Back at the start of the Great Recession, I attended an event that discussed the growing trend toward “having an experience” rather than traveling to different locales. The reasoning was that people wanted more from what money they had to spend than simply traveling. Colorado, in particular, felt they could weather the recession better than most since Coloradoans could stay close and have a new “experience.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that now everything needs to be an experience since many people have grown up believing that the experience is part and parcel to the act of buying something.
This hit home the other when I was looking up a business that specialized in products for the construction trade but would sell to anyone who walked in. The online reviews consistently showed that contractors loved this company for low prices and excellent quality but many walk-ins complained that they didn’t get a good experience. It seems that unless you knew what you wanted, there really weren’t people willing to spend hour upon hour walking you through the process.
At least in my memory, the experience had more to do with feeling like I had received good value for my money and less to do with whether the transaction itself made me feel good. The market effectively weeded out companies where customer service was poor or product quality was sub par.
I remember going to have a muffler replaced many years ago. It was a filthy, dirty, hot place with lit acetylene torches lining the back wall. I remember thinking “I sure hope that’s fire brick” and “if this place burns down, I hope he has insurance!” He had the singular job of replacing my muffler and the only ambiance was some duct tape to cover the holes in the chair he had for customers to sit in.
There was a Jewish delicatessen in downtown Cincinnati called Izzy’s. The experience included the lack of a published menu or prices, wooden benches, and no bill. When you were finished with your meal, you walked up to Izzy and told him what you had. He would then pound on the cash register and you happily paid whatever came up.
One day I witnessed Izzy bodily throw a customer out the door when he demanded to see an itemized bill. He tried to come back in to pay and Izzy threw him out again!
Another part of the experience was hoping that a rookie with the Cincinnati Police would be sent in to order a glass of milk and a hamburger. Izzy had a meat cleaver he kept near at hand for these occasions.
Now I see where his sons have adopted the slogan “Izzy’s employees understand that the customer is King.” One of my fondest memories was Izzy yelling at me “aren’t you having the zoup?! The zoup’s good today! You’re having the zoup!” I had the soup and gladly paid for it. Now that’s an experience!
Sadly, I think we’re quickly losing what truly were unique experiences in favor of homogenized thin layers of feel good.
It probably also shouldn’t surprise us when politics has become more to do with the experience of electing someone to office that makes us feel good and less to do with electing someone who intends to accomplish something.