The 4 Most Weirdly Outdated Corporate Policies
If you run a major corporation in this day and age, you either stay current and informed, or you sadly shuffle out front to hang up the "out of business" sign as consumers zip by on hovershoes you didn't even know existed. Customers are more interconnected than ever, which is both a boon (click here to follow Tide on Twitter! Press "OK" to allow Google Dreams to catalog your slumbering desires!) and a curse. That's why it's so baffling that some of the biggest corporations are still stubbornly adhering to policies that should have been phased out years, if not decades ago. Policies like ...
Abercrombie & Fitch Hates Ugly People
If you don't know what Abercrombie & Fitch is, they're the clothes your date rapist wears. If you haven't heard about Abercrombie & Fitch's crazy, high-school-movie-villain-caliber "cool kid" policies, well, welcome to the Internet. Careful where you step; there's porn literally everywhere. Here's A&F CEO Michael Jeffries, who says:
"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong , and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
Well, that seems kind of shitty, but maybe it's taken out of context. Maybe he's just rehashing some marketing speak and doesn't fully understand the implications. But then there's the Business Insider article that kickstarted this recent shitstorm (man, who would have thought "shitstorm" would make its Kickstarter goals?). The piece pointed out that the largest female size A&F sells is a 10. In the ensuing Reddit thread, alleged former employees related how they slashed rejected clothes to make them unusable by the homeless and were instructed to hire only attractive, young salespeople.
Now, I'm not such a sobbing liberal that I think shit like this should be illegal or regulated -- this is a private business, and they should absolutely be allowed to fleece callow high schoolers with subpar $75 cargo shorts however they see fit. I'm not even surprised that these amoral practices exist. Marketing people are all, to a one, disgusting lampreys suckling from the withered veins of capitalism's ugly underbelly. I'm just surprised that A&F is still trying it. The Internet loves this shit. I mean, these policies may have actually played in the old days, because short of a high-profile news expose, most people wouldn't have known about it. Back in the day, you could keep your "no uggos" policy a dirty little secret, and some people might genuinely be fooled into thinking that "only the most attractive people wear those clothes that look like the bottom drawer of an unemployed surfer's wardrobe; I must join them."
But those were the good old days of consumer ignorance. How did you think that the Internet wasn't going to spread this story everywhere the very second they realized that your CEO looks like he's allergic to his own face?
Seriously, he looks like the shit Ron Perlman took after he ate a plateful of Gary Busey. He looks like the evidence photos in the malpractice trial for the Cowardly Lion's plastic surgeon. And this is the guy insisting that only beautiful people wear his clothes? That kind of base level irony is so viral, the abstract concept is trending on Twitter.
Apple Doesn't Think Literature Transcends Your Operating System
When we say "Apple user," we all picture the same stereotype: ironic blazer-clad graphic designers sipping endangered Bolivian Condor espresso from their seats inside a coffee shop made entirely out of glass and track lighting. Even though, if you check right now, you're probably one of those Apple users. Odds are you have, at some point, been the proud owner of an iPod, iPad, iBook, or some other first-person-branded, implacably ominous technological obelisk. So why do we have that mental flash of the Apple dickhead whenever the brand name comes up? Because it's a very carefully constructed and maintained image. They don't necessarily want you, the consumer, to relate to the Apple guy, but they do want you to feel like you're as savvy and connected as the dude, just without carting all that douche around with you everywhere.
So it's obvious why they cultivated the elitist image in the first place, but the rest of Apple's marketing budget goes to maintaining a delicate balancing act between user friendliness and consumer accessibility. They want to tell you, the proud new owner of a shiny white-plastic iPenis, that they have just as much, if not more content available for your digital phallus than the other guys. And that is a lie. Because, to sell anything on iTunes, iBooks, or any other Apple-run online store, you first have to use an Apple computer to list it.
Some of the best digital content available today, be it mobile games, indie music, or self-published novels, is coming out of independent studios and solo creators. Yet if you want to list your media for sale on iTunes, one of the largest online stores in the world, you have to own a Mac and download their special proprietary software to do it. Really think about that: Are you absolutely sure that your favorite indie musician is a fellow Apple user? Because if not, you'd better think up a new one. Maybe you're not actually into The Thermals anymore; maybe you're all about Jonathan Coulton instead. He seems like a Mac dude. Really want to check out Salman Rushdie's self-published book of essays, Talk Fast, I'm in a Rushdie? Well, have you thought about reading Garfield: A Life of Mondays instead? Because you just know that fucking Rushdie philistine is a filthy Windows user, and you don't want him polluting the pristine shiny surface of your new iPad.
I'll admit, this one was motivated by personal experience: When I went to sell my amazing work of genre-defying literary genius, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, I of course pulled up all the major retailers and started reading their publishing contracts. Because at that point I was arrogantly assuming that something like literature might transcend what brand of operating system your phone runs on.
This proprietary isolationism would have been expected 10 years ago, when we were all still being ravaged by the hardware wars -- losing our loved ones to rogue Zunes and rampaging Shuffles left and right -- but that kind of thinking is outdated now. If you won't let me list my brilliant depiction of a time-travel-addicted mega-scraper-city on your store, customers can click once and download the Kindle app instead, which will let them buy whatever they want. If you can't buy that album on iTunes, you sure as shit can find it on Spotify; if that movie wasn't made on a goddamn iMac, Amazon probably doesn't care. Content can be accessed any number of ways, and all Apple is doing is losing itself money in the name of some back-end exclusivity that most consumers would never even see, much less appreciate.
You're being an IP hipster, Apple. Nobody likes a hIPster.
Netflix Doesn't Want Your Precious Cult Classics
Netflix jumped on board instant streaming early, largely abandoning the dying concept of physical media. They also began focusing on quality original programming, rather than relying solely on the beneficence of the cable networks. Netflix has even tapped the angsty nerd market by picking up some prematurely cancelled but massively beloved shows, like Arrested Development. If Netflix continues in this vein, they will have all of the money, and they will drown the very world with it.
But they're apparently not going to surf a giant tidal wave of currency over the backs of your children. Because their CCO is out there saying stuff like:
"The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV, and there's fewer of them and they're more passionate every year. Whereas with Arrested Development we're going to be serving a multiple of the original audience. Any of the other shows we could bring back would be a fraction of the original audience."
Netflix's CCO also acknowledged that while the show is popular among their users, "it would be impractical to create new episodes, given the actors have aged and the sets no longer exist."
That's right: Netflix has officially come out and said they not only would not pick up Firefly, but won't be picking up any other shows like Firefly, because they're not a marketable commodity. I don't know about you, but there has not been one single instance where I have fired up Netflix and not seen this:
It's been one of their "most popular" shows since the day they got the rights to it. But it would be stupid to bring it back because it wasn't popular enough?
Don't get me wrong: I like Netflix. I think they're doing great work with Arrested Development (and if they're not, I'm going to personally burn down their homes). And even some of their original series have been really good, or at least they seemed like they might have been really good for about four episodes before you realized that they're just Gross Twilight.
But you can't pick Firefly up because the cast is older and the old sets are gone? That's the best possible way to start again! New sets and years of implied lore to mine are exactly the kinds of things fans of the show would love. Sure, you can't pick up from where the show left off, but you can do way better: You can pick up 10 years later, and show us where they are now -- you know, kind of like the exact thing you're doing with Arrested Development.
HBO Unties Itself from Cable, But Only Literally
A few years ago, somebody at HBO did an amazing thing: They keyed in their access codes, flipped the bright red doomsday switch, twisted the Great and Forbidden Wheel, and cracked open the sealed door to the Cable Bunker. They poked their heads out and looked around at the rest of the world.
"Shit," said HBO, squinting in the first daylight their atrophied eyes had ever seen, "There's Internet everywhere. And they're using it to watch our stuff for free."
To the shock of all, a television network saw the impending threat of piracy and ... adjusted their services. HBO launched GO, a mobile version of their programming untied from the archaic yoke of television. Good lord, an intelligent and reasonable response to a shifting consumer market? Fuck your flying cars; this ... this is the stuff of science fiction.
Aaaand then they required a cable account to sign up for it.
They looked at the wants of the current market, they listened to their consumers, they researched and developed a functional and desired product, and then they shoved it directly up their ass sideways and did a funny little clapping dance while the current market sighed in exasperation. No, HBO, when we said "We wouldn't pirate your shows if we could access them somewhere else," we weren't talking about "the bathroom." We wanted to ditch cable -- that's the point of all of this! The reason tech-savvy people are stealing your shows instead of paying for a cable package isn't because it's too hard to watch them on the lawn; it's the fact that you have a giant fucking wall constructed out of 600 channels worth of bullshit. I'd like to watch Game of Thrones. I'll happily pay you for the opportunity to support quality work. I will not, however, pay for ESPN 8 to keep airing 12-hour marathons of Taiwanese Toe Dancing Competitions and 17 different networks devoted to selling collectible plates.
Read more from Brockway at his own Laser-Bear-infested site, The Brock Way. Follow him on Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.