Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Selling crap

'DEC Digital User' was the company's main magazine and there were the lads on the phone telling their perspective customers that we had a circulation of some 20,000. Never mind, that one of my jobs was cooperating with the printer who to the best of my knowledge printed some 5,000 copies. Yes, even in those days they really knew how to sell invisibles in the London Bridge area.

This was Britain in the mid-80s, Friedmanism had taken root, the country's manufacturing base had already more or less disappeared and popping up here there and everywhere were groups of mostly ex-pupils from minor public schools on the make, with their give to the gab: "Good morning John, David Jones here, William from IBM gave me your number, I was wondering if you would be interested in a 'double page full colour spread' in our next edition of 'DEC Digital User.?" They were selling advertising space, raking in between fifty and a hundred and fifty grand a year and, although it hardly looked like it just down the road in the Embankment's  "Cardboard City"  or, indeed, elsewhere in the city, wealth was being created. In fact, because there was so much wealth the demand for  capital goods had to be somehow satisfied  with dilapidated housing, and some quite decent public housing too,  being sold off for silly money.

Back in the publishers, it would never have occured to anyone, of course, that they were neither selling, nor buying anything tangible and if it did dawn on them, who cared? After all, money was being made and the only sustenance needed to fuel the illusions and delussions was a few fags, a few pints, a few packets of crisps and a couple of pies in the 'Dog and Duck'. Then it was back up stairs   for the late calls to California, followed by another couple of pints in some bar at London Bridge before getting the train home. However, the model could not be sustained. At least not through advertising space and property speculation alone and soon our disaster capitalists would don their thinking hats and fictitious capital would open up very real opportunites for the good salesman who was moving on and up.

Others moved onto hardware and some even into selling weapons and then along came September 11th and a whole new security and surveillance industry that had to be sold. Yes, a very different product with very different advertising and we can all be grateful that with the latest "bomb scare" we are only getting the industry's equivalent to a small black and white advert in a glossy magazine, a bomb scare, not a bomb, thank god, and certainly no 'double page full colour spread' of the sort that we got on 9/11, on Bali, in London or Madrid. Still, the small "black and white" advert is already doing its job and we can read in today's 'Guardian' that: "The government has announced a series of measures intended to protect the travelling public from the emerging threat of cargo-hold bombs created by al-Qaida as questions continued to be asked about the initial British response to the alert." The "series of measures", more under-paid private security at Britain's airports, longer waiting, but, most importantly, some new expensive surveillance equipment. Yes, they really have created a nice "little" industry for themselves, haven't they?

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