Published on: June 13, 2008
I’m a little weary this morning, having gotten home at about 12:30 am from attending the annual Jimmy Buffett concert at Madison Square Garden.
Weary, but very, very happy.
“The Year Of Still Here Tour,” as the current incarnation is being called, is wonderful, especially if you have any Parrothead tendencies. All the usual songs are done by Jimmy, who wanders around the stage barefoot in shorts and a t-shirt, grinning with the kind of self-assurance that can only be felt by a man with a $440 million business empire built around having a good time at the beach. And he has a new song, ‘We’re Still Here,” that is terrific – it hasn’t been recorded yet, to my knowledge, but it is destined to be an instant Buffett classic.
This concert, more than past shows, featured a lot of video showing Buffett wandering around the far side of the world, through places like Cambodia – seeing the sights, interacting with the locals, and strumming his guitar. ‘Music is the universal language,” Jimmy said more than once during the concert…and the video makes his point.
The “Buffett brand,” if you will, is a powerful and compelling thing. I was talking to my buddy Jim last night as we wandered into the concert (two middle-aged guys seeking a little fantasy, growing older but not up), and I mentioned that I’d read the Buffett’s business was worth $440 million, and I wondered if I’d gotten the number wrong. Then I looked down the corridor and saw all the people lined up for his Landshark Lager beer and to buy t-shirts…and I realized that $440 million seemed perfectly reasonable.
I bought four Landsharks (my new summer favorite beer), three t-shirts and a beach towel.
There no doubt will be a lot of discussion in coming days about the relative merits of InBev’s $46.4 billion bid for Anheuser-Busch.
And that’s fine. But how about the other major beer story that’s been in the news, the one that threatens the very integrity of beer drinking?
I’m talking about the piece in the Wall Street Journal
the other day reporting that as bars and restaurants, like everyone else, deal with rising costs, some are replacing their 16-ounce “pint” glasses with 14 ounce version, referred to by at least one bartender as a “falsie.” And in other establishments, patrons are complaining that bartenders are building up the heads of their beers, which means that people are getting more foam and less of what they are paying for.
There are, I think, two lessons here.
One is the issue of transparency, illustrated by a paragraph from the Journal
story: “Dedicated beer drinkers are fighting back, with extra vigilance about exactly how much beer they get for their buck. They are protesting ‘cheater pints’ and ‘profit pours’ by outing alleged offenders on Web discussion boards and plugging bars that maintain 16-ounce pints, in hopes peer pressure will prevail. And they are spreading the word about how to spot the smaller glass (the bottom is thicker).”
The lesson: You may think you are getting away with something. But the new world order has created an environment in which you can get away with nothing…and the whole world will know what you were up to. So don't.
But there is a larger lesson, I think, that goes beyond whether businesses are going to be found out when they do things like shrink the package and charge the same amount. It has to do with both value and values. Charging more for an item may simply be a more honest way of dealing with cost increases than shrinking package sizes but not the price. Shoppers know that everybody’s costs are going up, so it’s not like they aren’t expecting price increases. But wouldn’t it be nice if someone actually said to the shopper, we’ve had to raise our prices…but in doing so, we have redoubled our efforts to make the best XXX that we can…so you know that you are getting your money’s worth.”
I wonder how consumers would respond to such an approach?US News & World Report
announced that it will go to a bi-weekly publishing schedule next year, which is its way of coping with coping with the fact that printing and mailing costs are up, and that readers and advertisers increasingly are online.
But I’m not sure they’ve gone far enough.
Once again, a radical notion – that they should have said that effective immediately, the whole damn thing is going online. No more paper, no more printing, no more mailing. Just an online publication that is ready for tomorrow, not just reporting on yesterday.
If newspapers are in trouble, it seems to me that the likes of Time
are in even more dire straits. After all, they used to be newsweeklies that summed up the past week’s news…but now, virtually everything you can get in print you can get online first. A week before it shows up in the mailbox.US News
should have saved itself years of additional pain and just eliminated the print version now. It would have created new economic problems, but at least it would have been a frank acceptance of 21st century communications realities.
I’ve been reliving my youth over the past week or so, with the happy release of the first season of “Mannix” on DVD.
I’m in heaven.
“Mannix” was by far my favorite show when I was a kid, and I can remember many of the series’ episodes with a clarity that is, to be honest, a little scary. The one where he was blinded by an assassin’s bullet (luckily it was psychosomatic so the series didn’t turn into “Longstreet”), the one where he confronted a psychotic killer who had turned an old theater into a series of booby traps meant to kill Mannix, and the one where he returned to his home town to solve a murder and had to deal with his estranged father.
The first season has been little seen since it debuted 40 years ago – it takes place before Joe hung out his own private eye shingle at 17 Paseo Verde, hired a sexy secretary (Gail Fisher as Peggy fair), wore plaid sport coats and started driving a green Dodge Dart convertible. In the first incarnation, Joe works for Intertect, the world’s biggest computerized detective agency, and constantly butts heads with Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella), who prefers neat desks, tidy cases and operatives who do things by the book. Mannix, of course, is better with a left hook than a computer…which creates much of the series’ drama.
While the show is a little dated – TV shows move a lot faster these days – I am loving every minute – especially Mike Connors’ performance as Joe Mannix, which is just about perfect. The memorable theme music, by Lalo Schifrin, has been bouncing around in my head for days. And the DVD set has lots of commentaries and interviews, which are just an added bonus.
Many of you probably have never heard of “Mannix,” but for those of you who remember the show fondly, I heartily recommend the DVD set.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend…and make sure you call or see your Dad on Sunday. It may be a made-up holiday, but it is a good reminder that occasionally the old man likes to be remembered.
And Happy Father’s Day to the three Dads in my life – my own Dad, Mrs. Content Guy’s Dad, and Richard Coulter, who always has been like an extra father but never has been extraneous.