Monday, May 25, 2009


Let's face it. We are increasingly a society of eunuchs.

Lily Tomlin's wonderful character, Ernestine, the telephone operator, sums up much of what has led to this situation with her classic line: "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company." This attitude is shared by fully 95 percent of all corporations and businesses upon whom our lives depend, and the endlessly repeated assurances that "your call is very important to us" while you sit on hold for 45 minutes is nothing but bullshit. The worst thing is that the company knows it is bullshit and, like Ernestine's employer, they simply don't care. Why should they? What can you do about it, anyway?

My nearest supermarket is a large Chicago chain, Dominick's, and I've been shopping with them since I moved back to Chicago. There is a large one near my friend Norm's, with whom I stayed when I first arrived. It's a good store, and I like it. However, the one closest to me is located adjacent to DePaul University. It's a much smaller store and it is patently obvious that the corporation uses it as a dumping ground for outdated products. Because it is located near a university and its customers are largely college kids who, it is highly unlikely, even realize there is an expiration date on anything (including their own lives), the company rightly assumes they'll never notice they're being ripped off.

I have complained to the manager at least six times about the fact that their dairy products are, 80 percent of the time, either past their "sell by" date or within one or two days of it. The manager listens patiently each time, assures me that it is all purely coincidental, that there is absolutely no conscious effort on Dominick's part to try to pawn off older products at this particular store, and sends me on my way.

Yesterday while shopping there, I saw a product I'd not seen before....a packaged coffee flavoring, which I decided to try. This morning, as I fixed my coffee, I opened the package and took out one of the six packets. Looking for the calorie count, which I always do since I need all the calories I can get, I noted "Expires: 01-19-09." I plan to return it to the store, and I will again speak to the manager, who will apologize and again assure me that it was purely coincidental. And I will once again be sent on my way, fuming. I'm thinking of asking for the name and address of Dominick's C.E.O. and writing him/her. But we all know where that will lead, don't we?

Ours is increasingly a society in which the individual is constantly made aware that he or she is totally at the mercy of whatever greed-driven whim strikes those too powerful to be affected by what anyone thinks. The feeling of being totally, utterly powerless is frustrating, and too much frustration can easily lead to madness. Is it really any wonder that people wander around with loaded weapons (thanks, N.R.A.!!) finally venting their frustration by shooting people at random?

So I will ask for the name and address of Dominick's C.E.O., and I will write him/her, and though I know full well it will either never be read or will be viewed through the glazed eyes of total indifference, doing something is better than doing nothing. And I hold the romantic's hope that if enough other people actually did let those in power know they're sick and tired of being shat upon, there might actually be hope for change. Perhaps pigs can fly.

When is the last time you felt taken advantage of? When's the last time you were treated rudely or ignored by a sales person? Or had poor service in a restaurant, or been served cold or overcooked food? But more importantly, when is the last you did anything about it? When is the last time you asked to speak to a manager?....Think, now..... Exactly. There does come a time when we get what we deserve, and every time you allow yourself to be treated poorly without saying something....well, I'm sorry, but you get what you deserve.

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