Trader Joe & Thailand, Marketing 201

I used to be able to depend on Trader Joe to give me my little hit of hipness right in the heart of Hollywood, in an area otherwise given over to tourist T’s and overpriced pizza slices.  One hour–no, half-hour; it’s a small store–was equivalent to two episodes of Portlandia, three if they had any decent munchies to go with the free coffee…good coffee, too.  Managers and stockers and cashiers all went about their work as if it had some meaning in the larger picture, as if they were doing somehting for the planet, as if they knew something the rest of us didn’t. 

That’s what hipmess is all about, really, now, isn’t it?  And that bell they ring up front encapsulates it all, more like the call for free drinks in an R&R bar in Saigon than the loudspeaker’s “Geraldo to aisle two,” more typical of supermarkets in these parts. I’d go there just to hang out and see how much free coffee I could drink without them noticing, think of something to buy once I got there.

But lately I don’t know.  Last time I went everything was re-arranged, intentionally I believe.  I don’t like that, not that I need my comfort zone, but I don’t like to be played.  That smacks of Marketing 441.  That smacks of MBA’s trying out their textbook tricks on me.  I believe the theory is that the more time you spend, the more money you spend. It probably works, too.  That’s what they do in Thailand, re-arranging the aisles in Big C once a month just to confuse you. And that’s nothing.

The psychology sections in local Thai bookstores are all filled with books,on marketing, no “I’m OK, You’re OK,” much less “Plato not Prozac.” No this is pure child psychology, how to trick you into buying something you don’t really want. Actually, it sounds more like Capitalism 201, Conspic-You-Us Consumption, the need to show potential mates that you’re not just Homo, but Sapiens, too, knowing it and loving it, not just some hominid slouch barely semi-erect, and looking for excuses rather then success. The ugly ones don’t get to breed.

In my previous life as a trade-show geek, I used to play this game of trying to get every buyer to buy something else they hadn’t planned on, analogous to that scandal-filled Fleet Street sheet by the counter filled with the down-and-dirty on the high and haughty. These were professional buyers, mind you. It worked better in the provinces than the big cities. I’m better now, thank you..

Psychologists have a rough go in countries where bar-girls work for drinks and tips, and priests will work for true confessions. Everything looks better with dim light and lipstick, I guess…  Psychiatrists do better; they’ve got the good stuff.