stores stopped selling them, and they can now be found only in a handful of local shops. Avid fans have to swap addresses to help each other find supplies. What is going on? This is supposed to be a consumer society – why are we under attack?

And don’t get me started on banks.

Above all, where is the Consumer Council when you really need them?


 
Mike Rowse
email: mike@rowse.com.hk