Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, TJ Maxx and Scarcity

 “It is more rewarding to be complicit with scarcity than excess.”  Will Oldham.”  

Hey, things change and then, sometimes they don’t.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

If, like me, you are over the age of 50, there was never a need for a reality pie to be thrown in your happy, little face in recognizing the obvious that the last vestiges of summer have, once again, been issued a cease and desist order to vacate the premises with only the slightest hesitation.

Sure, there are the usual tell-tale signs of impending departure: The back-to-school-sales.  Nurse!  Even before the local boards of education close shop for the year and unleash their charge upon a soon-to-be panicked public, there are already hints of back-to-school promotions.

And then, there’s Labor Day; talk about shrink-wrapping the season. Yes, I know it’s the last chance saloon for seasonal discounts and brief respites but let’s not push it.  As Yankee great Yogi Berra put it, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over,”

I don’t know about you but as much as I’d like to get away and enjoy the summer, there is always something else to do, some unexpected bill to pay and then, there’s the cold hearted truth about warm-weather getaways.

However small the retreat may be, it becomes a big ticket item. Fantasy, wish fulfillment and good weather are the driving forces for seasonal escalation.  We all pay for scarcity.

Nothing the matter with that.  Hey, we all want our version of “fun in the sun.”

In fact, years ago, I was a cruise director.

What a fabulous experience.  Sailing from New York to most of the Caribbean islands was the stuff of dreams.

I met so many great people and it was life-seasoning.

Bear with me while I share one quick story:  On board the Leonardo di Vinci, I met a couple from Long Island, absolutely great people. The ship was ready to disembark at the port to Caracas, Venezuela, La Guaira.

They asked me if I would like to join them. They both spoke Spanish.  So why not? So not only would I enjoy their company but their Lengua Espanola might come in handy.

Jump cut ahead: We wound up at a high-end specialty shop.  I saw this silver wine goblet.  It was rugged and handsome.  As soon as I saw it, it became a “I have got to have it” moment.

Now, working as a Cruise Director was fun but, in those days, it was not a high-paying job. I made $125.00 a week along with free room, board and discounts on drinks and, that was it.

The husband and wife noticed my interest in the goblet. Although it looked way out of my price range, I asked them to find out its cost.

Then, as soon as the Long Island woman reverted to Spanish, her whole demeanor changed.  While speaking English, she was very soft-spoken with a slight New York accent.

But, switching to Spanish, she chewed up the scenery.  She had the flair of Iberian aristocracy.  It was split-personality time.  It was a jaw-dropping “Wow” moment

She told me the price: $500.00.  Well, suffering from financial anemia, I put an end to my dream right there.

But then, the nice soft-spoken little lady from Long Island performed her Castillian transformation and literally took charge of the negotiation process.

I don’t think the salesperson knew what happened.  This lady was a storm trooper on a mission for me.  There was no haggling.  She was in total control.

Then, she switched back to English. And, in her soft Long Island accent, she asked if I could afford $70.00.

After more than 30 years and multiple moves, that goblet is still magic to me and the experience, a treasured memory.

Talk about scarcity.

Nowadays, as tough as things are, I try to stretch the moola as far as possible.

What I’m saying is it is tougher today getting what you want, when you want it especially when what you want, is what everyone wants, at the same time, and that defeats the purpose of getting away in the first place.

Scarcity engenders congestion.  Everyone wants in on the deficit at the same time.

But, the most brutal acknowledgement that screams “it’s over”, the true end-of-season Maginot line-celebrating the autumnal equinox and the official sayonara summer recognition, occurs now in late August.

This is the time when grocers, delis and liquor stores throughout this great nation cease to stock their shelves of plenty with the libation of the gods: Leinenkugel Summer Shandy.

It is absolutely fabulous suds with a slight lemonade taste that, without a doubt, puts the competition to shame. And, its limited seasonal release creates what is known in the trade and referred to only in the most somber and hushed tones as PRSD-Palate-Recollection Spasm Syndrome. It is a disorder heretofore unknown, unexplained and enigmatic and should be brought to the attention of government officialdom.

People want their Leinie Shandy.

I mean the stuff is good.

If you live in the Midwest, most likely you’re familiar with the product. It’s been around for quite a while. But then, someone in marketing, in a pique of infinite wisdom, suggested to ownership, “go national.”

They did. And voila, over the last few years, Leindnkugel’s Summer Shandy has successfully quenched the thirsts of the formerly cotton-mouthed multitudes.

Yes, I know it’s a summer release thing.  But, Playa del Rey is a little more than a lotta miles away from Chippewa Falls, Wis-cansin; it’s a whole different world.

While the Midwest’s deciduous foliage take their ‘leaf’ and begin their descent, the temperature today is 92 degrees at the LA beaches.

It is still summer here and across the Sun Belt.  I understand the limited release thing.  It makes sense but a few more months of your “Leinie Shandy-alchemy” along with regional distribution ain’t gonna kill the brand.

I spoke to my wife about this and she had 2 schools of thought.

First of all, she is not a beer drinker.  However, she absolutely loves Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and is not ready for some pre-requisite taste revision, especially on a hot day.  The change makes more sense at the end of October.

Secondly, I bow to her Midwestern practicality. She reminded me of the TJ Maxx strategy.  In fact, a recent Business Insider article points out TJ Maxx is clobbering Macy’s, Nordstrom’s and other retailers.

So how and what does this have to do with Leinenkugel’s?

TJ Maxx specializes in limited release.  When an item is gone, it’s finis! When it comes to investing on consumer inducements and display, they leave that to the big guys-we see how well that is working.

Plus, TJM passes those savings on to the customer base while building their bottom line. And that’s just for starters.

My wife is a TJ Maxx junkie.  She genuflects at their altar of scarcity and fabulous discounted price a couple of times a week in fear of missing out on something good.

The best advertising is “word of mouth” advertising.  And, along with TJM and Leinenkugel’s marketing efforts, the 2 brands have created remarkable consumer buzz with tactical scarcity.

Hey, things change and sometimes they don’t.

What I’m saying is I get it but want it and yes, absence does make the heart grow fonder.  It’s not just the scarcity of the brew, it’s how my summer is now dictated by the early polar zephyrs beginning their breach of the upper Midwest precincts.

I am so alone.

 

 

Meat Space, The Virtuals and Solutions

“Something in us is telling us we’re moving too fast, at a pace dictated by machines rather than by anything human, and that unless we take conscious measures, we’ll permanently be out of breath.” Pico Iyer

So, I’m stopped at the light separating Manhattan Beach from El Segundo heading north on Sepulveda Boulevard. Twilight has just made its muting appearance and the quintessential Southern California smog-blurred shroud actually provides definition to the dark colored craft making its descent into LAX some four miles away.

It was a moment of whoops, there it is and there it was.  For me, the moment represented the paradoxical nature of 21st century life.

Speed is “the” marketplace indispensable of today.  It’s the “out of the gate fast and break things along the way” mentality. It’s the not-so-subtle petition to “get it done now.”

Military strategists add credence to this approach.  Long ago, they discovered initial judgment calls are 70% correct.  On the battlefield, next week’s plan of perfection generates a 100% fatality rate today.

Speed is essential.  We are in a continual race to get ahead, keep up and never fall behind.  It never ends.  But, we are not machines.  However, in our adaptive quest, it seems some infectious strain, an inflexible miscegenation of sorts is transforming and corrupting the human condition to something less than human.

Now, you’re probably saying, “this guy is a regular party animal “funster”, sure to wow-the-crowd at the next barbecue or taffy-pull.”  Get me started on the Dewey Decimal System and its non-stop hilarity.

This piece is not an homage to Don Quixote or an expression of tacit support to some modern-day Luddite resurgence.  And, who’s to say the “Luddies” weren’t just misunderstood land reformers that got bad press.  You never know.

Recent studies bolster the perception that humanity adapts to environment.  Our thoughts, our beliefs are formed by our surroundings; and that’s what concerns me.

Here’s what I mean.  Years ago, pediatric experts concocted a technology that would do everything short of burping the baby.  For starters, the system rocked cradles and changed diapers. At the time, it was billed as the most exciting advancement in child-care development, freeing Mom from maternal chores.

If the old saw about the hand rocking the cradle ruling the world is true, then imagine the devastating consequence of this misguided delusion if it had gained universal acceptance. By that standard, Elliott, of Cable’s Mr. Robot, would be the heir-apparent, poster child of the millennia.

What makes this program so popular is viewer titillation.  I am as guilty of it as the next person.  It is similar to the powerful seduction of gawking at the grisly.  It attracts and repulses simultaneously.  What is perverse is the acceptance of the show as entertainment while, on the sidelines, vicariously witnessing and trumpeting the descent and decline of mankind.

For the viewer, in the grand scheme of things, the program rarely presents a counterbalance to the “gigaflop” conquest in the long run at the bequest of “short term cool.”

It’s a different take on bread and circuses with gigabytes.

Think that’s over the top?  As opposed to virtual reality inhabited by “Geekdom”, Cyberpunk has devised an interesting term for humanity: “Meatspace.”

Talk about the intentional capitulation to the intangible. The word, “quisling” comes to mind.

I’m over 50 and still cling to the belief that nothing takes the place of the human touch.  Playing with my Grandson, laughing with my daughters, getting together with friends and holding hands with my wife are moments so far beyond bandwidth envy.

Call me crazy but I just don’t get the same “warm and fuzzies” while tapping away on my Toshiba desktop.

Today, I paid the cable bill but had some questions regarding a charge. So, while waiting to be connected to a service rep, a prompt interrupted the transfer stating that a $5.00 surcharge would be added to my next statement for the crime of speaking to an operator.

It’s bad enough to be forced blindly to accepting a prerecorded digital ultimatum and then penalized for speaking to a programmed human; that is contemptible.

A Future Foundation study reveals that the unhappiest people in the world are those spending much of their time on Social Media. This affects their career, their self-image, mood and even their energy.  In fact, the survey points out that many of them wish they resembled their online profile.

Their personal web portrait is so BS top-heavy that they can’t live up to their own fabrication.  However, the pretense is met with overwhelming approval by like-minded disciples that perpetuate the fraud.

Then somehow, the dreaded pull of “Meatspace” reality seeps through the self-spawned bogus curtain, forcing the “virtual” to accept reluctantly the Hollywood adage:  “Never believe your own publicity.”

Call it “The Conceit of Self-Doubt.”

The old line about meeting the enemy and it’s us takes on greater dimension with every passing day.

And then, in the quest for higher profit margins, business is complicit in diminishing the value of the human condition by creating customer incentives for passively accepting preset dictates devoid of actual free choice.

So, what do you do?  Author/Businessman Max de Pree said it best, “We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.”

Today, more than ever before, information is an essential key to success.  Forget bitcoin.  Information is the universal currency. We need what we need when we need it: stat.  But, as much as possible, avoid the distraction of being side-tracked into self-revelation schemes.

It’s easy to zone out while online.  Before that awareness kicks in, we have submitted to an incidental craving as a momentary reprieve from an essential assignment while quickly and unknowingly relinquishing personal revelations and intelligence.

From now on,  I won’t respond to those supplemental attention-grabbing, beguiling and bordering-on-the-bizarre headlines located at the bottom of an article or website such as, “The Billionaire’s Secrets to Staying Rich”, “Woman with 3 Boobs Reveals Cancer Cure.”  You get the idea. These are “gotchas.”

Anybody know how to get rid of “Ad Choice” pop ups?  Please let me know.

I’m avoiding Facebook as much as possible and staying away from the rating of posts or emails. Oh, and I’m never revealing my location.  I’m even careful of those I follow.

Linked in, that’s a whole different story. It’s professional.

Recently, I checked online the cost of the train from London to Paris.  Now, I’m infested with online billboard incursions related to it.  From now on, I’ll call.

It reminds me of when I stopped at the light separating Manhattan Beach from El Segundo while heading north on Sepulveda Boulevard.  Off in the distance was the silhouette of a plane landing at LAX.

I see that moment now as analogous to a demarcation line; maintaining the  essence of humanity as we know it as opposed to willingly surrendering it all to the non-real as it makes its final approach.