E-letter: Post-customer matrix


One thing about getting older – you just don’t bite on every lure they drop in front of you. The supremacy of progress, for example. For the past many years, conventional wisdom has had it that everything old is bad and must be replaced with something new. In the world of education, this has resulted in kids that cannot read, write, spell or do math, believe polar bears and penguins exist in the same hemisphere and their teachers are more focused on personal development days at the cottage than in preparing their charges for life.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

Who do you think puts the idea of “vegan” in a kid’s head, anyway? If you don’t know, you should learn. Learning is a life-long experience and occupation, and it appears to me that veganism is either a legitimate diet prescribed by a competent physician, or it is a belief system.

It amazes me to hear people speak of some of today’s weird movies as being “pure entertainment.” Do you know what is pure entertainment? Nothing. Zero. Everything is teaching. Back in the days of the Classical Greeks, the debate over teaching split over two unachievable ideals: didacticism (pure teaching) and mimeticism (pure entertainment). The debate was on how to mix the two – whether all teaching with no distraction was more effective or whether teaching with some entertainment was more effective.

If you want to understand how our society-sweeping sex practices come about, just look to the marketing. Anybody that thinks our movie purveyors are selling only entertainment is deceived. They are teaching sexual behaviour, diet, music, language, values and fantastic insanity. There are, for example, no zombies. None. There has never been a zombie, is not a zombie and will not be a zombie. No Spiderman. No Empire. At its best, Hollywood is taking screenplays from people with lewd imaginations and trying to influence me to accept them. At worst, Hollywood (and we include Disney) steals the best ideas of the classics, twists them into something never intended and contrary to their intended meaning, and serves them up for the electronically lobotomized consumers of things vapid. It has become de rigueur to ostracize anybody that can catch a fish, shoot a .22 or tie a knot, yet the mockers can’t seem to pay off a student loan they signed, communicate in clear language or make a political argument without analogizing a movie they saw three years ago.


I managed to get really irked recently when I went to Mark’s Work Wearhouse to buy a couple of t-shirts. I don’t like t-shirts with signage, so I go out of my way to get plain ones. In the store, there was a rack – one rack; four wheels, one sign on top that said, “Two for $28.” Being a curmudgeon in training, I think 14 bucks is outrageous for a plain, green t-shirt, but I got two.

At the cash register, the Gen Y clerk rang up $34 each, which caused me to stop the transaction. He ushered me over to the rack and smugly asked me where the shirts were that I had selected. Interesting role reversal, since that’s the question most stores still allow me to ask for myself. I am poor at educating Gen Y clerks.

Anyway, he asserted that the shirts on one side of the rack, the side with the price on it, were two for $28; the ones on the side with no price were $34. Stupid me.

So I told the kid the sign and placement were deceptive, that I don’t promote even failed and inept deception, and I declined the sale.


Not to pick on Mark’s, the same kind of attitude seems to have “evolved” in every sort of retail and service industry. We live in the land of Rogers, which rated dead last a few years back in the Consumer Reports survey of Canadian telephone carriers. As we speak, the Call Forwarding function on my cell phone does not work. This is a small frustration, but it’s part of my billing and it should work. However, it remains unattended-to because they will not talk to anybody but me, and they will make me listen to 37 minutes of hip-hop elevator music for the privilege.

Or Air Canada. Don’t get me started. Why, when AC has a daily flight direct to Kansas City, do they make me lay over in Chicago with my seven-year-old granddaughter just because I am cashing in points instead of paying cash? To me, the points are the same as cash, since that was the deal when I signed up for the Aeroplan version of the American Express card, etc.

My life is not actually that big a frustration. However, every indication seems to be that we have entered into a new, hostile, post-consumer age where the customer has no meaning, other than to keep score. That is, once a vendor has identified you as a customer, you owe him. You owe him time, money, loyalty and so on. For that matter, I may owe Apple my house, since I have never read the contract before I Agree to the upgrade, without which my $5k computer will not work. This is analogous to Honda invalidating my car key every 10,000 km if I don’t agree to hold them blameless for exploding airbags.


My concern for wood-products manufacturers in Canada is that most of us operate on a different matrix. That is, for the most part, we need to provide value to get value, and we need to provide service to get a repeat customer or a referral. So far, I have not seen that Facebook Likes or Yelp “reviews” are doing much to advance the individual, the industry or Canada.

Our new, modern, hostile, post-consumer world simply MUST figure out that money, reputation, business and, for that matter, votes (Give me credit; I got this far without mentioning politics.) are the force of the consumer and are provided from the consumer. You simply cannot knock somebody down, choke them until they confess that they really DO believe in zombies and then pick their pockets. Or, more correctly, you cannot do it repeatedly.

I read last week about a few magazines that have decided to refuse ads because of the trouble they are causing. At other times, I have reported about the advent of ad blockers, anti-spam laws, no-call lists and so on – all indicators that the consumer-level population is not happy in a hostile, post-consumer world.

However, a study of history will show that, while human technology seems to be an evolution and a continuum, human psychology is not. We are pretty much the same as we were when we learned to write and record our actions. Human history is more like a pendulum, where societies swing far to one side, implode and swing far to the other. In business, the cycles swing from consolidation to diversification and back.

I am convinced we are about at the limit of the consumer abuse pendulum, that the Canadian manufacturing sector is poised to catch a boost on the rebound and that, for all our conservative ways, we have been right to stick with quality, production and customer service.


Speaking of quality, production and customer service, Italy’s trade show for the secondary wood industry, Xylexpo, is taking place next month in Milan. You may recall that Wood Industry, along with the Italian Machinery Association, Acimall and the Italian Trade Commission, gave away two trips to Xylexpo. If you were not a winner, you should go, nonetheless. The economy seems to be breaking free of the post-2009 doldrums, building permits in February were up over 15 percent and it is time to, as the old folks say, make hay while the sun shines.

The sun shines beautifully in Italy in May, and we hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to pick up on the combined advances in technology and benefits of tradition.


Finally, please note and appreciate our advertisers. We do not give away ads or provide them a “value-added” to give the false appearance of support. Each of these companies is advertising here for one reason, and one reason only. They know you are reading, and they want to communicate. The relationship of communication between supplier and customer in the media is a critical one, and it has been the primary victim of the hostile, post-consumer environment we live in. However, of one thing you can be sure, if a company is advertising with W.I. Media, they are serious about you as their client, and I need to spend more time telling them how much their professionalism does to advance the market, the sector and the media as a whole.

  • Hello,

    Your generalizations of teachers and youth, things about which I have a passing knowledge, call into question anything else you might have to say.

    Another thing about getting older – the ability to walk away. Please cancel my subscription.


    • Hi, John,

      Naturally, I am sorry to hear of your decision. If I may, one of the things that concerns me today is the polarization between people. It seems we are either all-in on this side or all-in on that, and there is no room for discussion or debate. This is doubly troubling, since I want this area to be available for discussion and debate.

      As you can imagine, I have no idea what I said, exactly, that put you off. I believe it’s a fact that teachers have more PD days now than ever, more pay now than ever and put out poorer students in the Rs than ever before.

      Like you and most people, I am very close to teachers. My mom was a teacher, as are two of my brothers. My grandmother was a teacher back when the major portion of her pay was room and board, for which she was rotated among members of the community throughout the year.

      I hear from our readers that finding job applicants is getting harder and harder, and that he skill levels available are marginal, at best. Therefore, from my perspective, I either need to mention those concerns or act as if I never heard them, and you have seen the result.

      Best in all your endeavours; we have followed your directions and taken you off the list. However, it costs nothing to re-subscribe, which I hope you will do.

      Kerry Knudsen

      • Mr. Knudson

        In my comment, I referred only to your opinions stated in one sentence in the opening paragraph.

        It is quite true that some kids cannot read, write, spell, or do math, or even all of the above. This is hardly new. It was almost certainly true in the class you attended, and in the class your Mom taught.

        Certainly, many teachers do “personal development” at the cottage. At least in Ontario, however, PD stands for Professional Development, and teachers are required to do that in a place and time proscribed by their employer, as directed by officials elected by you and me. I guess that hardly ever happens at a cottage.

        Regarding your inflammatory comment about polar bears and penguins, I believe it is Hollywood, and not the school that is to blame.

        I’ll go on a bit if I may. Although I agree that he probably should not have appeared smug, I disagree with what appears to be your criticism of the Gen Y kid at Mark’s (there is no longer a Work Wearhouse) for the failed and inept deceptive merchandizing practices of his employer. Also, I don’t know about others, but I do not expect much education, training, or company loyalty from a precariously employed, minimum wage worker, as too many in the retail sector are.

        As for your criticism of the consumer practices of the corporations you named, that is a completely separate issue, and I’m already in the queue you joined.

        Incidentally, my wife and I, who long ago paid our student loans, raised two Generation Y people who are intelligent, articulate, have superior literacy and numeracy skills, have paid down the loans on their second degrees, and are contributing members of society. This is the case among most of our friends, neighbours, and colleagues. I have no fear for the future of our country.

        john gulka

  • Hello Kerry
    I enjoyed reading the last couple of articles you wrote. I have been dabbling in some of my own thoughts and experience over the past 40 years working in the retail merchandising sector. I have spent the last few years trying to educate generation X about proper merchandising. Keep up the good work some day we will be heard! As far as woodworking goes I am pretty handy but my wife would say I am more handsome.. where have I heard that before lol.

  • Hi:
    Been retired from the industry for a number of years now but still enjoy reading your monthly editorials. Always interesting. Cheers and keep up the good fight!