Added Complications

Apr 27 | 2016

To quote the well-known but fictitious Victor Meldrew: I don’t believe it! 

I’m on holiday; I rent a car; the car is advertised as keyless - although, enigmatically, you are actually supplied with a key. The concept is that you keep it with you at all times; all you have to do is approach the car and it unlocks itself provided that you have the key nearby. You then sit in the car which then starts without using the aforementioned key - although, in so saying, you do have to depress the clutch and then, if you can find it, push an elusive button on the dashboard. 

Hang on, that‘s surely more complicated! 

Well that’s not the half of it. The key is small and unassuming, if you have empty pockets then that’s fine, but if they are full - handkerchief, wallet for example - then that’s a problem. So sometimes you place the key in the car, perhaps near to where the radio is. Furthermore, when you get out of your vehicle you must remember to lock it by depressing a button on the door handle, the wing mirrors then retract to show you that the vehicle is locked. That word ‘remember’ worried me a bit here, and sure enough I did on one (maybe two!) occasions leave the car unlocked with the key prominently displayed next to the radio. 

Now picture the scene. You’ve left the car after having locked it. Since you have no empty pockets to speak of, you hand the key to your partner to look after. Ten minutes later you realise that, because it is a very hot day, you need to make a lonely ten minute return journey to collect a necessary sun hat. And when you get back to the car … yes you’ve guessed it: where’s the key, the one that you thought you would never need again? It’s with your partner; and where’s your partner? 

I hope you get the picture; are we making things needlessly complicated? For example, have you been to post a letter recently? Boy oh boy, before you even begin, you need to have a degree in geometry, it used to be so easy – first or second class! Not anymore; now size really matters along with advice from your local mailing specialist.  

New passport photo?  This seems to have reached a point where you need a producer and a director to achieve the required result. I just can’t believe how (needlessly?) complicated things are becoming. The only thing that appears to be simple these days is yours truly! 

What about the ‘science’ of eating? We have nutritionists, dietary consultants, carbohydrate specialisers, protein observers and members of the up and coming Gluten Free Party. Are we creating too many specialisations? Are we becoming too sub-divided? 

Let’s put this another way: In this age of specialisation are we creating a state of affairs where we appear to learn more and more about less and less until finally we will know everything there is to know about absolutely nothing? 

Off course there is another way of looking at this. One somewhat trite definition of marketing is: establishing and satisfying needs. There is, however, an alternative definition which expounds: first create a need; then publicise that need; then offer a solution to that need. Perhaps this is a possible explanation as to what’s going on here. It had never ever occurred to me that what was missing in my life was a keyless car (which actually had a key). At no time had I contemplated how much better my life would be without a car key. First create a need …. 

At one time you could place a letter in a letter box without agonising over the size or myriad other complications. It worked fine and cost a very reasonable sum. Then the requirement for profit became paramount to satisfy the needs of management and shareholders, as opposed to the needs of the customer. 

Marketing Director: “I know, let’s make posting a letter so complicated that it will need to be accompanied by specialist knowledge. If all you want to do is post a letter, you will have to go to a Post Office to establish its weight, size and destination and then to rely on the ‘specialist’ to guide you through a labyrinth of rules and regulations (first create a need?). You will then become so flummoxed by the impediments to sending a letter that you will hardly have noticed that the cost of doing so has, inexorably, reached a point where you are almost better off delivering it yourself.” 

Anyway, there you have it, food for thought. I’m certain that you can produce many similar examples of our increasingly complicated lives. This is all in the name of progress I suppose – but I’m not so sure that I believe it!