Service of Mixed Messages: Where A Spot Of Bother May Be a Catastrophe

October 14th, 2019

Categories: Holiday Sales, Mixed Messages, Song, Story, Understate

Mixed Messages. Photo:

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reminded me of a song my father introduced me to when I was a kid: “Tout Va Très Bien Madame La Marquise,” by Ray Ventura which in English is “Everything’s very fine my lady.”

That’s the refrain too–which we’d sing at the top of our lungs along with Les Compagnons de la Chanson, a mid 20th century French vocal group.

In fact, in this song’s story, nothing is fine.

Les Compagnons de la Chanson Photo:

The song begins when Madame M calls her employee, James, to ask what she’ll find on her return home. James tells her that a little something happened, a bit of bother, and he admits that her gray mare is dead.

The chorus returns with all’s well and she learns next that the mare died when the stables burned down. Again the chorus with assurances and “a little nothing” after she asks how that happened and we learn in subsequent verses that the stable caught fire after the chateau collapsed in flames started when the Marquis committed suicide and in doing so he knocked over the candelabra that started the fire. The song ends: “Mais, à part ça, [but apart from that] Madame la Marquise, Tout va très bien, tout va très bien.”

Back to Sarah Nassauer’s article, “Retailer Group Predicts Robust Holidays, but Sounds Warning.”

That’s putting it lightly. What else would you expect the National Retail Federation [that reps stores such as Macy’s and Wal-Mart] to predict? And what might these potential flies in the ointment be?


Nassaueur wrote “global political and economic uncertainty could erode consumer confidence and spending.” Under normal circumstances we might shrug and move on. Trouble is nothing is normal. From one to another day the administration threatens or causes a war somewhere and sprinkles trade tariffs around like spots on a Dalmatian.

The retail federation’s president Matthew Shay ID’d consumer confidence, rising wages and low unemployment on the plus side for holiday sales and on the minus: economy growing slower than in 2018 and “considerable uncertainty around issues including trade, interest rates, global risk factors and political rhetoric.” A potential spot of bother, right?

A financial advisory firm’s research report also anticipates higher holiday retail sales and at the same time admits “the buzz of an oncoming recession is getting louder.”

Nassauer reported “The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on the majority of goods imported from China, with some to take effect later in the holiday season on consumer goods including toys and apparel.” The administration expects to impose tariffs on food and “other goods” from the European Union.

Altogether now: What do people give or buy most during the holidays? Toys, apparel and food.

“‘None of these retailers want to pass on cost to consumers if they can avoid it,’ said the retail federation’s Mr. Shay. But if cost increases because of tariffs spread to more categories of goods in the coming weeks and months, he said, ‘tariffs certainly could make an impact.’ ”

Do you see the similarity to the approach to these predictions and the Tout Va Très Bien song?  Nassauer bent over backwards to present a balanced article but the warnings are too many and too loud and I wouldn’t count any holiday retail dollar chickens just yet–would you?


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5 Responses to “Service of Mixed Messages: Where A Spot Of Bother May Be a Catastrophe”

  1. Hugo Ripanykhazov Said:

    Yes, that song is a bit of an anthem for the age of Trump, isnt it? I wonder when the Democrats are going to learn the D word? In the sense that it is not that the economy is doing well because Trump is a pathetic ignorant weakling, bumbling about like a bull in a china shop, but rather the economy is still doing well DESPITE that pathetic ignorant weakling bumbling about like a bull in a china shop

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Why didn’t I think of that? Mme. La Marquise could be an anthem for the Trump age and the 1950s movie “Mister Roberts,” reminiscent of the administration, could also represent the state of affairs.

    That said, will we ever get used to waiting for the other shoes to drop? From day to day we watch teens in bumper cars at an amusement park in Washington bouncing from one created crisis to another.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Lucrezia wrote on Facebook: These similarities have predated the song to La Marquise as far back as Cassandra, if not further. There’s always someone predicting doom, and at times he/she is right. Best poicy is to ignore purveyors of doom and live by rules dictated by common sense. Life is a crapshoot more often than not, so why worsen matters by being yanked around by attention seekers?.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Between my training as a PR person–and my personality–if I can find a glimmer of positive on a topic I will point it out.

    But the pending situations–impact from tariffs on toys, apparel and food from Europe; international mayhem caused by unpredictable activity at the helm of this country and the louder buzz of an oncoming recession–are not the clarion calls of naysayers trying to be the grinches at Christmas. A comment on the post referred to the Madame La Marquise song as “a bit of an anthem for the age of Trump.” In any case The Wall Street Journal reporter would have been remiss to leave out these potential glitches that might sidetrack a superlative Christmas sales season. To borrow a phrase from a TV Network, it was only fair and balanced reporting and as I wrote in the lead, a song from my past so perfectly fit the scene she depicted.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    Obsession with shopping at all hours and instant gratification have reduced the charm of gift giving or making things seem special and for special occasions. Special occasions now seem more mundane and perfunctory rather than special.

    However, the endless phony two-sided examinations of unmitigated disasters, horrific faux, murderous conflicts, a dizzying downward spiraling economy all pervade our current world. The artificial and faint-hearted attempts by trade journals, “influencers” and writers of journalism in the more strict sense don’t have any real significance. Rather they appear to be wishful thinking.

    So much has changed in such a short time that much of the quaint charms and nostalgia customs that made so many holidays seem festive and full of positive feelings seasoned with generosity has evaporated. The brutality and vulgarity of the Trump era, however, certainly has caused so much anxiety as well as economic unbalance that it seems absurd to anticipate people rushing around spending the traditional amount of thought, time or financial outlay on food, toys or apparel. We have an extreme shortage of nostalgia and charm!

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