Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spanish Retail: Pretencious, Expensive and Deceiving

Christmas holiday season in Spain is a big opportunity to explore local shopping and discover that it is not worth shopping here. Let´s see why local retail is not really competitive and what seems to be the commercial standard.

If you walk the commercial street of a city like Barcelona you´ll find many attractive images in advertising, promotional materials and events that encourage you to buy goods and services, many of them developed by international and local campaigns. Fresh food, fancy clothes, luxury experiences do not usually comply to WYSWYG policies. Let´s explore a bit further.

Under the slogan of Spain is Different Manuel Fraga, a dictator Franco´s  advisor promoted a country where because of "being different" tourist were forced to accept all kinds of outstandards, scams, and abuse in products and services, offered to them while visiting.

From this point many businesses have been inventing their own rules about prices, customer service, and product standards for years, when it comes to complying with quality and service, based on the belief, that people would buy anywy and they may not see them again.

But times change, prosumers grow and what worked for Mr. Fraga in the 60´s is now just "... a common phrase to joke about Spanish lousy mentality..." as Wikipedia notes about the campaign. Nowadays and after the economic crisis has made Spain fall into a new position in the world, all these beliefs are subject to change, hopefully...soon.

Shopping for goods at departments stores can give you surprises like sales people affirming that products you know and use, simply  do not exist in the market or things they just do not know, have apparenty never been built. These type of answers usually followed by "es lo que hay" (sort of "that is all you´ll get" ) leave you breathless and discourage to buy again or even try to buy.
Trying to find someone to give you information on options, colours, sizes, materials, functions or specifications will be useless unless you are lucky and find that the salesperson from abroad (usually Latinamerica, USA or Canary Islands), then you´ll have a smile and some assistance. Double priced products are found in most big stores, meaning that you may find the exact same item with two different prices at the same store or finding the same item at different prices in different shops located in different areas of the city. Be cautious with this.

I do have to admit, shop designers and marketeers do their job right, storefronts, ads, displays, shop-windows, catalogues and most websites are very seductive and  get us into the shops, but once you are inside,  another story is being told.

Overrated, overpriced and often crappy is the feeling of many visitors about their shopping and gastronomic experiences. 

If you plan to go for dinner, restaurants hold the same policy, do not expect to be well treated, you can easily wait at a bar for 15 minutes to be noticed by the waiter and once he/she arrives will just ask you what you want without bringing a menu or having a visible pricelist, the result : surpise bill with overspriced items. Very often charging extra for items you did not ask for or overcharging on drinks and coffee. If he menu has pictures on it , do not believe what you see because you´ll receive a whole different dish, no "serving suggestion" note is visible either. be ready to pay more for the same dish at night or if you choose a table outside. very good and expensive restaurants can be found across Barcelona but for me after almost 10 years around here it has been hard to find value for money.

I guess the Spanish fashion industry is a vivid example of what I am trying to expres here. Inditex found its way to global business, selling very low quality clothes, copied from real designers to be sold in pretencious shops that look like real fashion stores, located in big malls or fancy avenues.
Clothes from Zara, Mango, Oysho, Stradivarious or any of the brands from Inditex will luckily survive three time in the washing machine, even the Beijing Consumer Association has legally confronted Zara about bad quality in their products. Prices are good, but what about value for money? Has anyone ever heard about that here?

Why are Spaniards always trying to "Vender la Moto"? ( a very common expression when people suspect something is not as much as it is being described as).  These things permanently intrigue me and make wonder about how much of is cultural, just a national attitude, or a trace of collective identity.

I hope times change and a new generation of Spaniards will not repeat these traditions when making business, working with customers or developing a slogan that sells this country. It may be time for a change of mind, style and behaviour.

In a future post I´ll write about HQ Spanish products and companies, I promise.  For the time being, check out a couple of references on the current topic:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Who gives back to their provider?

Providers are those who provide.
Parents,  government,  husbands,  teachers,  caretakers and all those institutions an people that permanently create theresources for other people to fill their needs and enjoy wellbeing. But gives back to them?

In Europe, it is quite frequent to see people complain about everything they wish and do not have permanently unsatisfied with the things and services the welfare state provides them with.

Most people blame politicians, the system and the government about any small detail or circumstance they do not feel fulfilled or compleatly pleased with ignoring everything they receive and thier own resposibility and implication with society. Completely eluding their own responsibility as part of the community and the system and denying they can also make a change, contribute to other people´s lives and make the world a better place.

Years and years of State paternalism has made citizens think they have to have everything for granted and make no effort to build anything, or work to make a change beyond their small region. regionalism pride and egocentrism make the differences bolder rather than creating a real union in Europe.

Demanding is a thing most people know how to do. Asking for things, criticizing everything and   complaining about everything making almost everything impossible is an easy task. But who is willing to give?

Who willing to compromise or get involved? Who sees beyond their own needs?
Providers do.

So here is the question again?
Where does the energy and commitment of providers come from?
How can they go on and on making efforts to provide unless others give back to them or they can fill their own needs?
Who cares about them?


Monday, August 15, 2011

1€ for using the elevator

It sounds like a strange cocktail of provincialism, speculation and greed.

 Walking across Barcelona I recently found that the brand new Arenas Shopping Mall has taken the opportunity to charge its visitors for using the lift (1€ per ride). Locals, tourists and families gathered on a long line to use the elevator and the reach the upper terrace. Two guys from Arenas Staff charge and provide instructions of use to excited visitors willing to pay for this exciting adventure..

Then I wonder why could this be successfully happening in the first world( Europe) in the 21st century when elevators, lifts, and all other transportation devices are so common. I found out that it is because people is bored, ignorant and willing to pay for thing they already have. Buying the lift ride makes it exciting, because in our minds only those things we pay for are good and worthy. Free things like the air, water, nature and our own life and thoughts are just not so good enough  as to charge for them. 

Sadly, we live our lives convinced that only things we can buy are important and valuable. That is why speculation and scam are so successful these days. We feel we need to pay for things we already are entitled to.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Entender de donde viene y hacia donde va la crisis mundial

Inside Job es el documental dirigido por Charles Ferguson, que presenta de manera muy simple y con muy buena documentacion los orígenes de la crisis económica mundial, la corrupción de wall street y el gobierno norteamericano que ha devastado la economía global y las terribles consecuencias a futuro.

 La crisis no acaba. Al parecer está apenas comenzando.

Los culpables de la crisis mundial siguen sin juicio, sin castigo y cada vez mas millonarios, ocupando cargos como asesores de gobiernos y evaluadores de riesgo en inversión. Una cadena infinita de corrupción e impunidad alrededor del mundo.

Premiada en los más importantes festivales de cine, presenta entrevistas con empleados, ejecutivos y funcionarios responsables e implicados en el desplome de la economía mundial y muestra el drama de los miles de personas que perdieron sus trabajos, ahorros y hogares como consecuencia de la insaciable sed de dinero y poder de las multinacionales financieras.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Porn Instead of Sex?

Maybe because I grew up with the idea of sex as an act of love, some ways of expressing  sexualities shock me very much.

Moving away from the idealization of perfect love and perfect sex, what I find more often in current media and culture is a strange mix of sex and show business that seems to invade people´s private lives.

I know we learn all we know from media these days, but where did the instinct go? Where are the movies about love making? sexualities of the world or expressing love trough sex? It all seems to be set, made up and decorated to be broadcasted and uploaded.

Either it has become more marketable when became more public or either we do everything the way movies tell.

Running away from staged sex in tv and movies I started exploring sexual social networks, where people and also companies upload all kind of visuals around sex, from intimate, personal videos to fake amateur movies. I guess diversity in content is one big plus for the internet.

After the show I guess real sexuality is almost never seen in media and I guess it is because it won´t sell. May be perceived as boring, may seem too long and uninteresting to audience makers.

Real sexuality (or the sexuality people practice at home) may be a mix of our instinct and the mandate of media we have learned for years. Sometimes fitting Hollywood standards and sometimes just connecting people´s feelings and emotions.

I still personally find much more, moving, interesting, eye catching and arousing those pictures and videos people do in the privacy of their homes with their couples  (both legal or illegal) that express love, passion and connection, than all the porn industry paraphernalia that tries to fill stereotypical fantasies, that are supposed to be collective and desirable. (big cocks, big boops, hard fucker, multiple orgasms, etc.)

What do you feel when you go to bed?
Hollywood standard of personal connection?
Is porn really sex?
is our sexuality just conservative porn?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik · A souvenir from the Jungle

Sneaking about the Oslo murderer Anders Behring Breivik, I am amazed on how his popularity grows as media tell his name. A new media strategy for the right winged christian extremists? A rare Phenomenon from "perfect societies"? A sign of the times? A truth revealed from the Norwegian society?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hunting the Vulnerable

Recently , local newspapers have been publishing ¨news¨ about fighting street vendors, that sell ¨illegal¨ copies of designer bags, fake sunglasses, ¨illegal¨ cds and dvds and that kind of good, getting to the point to make them look like very dangerous and aggressive criminals society must be afraid of and in consequence exterminate.

But, if you look at them closely, you can discover most of them are just teenager that ran away from their our countries, many of them risking their life in a deadly trip to get the the promised land of the first world, where they are treated worse that we treat our street dogs or cats.  When I make them visible to my eyes I see young men trying to make a living from whatever they can to be able to earn some euros they have to send back to their homes or pay a big percent to someone else.

Usually under terrible human conditions, they are hunted, questioned, captured, beaten, humiliated by everyone around them. It is ok to donate for Africa from our savings accounts but none cares a bit about the when they are around the corner,They will have to run every time the police is around and be afraid of being around everyday, while we pretend they do not exist.

Why can they get some opportunities, education or jobs or social assistance when they are already here? because they are black? foreign?, speak other languages and believe in other gods?

In the meantime, European companies and governments exploit their natural resources back in their countries, to provide the first world market with nice jewelery, mobile phones, gadgets and fuel.

Hunting the vulnerable and making the population hate them seems to be the rule number one, to  be part of the first world and a welfare state.

Welcome to the real jungle.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A water and Pony Tale

this story happened every summer. When my mother reached certain age, every summer she would trnasform in a different animal if touched deep currrent water.

Our job was to help return home safely without her getting lost, hunt or stolen by anyone in the region.

it happened several times. In the first tiem she became a dog and wonderdered in the streets, not being able to tell us what happened and who was trying to make her dissapear. as soon as she turned vack, we not everyone wanted to help get back home safe.

In the second year, we were walking by the river when she received a call. my sister who was 7 months pregnant was about to have her baby. She run son fast to help her that fell deep in the river.

One of our employees and me had to dive into his river full of  fish to find her. she had become a pony this time, with same color she was wearing black an white, a strong beautiful pony would run so much to be safe.

But this year I suddenly knew some of our employees trying to make her disappear the year before. she never told us but I could know by the way this guy run into her. he wasn´t helping. He was hunting her.

As soon as I stepped out of the water saw the fear in this pony´s eyes. I called her several times, asking her to be visible to me while she ran into the woods protecting herself from us.
Suddenly she appeared to me and stared asking me to run with her, but this time instead of jumping into the river again we followed the river path.

When we arrived to our home, people from the town admired the pony, tried to buy it and steal it, tried to tie it and seduce it, but it keep walking beside me all day, non stop, til it fell exhausted when entering a shopping mall. there in the middle of the crown the transformation began from horse to woman again.

A big celebration took place in my family that day. we know knew we would all become animals for a day, every year in the summer. We had to take care of each other, because we were different and everyone knew.