I saw an ad for a snack company advertising its “great” new snack idea: pretzel pieces. Yes, a bag of broken pretzels, such as they used to throw away. 

By clever marketing and manipulation of the psyches of suckers (oops, I mean consumers), a manufacturer’s former waste product is being promoted as an exciting new concept in snack foods, for which they expect top dollar.

If we fall for that, next they may be selling pretzel crumbs which they have swept off the factory  floor and promoting it as “Magic Pretzel Dust; The Pretzel You Can Eat With a Spoon!” They will be found on the store shelf right next to the “homestyle potato chips,” which are made from potatoes they were too lazy to peel first.

Advertisers spend billions of dollars on market research so that they can learn how to lead us around by the wallet. Like championship fishermen, they select just the right lure and then reel us in.

A few years ago, a chain of sandwich shops heavily promoted its “new and improved ” bread. When I ordered it, it tasted exactly like its old bread, except that it was about 30 percent smaller. Is that really an improvement?

A national pizza chain is promoting its new pizza, which has less of the tasty and expensive toppings and more of the cheaper bread around the edges. They gave it a snappy new name and are trying to convince us that it is a good thing to have more crust and less topping.

The trend of giving less and charging more began with the food industry. As prices rose, packaging shrunk, so that you got less and less for your money.

Then service to the customer also began a downward slide.

Remember when a trip to the gas station to fuel your car did not require that you even get out of the car? When you left, your hands never smelled like gasoline, nor did you have to worry that there was a “skimmer” hidden in the pump, just waiting to steal your identity.

Nope, when you pulled up to the pump, a young man in a crisp uniform trotted out to your car and asked through the driver’s side window, “What can I do for you, Ma’am?”  While it was pumping he washed your windshield, checked the oil under the hood, and if you requested it he would check the air in all four tires. All you were charged for was the gas itself, which by the way, at that time cost about 49 cents a gallon.

Going out to eat used to mean having a valet park your car, a hostess seat you, a waitress serve you, and a busboy clear your table. Now we willingly park our own car (if we can find a spot), pick up our order at a counter, fill our own soft drink cups, serve ourselves, then throw away our own trash.

Ironic, isn’t it, that the title of “waitress” was changed to “server” just as we began to have to serve ourselves?

Then the salad bar was promoted as an exciting new concept. Now you could prepare your own salads and be grateful for the privilege.

The next time I order a salad, I fear that I will be handed a pair of garden gloves, a hoe, and a basket then sent out to the garden. I hope at least they will have the blender in the kitchen plugged in and ready to use. I could make my own salad dressing after I have washed,  peeled, and chopped all the vegetables. 

For this privilege, I probably will be charged $19.95, plus $6 for the use of their knives, blender, and salad bowl.

It isn’t just the food industry, though, that is playing us for suckers. The last time I bought a floor lamp, the stock boy wheeled it out to me on a dolly.

“Excuse me, young man,” I said. “I ordered a lamp. This is a lamp kit in a box. It is a box of lamp parts and a sheet of instructions. Do I look like an electrician to you? For $150 I expect something that at least looks like a lamp.”

I could use a new desk, but I am afraid if I order one, it will consist of an oak log, a chain saw, a box of screws, a package of assorted sandpaper, and a can of varnish. Hardware to be purchased separately and at exorbitant prices.

P.T. Barnum was right: there is a sucker born every minute. I have had a little training in marketing and promotion. It is about time I cashed in.

Hmmm, a snack made of something cheap and easy to obtain, not normally thought of as a food item. I’ve got it! The skin of a pig, fried in hot oil and then salted. I will call it “Pork Rinds.”

Nah, nobody is sucker enough to fall for that. Or are they?

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