Service of Back to Basics

February 24th, 2011

Categories: Advertising, Anger, Back to Basics, Deception, Nostalgia, Old Fashioned Things


I increasingly sight or recognize old fashioned solutions and thought processes for a variety of reasons–not just nostalgia.

Feeling My Oats

quakeroatsWalking east on 51st Street the other night, I noticed hanging from brownstone doorknobs and fences small plastic bags featuring the Quaker Oats logo filled, I bet, with a sample. [Wasn’t my doorknob or fence so I decided not to inspect.] Who knows how long they’d been in evidence? The bags were still in place at 8 pm! Also remarkable.

The little bags reminded me of the ones with toothpaste, mouthwash and other samples waiting for me to discover, fairly consistently, on my apartment doorknob in days of yore. Like any surprise, they were fun to get.

These days, I sample candy, granola, newspaper, juice and soda that people hand me in and around Grand Central Station, especially in good weather.

Phone it In

oldphoneTravel guru Arthur Frommer interviewed the owner of an online discount hotel reservation website who said that if you call his company on the phone you will often get even better prices than the ones published on the site. Arthur seemed surprised that the most labor-intensive option provided the best price cut. I think it had more to do with the hotels discouraging deep dish discount promotions on a website than with any relationship to traditional service.

Call of the Wild

wyatt-earpFrank Rich wrote an op-ed piece about good old fashioned business flim-flammery in “At Last, Bernie Madoff Gives Back.” Rich’s targets were the big banks and high profile businesses that partnered with Bernie Madoff.  In this regard we are still in the Wild West where bandits ride and rule largely unchecked. Wonder who our Wyatt Earp will be?

Generosity: Always in Fashion

Some may remember Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass–a sound from the past. On CBS Sunday Morning I learned what Herb was up to of late. He doesn’t compose and perform but instead, shares his wealth. He’d read in the paper last summer that the 46 year old Harlem School of the Arts was about to close. His was the largest donation–$500,000–to take the organization off the critical list and the seed to attract additional funds to save it.

Hot Topic

inheritthewindSaturday morning, on Turner Classic Movies, we watched the 51 year old film “Inherit the Wind” starring Spencer Tracy. It’s about a 1925 trial involving strict Bible interpreters who object to a teacher who covered evolution in his class. Evolution continues to be a contentious topic in some parts of the country today as is religion, worldwide. The contradiction of something that is supposed to bring peace creating friction is centuries old and always a head-scratcher to me.

What basic solutions and/or golden oldie issues in this high-tech, top speed era strike you these days?


4 Responses to “Service of Back to Basics”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Basics? What basics? Real basics might be traced back to living in caves and hitting the neighbor over the head with a huge stick. More recent ones are those one believes existed when one was a child. A third set of basics might lie anywhere in between those time frames.

    Every generation is exposed to the wailings of elders who look back wistfully to what was and how wonderful it would be to have it back again. Well, nothing is coming back exactly as it was, so why waste time blubbering? Evolution annoys those who feel downgraded being descended from apes or similar creatures, so they reason it can’t happen. The fact that it is possible that an omnipotent deity made it so, somehow fails to enter the argument, so assuming there is a deity, he’s no longer omnipotent since he can’t do what he wants. What blather!

    On a personal level, I enjoy much of the technology, and am not about to backpeddle into a departed era. As for people, they remain basically the same regardless of the increasingly fancy trappings which surround them. Those who persist in looking behind them risk being hit by oncoming traffic. Is it worth a trip to the hospital?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I could have written a far shorter post by noting that certain tried and true marketing approaches never go out of style. I don’t think it has much to do with looking backwards with tears in eyes.

    A PR friend who has introduced packaged food says that there’s nothing like samples of a tasty product to help a launch. It’s obvious and basic yet some think that a Facebook or Twitter campaign that might cost much less than a vigorous sampling program would be equally effective. The best, of course, would be a combination.

    Using the discount hotel website owner as an example, by having people call in, he provides the best service–discount info–to his clients even though it costs him more. He could have kept the very best deals to himself and posted the discounts he was permitted to publicize and called it quits. He’s the kind business person I hope succeeds.

    The 1960 film about the 1925 trial and the big bank bandits helping Madoff are part of the plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose school. No tears here, either, except for the hoodwinked.

  3. Jeremiah Said:

    Progress has never been in a straight line. As with the stock market and nature, it oscillates, wave like. We are on the down wave at the moment, as our institutions crumble and the number of rioting and starving people in the world increases, and we all must learn to do with less – in effect go back to basics –but the up wave will eventually come.

    Incidentally, were you aware that, despite the Scopes trial and that superb movie, the number of Americans who believe that the Bible should be interpreted literally and reject evolution, is growing rapidly, and, indeed now forms a majority of the people?

    Consider the implications of last fall’s congressional elections. I can envisage a combination of back to basics events in the wrong sense, events which might just catapult a fundamentalist, like Sarah darling, into the White House two years from now. It is fascinating to contemplate what would happen next after that.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I find the thought more frightening than fascinating should Sarah Darling, as you call her, win any more elections, much less the Presidency.

    Substance seems to count less and less to voters, which isn’t surprising given a combination of minute attention spans, grade inflation/the catastrophe going on in educating children in our country. Let the Darling amuse the mindless–at $100,000 a throw–in her speeches but leave the rest of us alone. In fact, it’s time for another Dr. Strangelove type movie modeled after the Darling and fans such as Rush et al. We have the actress–Tina Fey–who would do as great a job as Peter Sellers. We just need the great screenwriter.

    I did not know that the majority reject evolution, though could guess that their numbers are growing. When I lived in the Middle East I saw the place where Jonah was said to have met the Whale and wondered about those who interpret the Bible literally.

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