Customer first is Boomer business ethic, while no rip-offs or tech wanted
by Dave Masko, huliq.com
July 9th 2011
VENETA, Ore. -- David Thormahlen, a musical instruments vendor at the “Oregon Country Fair” shows a young boy the fine points of making a guitar by hand; meanwhile, other craftsmen – at this annual retro-hippie event that features over 1,000 artists and crafters selling stuff – note that good business means “the customer first, no rip-offs and no need for technology.”
Social networking -- here in a deep wooded outdoors Woodstock looking annual festival known as the “Oregon Country Fair” – “means talking to people, face-to-face, and with joy in your voice. There’s no hustle because we simply want to share our goods and, yes make a profit, but in a good way. The way my dad used to at his hardware store up in the Seattle area. It was all about your word and your hand-shake,” says Scott, a hand-made jewelry salesman who “does the Fair each year” and a “circuit” of like businesses up and down the West coast, from British Columbia to San Diego. “We’re on that crafters, Renaissance and fringe circuit of outdoor summer time events where we can do business our way,” adds Scott who doesn’t take credit cards, doesn’t use the Internet and doesn’t think technology works for his type of business.
In fact, there are tens of thousands of other “Baby Boomer” business men and women just like Scott who work on the fringe of U.S. business doing it their way.
For instance, Scott calls his mode of business “personal,” where he “connects to customers” who like his jewelry as an art form, and are willing to spend hundreds for a necklace woven from deer hair with a bone carving hanging at the end.
In general, the view from these summer festival circuit crafters and business people is to “market” their goods without the Internet.
Baby Boomers selling their goods the old fashion way
“Technology is everywhere. It’s in your face! It’s too much, and our customer base of Boomers and others, are just tired of someone giving them a dot com to go to. I tell them to go to me, man, to and see me at the Oregon Country Fair or a Renaissance Fair down in Frisco or wherever. That’s our niche, no tech, no need because we’re doing just fine without it,” explains Oregon Country Fair shoe maker Jarvis who, along with his wife Brenda, decided to pack it in after retiring from 30 years in the retail clothing business down in nearby Medford, Oregon.
At the same time, Brenda admits that “life is short,” and who wants to rip customers off for that legal tender. Who cares if you make another 10 grand this year? I mean really, how many pairs of pants or expensive bottles of wine do we need? I think people are turning away from consumerism due to this weak economy. There’s looking for a better way, and that doesn’t mean kneeling down to praise the almighty Internet.
Internet’s impact exaggerated, while washing machine does more for people
When it comes to all the hype about the Net and using tech-gadgets to market stuff, the view from a Nobel Prize nominee Ha-Joon Chang -- one of the leading economic advisors to the United Nations -- that “the washing machine has changed society more than the Internet."
Such a view has not raised eyebrows here at the annual "Oregon Country Fair" outside Eugene -- and linked with the University of Oregon’s famed “Wearable Computing Lab” -- that was founded in 1995 at the dawn of the information-era when people were able to transfer information more freely. Members of the University of Oregon's brain trust take a weekend break during this 42nd edition of the famed "hippie" Fair in nearby Veneta to enjoy what "can be done without the aid of a computer."
At the same time, University of Oregon "Fair" volunteers play a huge role, say Oregon Country Fair organizers, in helping with the "Energy Park" exhibits that feature -- among other things -- a washing machine that runs on bike pedal energy. The Fair's Energy Park also features other non-modern tech displays that "remind visitors that there was life before the Internet," says one Fair volunteer who's a retired professor.
Still, there are still those digital-age fans here at the Fair and nearby University of Oregon who view the Internet as revolutionizing just about everything.
“Not so,” states Ha-Joon Chang, a University of Cambridge, England, economist who presents his views on the washing machine in the spring edition of Ode magazine. Chang argues that the Internet’s revolutionary is pretty harmless, noting that “Instead of reading a paper, we now read the news online. Instead of buying books at a store, we buy them on-line. What’s so revolutionary? The Internet has mainly affected our leisure life. In short, the washing machine has allowed women to get into the labor market so that we have nearly doubled the work force.”
Moreover, Chang questions all the hype about the good stuff the Internet is doing for the poor. “Charities are now working to give people in poor countries access to the Internet. But shouldn’t we spend that money on providing health clinics and safe water? Aren’t these things more relevant? I have no intention of downplaying the importance of the Internet, but its impact has been exaggerated.”
The digital revolution takes a back seat to the washing machine
While the digital revolution has helped make the shift from traditional industry, the clothes washer technology also has been revolutionary, says Chang, because it reduce the drudgery of scrubbing and rubbing clothing.
“Like other household appliances, it has liberated women from doing household work or doing tedious jobs as a domestic servant. A century ago, 10 percent of the labor force worked in other people’s households. Today, very few people do. Apart from the Industrial Revolution, which decreased the number of farmers substantially, I don’t know of a technology that has almost abolished a whole profession on such a scale, in such short time,” said Chang in a recent Ode magazine interview.
Chang is viewed as one of the foremost thinkers on “new economics and development.” His new book, “”23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” also details his interest in how the washing machine was more revolutionary than the Internet.
Chang has taught at the Faculty of Economics and Politics at the University of Cambridge in England since 1990. In addition to numerous articles in journals and edited volumes, he has published seven authored books. His most recent books include “Kicking Away the Ladder - Development Strategy in Historical Perspective” which won the 2003 Myrdal Prize. His writings have been translated into 13 languages.
Moreover, Chang is credited as working as a top consultant for many international organizations, including various UN agencies such as UNDP (United Nations Development Program) and UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and a number of governments on development policies. He was awarded the 2005 “Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought,” and has been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Economics while also serving as a consultant to the European Investment Bank.
Chang gets clean on the power of the washing machine
Chang likes to think outside the box, that’s why computer experts here in Eugene and other parts of the world are intrigued by this South Korean economist who points to the power of the simple washing machine as doing more for society than the sacred Internet.
Thanks to washing machine technology, “women started having fewer children, gained more bargaining power in their relationships and enjoyed a higher status. This liberation of women has done more for democracy than the Internet,” states Chang in a recent Ode magazine interview. “The washing machine is a symbol of a fundamental change in how we look at women. It has changed society more than the Internet.”
As one of the top economics professors in the world, Chang likes to challenge his students to looking at things in a different way. For instance, he notes that “people like you and me have no memory of spending two hours a day washing our clothes in cold water.”
“People always think they’re in the middle of a revolution while they tend not to realize the enormity of a change that has happened in the past,” adds Chang in the Ode interview. “The telegraph was a revolution, but who looks at it that way these days? The telegraph sped up the transportation of messages over long distances by a huge factor. The fax machine made it even quicker, and the Internet has made it a big quicker again – but really, not by so much.”
Chang also takes on capitalism with his 23 propositions
A recent review of Chang’s new book -- “23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism” in London’s Guardian and The Observer newspapers and online news sites – not only points to the washing machine changing the world more than the Internet, but also Chang’s view that “more education does not of itself make countries richer; financial markets need to become less, not more efficient; and – perhaps most shocking to Chang's colleagues – good economic policy does not require good economists.”
Each of Chang's 23 propositions may seem counterintuitive, even contrarian, states the Guardian, “But every one of them has a basis in fact and logic, and taken together they present a new view of capitalism.”
"If we are really serious about preventing another crisis like the 2008 meltdown," Chang writes, "we should simply ban complex financial instruments, unless they can be unambiguously shown to benefit society in the long run."
Oregon Country Fair puts proper business in its place as customer and not tech based
Capitalism is not only about creating wealth, it is also about power – and western power is waning. Economic energy is shifting to the emerging countries, while in the west economies stagnate and politicians continue to worship at the altar of the free market, adds Chang.
In fact, there's a plaque at the Oregon Country Fair's energy park that reminds visitors that real business is about "serving the customer" and not about what tech platform you're using.
Meanwhile, vendors at the Oregon Country Fair note that “people are getting wise to technology,” stating the “wow factor is gone, and now the Internet is viewed like a hammer. It’s a tool that we can use when needed. That’s all,” adds Scott who sells hand-made jewelry at various retro-hippie and Baby Boomer fairs up and down the West coast.
Original Page: http://www.huliq.com/10282/customer-first-boomer-business-ethic-while-no-rip-offs-or-tech-wanted
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