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Thirty-Six is 50% more than Twenty-Four, No! Really!

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by LamontPaul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2005
Nobody ever went broke under- estimating the stupidity of the American public
by LamontPaul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2005
Nobody ever went broke under- estimating the stupidity of the American public

Well there's nothing better is there, than getting a bargain at Costco. Better than love and better than sex, nothing better than getting your picture taken with those outsize 'for a family of 50'- size packs of goods. I heard somewhere recently that 40-odd% of American food is wasted. Not in our house. No one asked us. No one's watching our bins. Damn! We're the people who had the garbage disposal removed because we had a perfectly adequate pair of them at the dining table each evening.

And so, then, to Costco we go.

In the sad old days of our Sams Club membership, the ladies standing by at the end of the aisles, with the free food, would often only appear on Saturday mornings. But at least they were there on Saturdays - if you're under 45 you'll know Saturday morning can easily be the most 'problematic' morning of the week. Now with no real job and no fixed schedule, we don't have to bother ourselves with the crowds at our local warehouse store on the weekends anymore, we can head over there at any time. Well any time after 11 - we're non-corporate members, and to our absolute joy, we've discovered that Costco has stationed at the endcaps, those ladies who (provide) lunch, at nearly all times. Those little nibbles. Those little bites. This is fantastically good, but there's then the other dilemma. Can we pass directly by Costco's hot dog and pizza stand? C'mon, $1.25 for a big dog and a coke? A very big dog and a very refillable soda? Hmmmm...

So there's not much wrong with Costco. They're not to be confused with other big box stores. By all accounts, they pay their people and the CEO is not on like 897 times the wage of the average hourly employee. The sizes, the quantities are vulger, that's true. But that's the catholic in me coming out. Only the Pope should not shun excess it seems, for the rest of us...

To accomodate these great quantities, this great bulk , the shopping carts are (as someone in Slate I think, once said) the size of european cars. When you're a confirmed shut-in - why risk a dozen trips to Trader Joes when one to Costco will do for like, forever? By the way, the same Dr. Praeger's Veggie Burgers at Tj's are just 50% of the price at Costco. If you buy a hundred or so. They're good and vegetably. Not in any way maquerading as meat, but food designed by a doctor... still seems wrong.

But here's the crux of this and its got little to do with Costco per se, although perhaps their buyers are culpable for not approving the artwork of of the products they sell... At Costco, a package containing thirty-six cans of soda is not excessive. A prudent soda drinker could make that last for four to six weeks. It's the packaging... On a 36 can package of Pepsi, the Pepsi-Cola company is thoughtful enough to point out that 36 cans is 50% more than 24 cans. Does stating something this obvious strike any else as odd?

As the publisher of this magazine, admittedly I am forever blethering on about percentages, 50% more readers than yesterday, 110% more pages read and so on (and no one ever clicked through our google ads even once - I can tell you the percentage we make on that number... ) But if people can't figure out instantaneously that 36 cans amounts to 50% more than 24 without being told, - will they even care then, if its expressed as a percentage? Or not? It's not as if Pepsi is giving anything additional away either. (Although it has come to the point where this stuff is so cheap the CA redemption value on each can now threatens to be more valuable than the contents). But that's another question for another day. For now I'm amalgamating Henry Louis Mencken and Scott Adams, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American public." Could someone in the marketing or design department over at Pepsi kindly tell me what the deal is?

PS: That 40% of American food wasted number I'd heard... Oh my poor ears. I might have heard that wrong. Perhaps it was more like 14%. not 40%. But I guess if you take the entire process and imagine all is edible at the outset, then 14% would seem kinda low if that's all that ended up in the trash... But still, 40%, kinda shockingly, implausibly high.

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