Rotten Tomatoes

My friend, Stephen, wants to me write a little more about tomatoes. He thinks the home grown, delicious tomato can be a metaphor for many things that are wrong with big business and government bureaucrats.

For example, instead of big agriculture working to serve us a tomato that tastes home grown, they spend lots of marketing money convincing buyers and consumers that the typical tomato you get in your grocery store is what you should expect and be satisfied with.

Stephen told me he asked to see the manager at his favorite local restaurant last week because the tomatoes they were serving tasted terrible. Well, they tasted just like all big agriculture tomatoes taste and we're supposed to accept them as delicious.

Stephen asked the manager why they serve such terrible tomatoes when the restaurant is located right smack in the middle of PA farm country? The answer was, “they cost less and nobody else has complained.” Stephen said, “Look around you. Half the people eating here are farmers or people who grow their own crops for their family. Do you think they don’t notice you’re serving them junky tomatoes?”

The next time Stephen went in he was told they had thought about what he had said and decided he was right. We need more people like Stephen who won’t settle for less than exceptional when he knows it’s the right thing to do.

It isn’t just big corporations who try and convince us that they are doing a good job in when in fact they are barely average. It is this same kind of thinking by government bureaucrats that is making it so difficult to sell the idea of government run health care.

It is as if both big corporations and bureaucracies have a department that tries to make sure the products and services produced by them never rise above mediocre. Sometimes we buy into the marketing and advertising that tries to brainwash us into thinking this is a good as it gets. But, we know better. We've grown our own exceptional tomatoes.

For example, do you ever find yourself wanting to model your company after the United States Postal Service? Seriously, please let me know if you do. I’ve heard some people say the postal service works amazingly well. “Just think,” they say, “You can put a stamp on an envelope, drop it in a box and a few days later it will almost always be delivered to the person you sent it to even if it thousands of miles away.”

I respond by saying, “Isn’t that what is supposed to happen?”

You see, these people have bought into the postal service tomato being a good tomato. The postal service believes that to make it an extraordinary tomato would cost too much money and time. But then along came UPS, FedEx and email and now the USPS is scrambling to become more user friendly with products we actually want and need.

But, they forgot to get rid of their sales prevention department. That’s where the best bureaucrats work. They are the ones who came up with the regulation that requires you to hand a stamped letter over 13 ounces to a postal employee. You are not allowed to put it into a collection box. There is a sticker right on the box that says your mail will be returned if you do.

Meanwhile, the USPS marketing department created programs that allow you to print your own stamps at home or work. I do that and find it time saving plus we brand the stamps with a cover photo of my book. However, by dropping the envelope into a mailbox if it is over 13 ounces, I am in violation of the regulation on 13 ounces. (This is true. You can't make this stuff up.) I’m supposed to take it into the post office and wait in line so that I can hand it to a clerk. The last time I did that the line was two deep and about 20 people in each line. It was lunch hour when everyone gets time to go to the post office. And, hey, postal employees have to eat too. I went back outside and dropped it in the box. I figured I'd take my chances.

That kind of service and thinking by the post office is what I call a rotten tomato. Tell the government bureaucrats and big corporations that you know an extraordinary tomato when you see, touch, smell and taste it. Be like my friend Stephen and tell them you’re not going to buy their pretenders anymore. You're not going to settle for less.

2 thoughts on “Rotten Tomatoes”

  1. Yes, you can always take your business elsewhere, but only the choichest of companies would even notice and ask you why.
    Cherish complaints – customers still caring for your company. How close to gone?

  2. Bob,
    Thanks for your comment on my blog post “Soft Sell Is Tougher Than It Sounds.” http://johnaberle.com/blog1/2009/09/19/soft-sell-is-tougher-than-it-sounds/. I’m grateful too because it introduced me to your blog.
    I love this article about marketers trying to convince us that tough, tasteless tomatoes are the way they should be. I agree about what’s happening to fruits and vegetables.
    My personal pet peeve though has to do with the “higher class” fast food chains that make a big issue out of fresh ingredients then serve fountain iced tea instead of fresh brewed iced tea. They would never think of serving coffee out of a dispenser. Why do they have to “save” money with soda fountain iced tea that leaves an after taste when iced tea is one of their highest margin items? And it seems to be to be contrary to “fresh ingredients.”

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