July 13th, 2008

Sluggish lead

Over the past month or so, I've accumulated a few new items I've been meaning to post here.

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This little gem came from, I believe, the Syracuse "International" (they fly to Canada) Airport. I got re-routed there last time I went home, back in early June, and this caught my eye on my way out of the terminal.

Okay, so it probably takes a warped sense of humor to see anything in this sign, but to me it's suggesting that men and telephones are a winning combination; but women and telephones, not so much...

(I know some people with teenage daughters who could attest to that.)

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Anybody who has used any Norton anti-virus/security/etc. software in recent years -- or just about any other similar software on the market, sadly -- might find the subject line of this e-mail blast a little ironic. One glimpse and I'm envisioning the probable body of the e-mail: "Computer's not sluggish enough? Give us a call! We'll render it completely unusable!"

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Longtime readers of my LiveJournal may recall my proclivity for noticing and exploiting homophonous and homonymous elements of the language.

Well, I was perusing the UC Berkeley job listings again, and I encountered the posting above whose job title can be read two different ways: the way it's meant to be read ("LEED Painter"), and the way I read it ("LEDD Painter") which, naturally, were not the same.

"Lead painter." Hmm ... that would be great alongside "asbestos ceiling tiler."

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Nothing too glamorous here -- just a veritable typo scavenger hunt provided, for your entertainment, on this sign posted near a Home Depot bathroom sink. I think I counted three while I was washing my hands ("contactors" ... "personel" ... "immidiately").

It's interesting to note that as spell checkers become ever more ubiquitous and integrated into all manner of text-processing environments, the sloppiness just seems to increase...

A "new brand" of deception from Tropicana, Target, Lucky, and possibly others

It seems Tropicana is trying to pull a fast one on its customer base, and it looks like some retailers are joining in the fun.

I generally buy Tropicana orange juice in whichever container size has the best unit price on any given day, in any given store; and although you might expect larger containers to have better unit prices, it actually varies. But most of the time, the 96-ounce pitcher was the best deal at the Hayward Target that I typically visit for groceries.

For a while earlier this year, those pitchers had an announcement splashed across the side, excitedly announcing the pending arrival of a new design. I didn't think about it much -- no new design really seemed necessary -- but then one day, a month or two ago, the new design finally showed up.

Subjectively I feel it's no better-looking or more convenient or usable than the old one, so I felt the change was a wash at best. But then I took a closer look, because something seemed just a bit off to me...

The "new design" of the old 96-ounce pitcher features an interesting little update you might not catch if you aren't reading the fine print: it's now 89 ounces rather than 96. Hmm.

I guess I'd be okay with a volume reduction if the price were reduced accordingly. Or if, at the very least, the parties involved made no effort to obscure the change. (Although moving away from a 96-ounce size does preclude mathematically simple price comparisons with other multiple-of-32 capacities like 64 and 128, so it's just annoying and inconvenient in general.) But that's just not the case here. Last I checked, both Target and Lucky are selling the redesigned pitchers for exactly the same prices as before (which, as I previously documented, already varies substantially between the two); and, in fact, the shelves are still tagged and labeled for the old 96-ounce containers.

This is misleading and careless at best. At worst, it's collusion against consumers on a variety of levels: a sneaky volume reduction of a tried-and-true product, trying to slip past unnoticed under the banner of a flashy new design ("wow!" ... "yay!"), marketed as a direct replacement for the aforementioned product, and stocked by retailers with absolutely no change in labeling or pricing.

And in case you were wondering, at the Hayward Target at least, this does make a difference. Previously, the 96-ounce pitchers had the best unit price by a small margin. Now, the 64-ounce cartons are a slightly better deal, if you do the math. (Thank goodness I carry a calculator around with me everywhere I go -- in the form of a cell phone, thank you very much.) If I hadn't been paying attention and noticed this, I'd be buying the wrong size and wasting my money. Ultimately, the unit price difference is trivial in this case, but that's not the point.

(This also reminds me of what disturbs me about a certain subset of the marketing world. In all too many cases, the trend seems to be toward reinventing products not because they actually need reinventing, but because "new and different" [i.e. "flashy and gimmicky"] is supposedly "better," regardless of the actual comparative merits. This mentality has been creeping into more and more industries, as "design" trumps functionality by ever-more-ridiculous degrees. I've gotten somewhat used to it with cars, TVs and other home electronics, computers, web sites, etc... but orange juice?!)

My personal crusade against unnecessary and indulgent trendiness-driven redesigns aside, this stunt by Tropicana (with help from at least some retailers) just stinks. And although I still buy Tropicana (for now), since it is my preferred kind of orange juice, I find it hard to justify sanctioning this kind of corporate behavior with my purchasing decisions.

If Tropicana wants to stick with this unnecessary redesign, fine, that's their choice. If they need to charge more because of rising manufacturing and distribution costs across the industry, we'll just have to deal. But I expect honest labeling and pricing, and the present situation is a problem. Even for something as mundane and everyday as orange juice, I find it difficult to respect manufacturers and retailers who operate this way.