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April 14, 2008

You Get Mad, You Spend: Ain’t Capitalism Grand?


You want to know why people in customer service are rude, inattentive, incompetent, confrontational and completely unhelpful?


Now we know. To get more of your money.


A new study by a doctoral student at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University concludes that if you go shopping when you’re in a lousy mood, you’re likely to spend more money.


The lead researcher, Cynthia Cryder, had a group of 33 shoppers ages 18 through 30 watch video clips before sending them off to shop. Some watched a sad clip, others a neutral one. Those in the former category were willing to spend more for the same items as those in the latter category.


Now, I could quibble with the sample size or argue that lots of other factors might have influenced the behavior of the two groups. But that would ruin a perfectly good column premise, so instead I will completely accept everything Ms. Cryder said.


So people spend more when they’re cranky. That makes sense. I can just envision a lot of you storming through the aisles of our many fine retail establishments grabbing things:


“Give me that. This too! Give me this #*(#$@($@# thing! I’m going to take it home and smash it to pieces just because I #$(*#$@*(#$@(* can!”


Obviously, customer service trainers have understood this for a very long time. And you thought the pimple-face kids, the bitter middle-aged cranks and the arrogant jerks were just the result of tight personnel budgets. Are you kidding me? They recruit people who demonstrate an ability to annoy you.


The HR department probably has people standing outside the studio where they film The Jerry Springer Show waiting to hand out job applications to members of the audience.


“The woman with the tattoo on her third stomach fold, who said she’s not letting some tramp horn in on her man – we’ve got to have her,” says the customer service team leader. “And the guest – the one with the fetish for stuffing fish down his underwear? Whatever it takes to get him. Six figures should be our starting offer.”


Of course, a good customer service department needs diversity. Idiotic, dregs-of-society types are only part of what makes a good team. You also need a few Don Rickles types, who can annoy customers by standing there and insulting them.


“Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to Bob’s Appliance. With a tie like that, may I recommend you purchase an oven today that’s large enough for you to climb inside? We have excellent financing options, even for people such as yourself whose credit rating is probably one of the few things lower than your IQ.”


You can just feel the veins popping out of your neck as this guy lays into you.


“Why I oughta . . .” you seethe. “Just for that, I’m buying your most expensive refrigerator!”


Only later, when you get home, do you realize that your rage-inspired impulse buying has left you in hoc until the second term of the Chelsea Clinton Administration.


Hey. These people are good. You get mad, you spend. Cynthia Cryder at Carnegie Mellon has proven it.


The best news is that this portends effective solutions for the nation’s current economic situation. President Bush wants us to make consumer purchases to stimulate the economy. And the stupidest 5 percent of the population needs jobs. (In my home state of Michigan, make that the stupidest 93 percent.)


Problem solved. Take the unemployed, hire them to do customer service jobs in various retail establishments, then watch as the rest of the population is angered into buying up everything in the store.


I love capitalism. It finds a solution to everything. It’s making me feel all warm inside. Or is that the fish inside my . . . oops, never mind!


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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