18 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Schadenfreude Friday

Schadenfreude Friday

Author: Helen

It’s been a good week for schadenfreude. Let’s just skip over the numerous opportunities for it in the political or economic news this week; it’s the corporate comeuppances that have me chortling evilly into my glass of quaffing red.

Example 1: A mighty toy company which produces vast quantities of crappy, plastic toys, which are rarely as desirable as the saturation marketing would make the kids believe, “outsources” its manufacturing to the citizens of El Cheaponia so that it can exploit the low-wage, no-conditions, low-health and safety environment of that country. It is now in damage control mode as El Cheaponia, being a low-wage, low-health and safety type of place, thought it could get away with putting tonnes of lead paint into the toys. And they have got away with it… for a while. Now Mighty Toy Company is feeling the pain.

They are now on their second recall.

Example 2: A mighty book retailer, under advice from the many bean counters of the Private Equity firm which has taken it over, sends what can only be called a letter of extortion to its smaller suppliers. The letter states that they are representing unacceptable profitability levels, and therefore, they must pay Mighty Book Retailer tens of thousands of dollars in “rebates”

Angus & Robertson’s demand that small- to medium-sized Australian publishers and distributors pay amounts said to range from $2,500 to $100,000 in order to have their books stocked in the chain’s stores has brought angry reaction from the book industry and book buyers…
Below is the full text of the letter that began the furore, and the reply sent by Michael Rakusin, director of Tower Books, to A&R Whitcoulls Group commercial manager, Charlie Rimmer. He has not yet had a response from A&R.

You must follow that link just to read the superb reply written to Mr Rimmer by Michael Rakusin. Unusually, for Australian news, this got a mention on Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light, and you should read the comments – they’re hugely entertaining. A&R’s blundering bastardry has pissed off a whole heap of writer types, so, as you’d expect, they use…. parody! sarcasm! metaphor! “companies full of Dilbert management” – “Despotic moneygrabbing” – “mismanaging class” – “core imcompetencies” – as well as example after example of people who, as readers, simply can’t find what they want to buy at A&R and think it’s poorly run. Commercial blog Lightbulb describes it as “brand destruction writ large” and “corporate hari-kiri”. Ouch! Pavlov’s cat has more.

Oh, and Tower Books is the distributor for Carpentaria, the latest Miles Franklin prize winner.

Reading the comment threads at Making Light reminds me why I love the way educated Americans talk and write. Look at this comment by Russell Letson:

What caught my eye at once was the fact that A&R is currently owned and operated by a private equity outfit… I keep getting flashbacks to the leveraged-buyout days and marvel at how the financial world keeps inventing the same pathological pillaging schemes, and the putative grownups in charge of the universe keep letting them get away with it. (Yeah, I know–grownups are a myth and we’re all at the mercy of the playground bullies. I considered stopping even carrying any lunch money, but they’d just take my sneakers instead.)

As an aside, when I clicked through to the Forbes link about Mighty Toy company, I had to go past one of those full-screen ads. It said

Win in the Flat world
Create systems with Infosys

I’m pretty sure “flat” is a reference, meant to be picked up by the young turks of finance, to the last Thomas Friedman stuff. Still, the ad doesn’t do much to counter the impression that the business world has gone completely mad.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

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