By Fred Flintstone
Fred and Fred Jr got a couple of packs of Fred’s favorite childhood movie snack, the “melt-in-your-mouth-not-inyour- hand” classic, for an evening DVD. When Fred Jr poured them out, Fred was dismayed at the assortment of misshapen, cracked oddballs in his hand. Back home, even one such piece would have the consumer calling Homeland Security or the CDC. Despite the distinguished lineage of the producer, someone at the local plant concluded that this product was ‘good enough’ for the market.
When Fred travels home, he still gets requests from friends to bring a carton or two of cigarettes, the ones with the cowboy mascot, or a box of non-caloric sweetener, the beneficiary complaining that the local produced versions are just not the same. Fred just came back from Paris where he savored the rich, mellow Dutch, Danish and French iconic beers that are now brewed in Bedrock. The local versions sure don’t taste like the originals, but they apparently are ‘good enough’ for locals.
With few exceptions, notably the Swedish furniture retailer and the Golden Arches, which Fred thinks produce as good or better than at home, it is difficult to excel in a market where both workers in their workplace, and workers as consumers accept ‘good enough’.
Just this week, Fred had a problem with an online plane reservation – his local bank charged his credit card but the airline had no record of payment. The airline suggested that he ‘call’ his bank to get payment information, for them a routine matter. Fred laughed, “Are you kidding, call? I’ll have to go there, spend an hour in traffic, wait in line, and in the end I’ll probably end up with nothing.” Exactly – after an hour and a half at the desk with the clerk, and half a dozen phone calls to various managers, Fred received not a single detail – a tupik (dead end) as they say – no plane ticket and out of money. One manager could see the charge on his screen, but without explanation refused to print or email it. Finally, this was ‘good enough’ to get pesky Fred out of the bank. And this was a European owned bank.
Fred scolds himself , “your memory is short. Remember that warm, flat beer ten years ago, or when you’d packed a two week supply of toilet paper for a visit because, if you could find TP locally, it might just as well be used for fine sanding the woodwork on a remont.”
But Fred looks forward, and the past is a place he would prefer not to dwell. Fred always liked the Avis car rental slogan – “We try harder” and loves President Kennedy’s speech, “…We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills…”
Occasionally a complaint surfaces on the popular expat email hotline, inevitably followed by a local commentator with a line like, “well, you shouldn’t complain. That’s pretty much like it is in other countries.” Fred restrains himself from firing a response like, “which countries exactly are we talking about – Somalia, Cuba?” Do we accept what we have as ‘good enough’ because it is better than a place where conditions are worse?
It would be easy to blame the foreign company, but they mostly provide the financial capital and tools and equipment, but it is the human capital, management and workers who, as Marx would say are the primary factor of production. As long as they accept ‘good enough’ that is what they also will receive as consumers.