Demanding to be loved doesn’t work

Buy British Tea poster.

The difficult economic climate of the last few years has led to a tendency that makes us, as consumers, groan: businesses demanding to be loved.

‘We need you more in January than any other month,’ say pubs and restaurants. ‘Buy British beer!’ and ‘Don’t buy big brands,’ say breweries. ‘Shop local, boo to supermarkets,’ says nearly everyone. There is even, now, a campaign urging brewers to use more British hops, and consumers to appreciate them. The rallying cry of this kind of campaigning is ‘Use it or lose it!’

We’re broadly sympathetic to all of those causes, but find the constant nagging (yes, that’s how it feels) rather exhausting.

The needs of business people aren’t the only thing we take into account when we’re deciding what to buy or where to shop: sometimes we’re skint; sometimes we, don’t get chance to go shopping until everything but Tesco is shut; sometimes, the small-producer, local version of a particular product simply isn’t good enough. And isn’t going to the pub supposed to be fun? When it becomes a duty, like going to church, then count us out.

Like whining at someone who isn’t responding to your romantic overtures, begging for custom, rather than demonstrating why you deserve it, is actually rather a turn-off.

13 replies on “Demanding to be loved doesn’t work”

Yes, if you’re exhorted to “use it or lose it”, it’s very likely you’ve already lost it.

And isn’t “buying British” on principle, rather than for quality, a bit BNP?

The whole buy New York thing starting to ramp up here as well. Last year the Governor had a beer and wine summit—and a yogurt summit as well. They’re even trying to re-invigorate the long dead hops industry in the state—the Governor included a whopping $40,000/£25,446 in the budget. “Buy NY” has—like every other at one time noble effort—become a show-off for re-election.

The rational argument for buying “local” is one of those enlightened self interest things. Of a pound (or a dollar even) spent in the local economy (however you chose to define that) more makes it back to you, in one way or another, than if you’d spent it non-locally. Of course, this assumes that “local” businesses are going to take the trouble to make a respectable offering. Around here, there always used to be a lot of ” oooh, no, we don’t stock those, there’s no call for them”. Unbelieveably, I’m still told “we can order it in for you… if you want” – with the clear implication that I should f-off and stop bothering them – and I’m like, “you ever heard of the Internet? I can fugging order it in, without you, you sap”.

Ah, a bug bear of ours…

Shopkeeper: “Do you stock X?”

Reply: “No.”

(Awkward pause, hoping they’ll say “no, but this is similar” or “no, we can get it in and deliver it to you by the end of the week” or “no, but we’ll definitely get some in — what a good idea!”)

Shopkeeper (glumly): “Er… have you tried Argos?”

P.S. wasn’t it CAMRA (rather than the “micros”) who gave us LocAle?

Indeed it was, but for similar reasons – it originated in Nottingham after Greene King bought and closed Hardys & Hansons, as a way to make the point that Hardys & Hansons beer was no longer brewed locally.

One form this can take that I’ve noticed recently is publicans who appear to conceive of CAMRA as a support campaign for their pub, rather than as a pressure group for drinkers. Of course ideally there would be a mutually beneficial relationship, but fundamentally CAMRA represents the interests of drinkers, not publicans. I saw one publican semi-seriously suggesting that CAMRA members should pay more to support the pub, rather than getting a discount.

Understand your point totally about buying/visiting out of duty – choice is exactly that, at the end of the day. But I don’t see anything wrong with exhorting something that may have been marginalised by trend. British Hops is an excellent example – you can’t deny that if the UK hop farmer felt that they had to take a media campaign to drum up support because of the US/New World invasion, then surely such articles are warranted?

There’s a difference between “UK hops are amazing and here’s why” and “You’re killing UK hops, consumers! Stop liking American hops! This is your fault!” Most of the coverage has been the former, but some has slipped over into the latter.

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