November 16, 2011

Big Is The New Stupid

I don't like big things.

I think the ad business was a lot smarter and healthier before it became dominated by four global monstrosities. It wasn't that long ago (well, not to me anyway) that Y&R had the largest share of the ad market in the US at 1.5%. Now four holding companies have over 70%. 

I worked for a publicly traded agency for 2 of my 100 years in the ad business. I had to. They bought my agency. They were the worst years of my life. And that was a small publicly traded agency.

I have passed up opportunities to work for big agencies and have never regretted it for a minute. They are simply awful.

I don't like bigness of any type. Big businesses, big banks, big governments, big unions, and corporate big shots all give me indigestion. I think this country was a lot better off economically, socially, culturally, and morally when everything was smaller. When every city had its own brewery. When every street had a bakery. Before every mall in the country was populated by the same hundred or so retailers. When small businesses had a fair chance.

All you need to know about the advantages that the large have over the small is that our tax code is over 2,000 pages long.

It's 2,000 pages of special pleading written for people and businesses that have access to power -- and don't want to pay their fair share. Do you think any of those pages of exceptions, exemptions, and exclusions was written for your neighborhood dry cleaner?

A few weeks ago a local drug store I have been patronizing for over 20 years was taken over by Safeway, the largest supermarket chain in California. The drug store is in the same site it has always been. But now it's called Safeway pharmacy.

I called the store this morning to renew a prescription. Instead of talking to John the pharmacist I got a message about pressing 1 if I was this, and 2 if I was that.

I used to be able to pick up my prescription 15 minutes after I called it in. When I went to pick up my prescription five hours after calling it in today, the person at the counter couldn't find it. Fortunately, a long-time employee of the pharmacy was there. She said, "Hi Bob" and showed the new knucklehead where the record of the prescription was.

I waited longer for the pharmacist to count out 30 pills and put them in a little bottle than it used to take me to call in the prescription, drive to the drug store, pick up the prescription and drive home. And this after giving them a five-hour head start.

I want my small pharmacist back.

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