Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Corporate Dummies?

Are we dummies programmed to consume and not ask questions?  Are we unable or unwilling to make thoughtful choices in our consumerism? The thought's been rolling around in my head for a while.  The term sounds so shocking yet obvious - I don't think I like it but I can't come up with a better phrase.  I realize that the above is an extremely simplistic view but it still makes me wonder.

I was thinking about "what this all means."  What do we do that makes our lives meaningful?  Do we just run in the hamster wheel in an endless loop of making money so we can buy stuff and buying stuff so we have to make more money?  If you watch TV, you're constantly barraged with commercials stating that you must buy their product or your very happiness is at stake.

I recognize that we choose whether or not we will heed those commercials but do we really?  The human mind is so tied to the group mentality that it becomes very hard to resist the urge to fit in.  Are we able to make an educated choice about what products we buy and whether or not we really need them?  I think that life has become so complex that it is all but impossible to make a well thought out choice regarding many purchases.  Most companies are extremely secretive so it's pretty much hopeless to discern whether or not your product (consumable or not) was brought to the market in a responsible, ethics and humane way.

Does the company who raised, killed and delivered my chicken to the dinner table practice routine cruelty?  Does the company who manufactured my shoes treat its workers fairly?    Is my cable provider an unfair monopoly skating by on government lobbying?  And healthcare.....oh, healthcare.  Where do I start?

We chose a high deductible health plan last year after we determined that we could save money if we didn't go to the doctor much (we don't) and we could chose our services and providers wisely.  D and I are big on consumer responsibility.  Supposedly, each provider has worked out a price with our insurance company.  The theory goes that we can call that provider and request the pricing of office visits and any procedures that we need.

Well, even trying to pry out a price for anything from a doctor's office is like pulling teeth.  I call, they refuse to offer prices and tell me to contact my insurance company.  I call the insurance company and they will only quote the coverage available with my plan and that for a specific price I must call the provider.  I call the provider and around and around we go.  I get to the point where I demand the price or I will take my needs elsewhere and I might get a price.  But the price is only the sticker price for the visit, not the contracted price.  I am continually told that I'll only get the contracted price after my visit has gone out for coding.  It's ridiculous and  maddening.

After the baby, I tried to get pricing for an IUD and after 6 hours on the phone, I finally just settled on going back on the pill since Walgreen's gives out their contracted drug prices freely.

I don't think Americans have the resources or even the time or emotional capital to be responsible consumers for all issues in their lives.  Life is just too complicated.

Corporations tell us that we are free to choose to buy their products or not but are we really?  Their notoriously opaque business practices are in place specifically to inhibit our choices.  But, in this day and age, does it even matter to most of us?  Do most of us even care?

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