Saturday, December 17, 2011

Apologies for my cynicism

Secret Santas are sweeping the nation, paying off the layaway accounts of a few random lucky members of the 99%. Wonderful Christmas time story to warm the cockles of even Scrooge's heart, right?

“It is honestly being driven by people wanting to do a good deed at this time of the year,” said Salima Yala, Kmart’s division vice president for layaway.
Then why are they for the most part only paying off accounts at Kmart? And how does she know exactly?

Oh, sure, we'll start to hear about copycats (and good for them, unless of course they're from a competing HQ in Bentonville). But this smacks of a purely cynical guerrilla marketing campaign. It's brilliant in its way, but at bottom there's a soul-killing ugliness to the willingness to leverage small money into tremendous free media.

If you want to prove that the problem is in my heart, not in the hearts of the secret Santas, find out who called the press. Acts of generosity that happen when no one is looking don't make good copy unless a writer is tipped off.

I'd really like to be wrong about this. But I think it's not even noblesse oblige, instead fakery.

While I'm on the topic, one more thing about layaway: The need for layaway shows how far the middle class has fallen. You only need layaway if you can't get a few hundred dollars in credit. Layaway terms are one-sided - the poor consumer pays and pays and pays and still has to keep returning to the store. This is the world of widespread penury that Republicans want to return us to. So that we'll be more cowed and leave their sponsors an ever larger share of the pie.

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