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Rant #80
(published Early, 2002)
by b.

Not too long ago I stumbled upon and interesting problem. I found a real situation, in which a company has more rights than "just a person." This is not about a billion-dollar lawsuit, or lobbying the government, this is about a simple AA battery.

A friend of mine works for a media company, they take care of the technical side of concerts, shows, conferences, etc. Through the said friend I had an opportunity to come in contact with Duracell ProCell batteries. I'm sure you might've seen them too.

These are "professional grade" batteries, and this time it's no gimmick. My mp3 discman gets a -lot- more mileage on these than on any regular batteries I've been buying. They definitely outperform any of the consumer grade batteries, twice around the block and then some. I thought to myself, "Great, finally, I found a battery that can outlast an mp3 cd." I looked around for a source of my own amazing little nukular batteries (can't "borrow" forever.) Hah, what I found out: they make the AAA's, they make the AA's, gosh, they even make the big 9V cells in cool black "ProCell" edition. I dug a little deeper. . . a single AAA battery for $0.41. . . 24-pack for $9.84? a 144-case of AA's for fifty six bucks? I vaguely remembered a -pair- of AAA's costing something like $3.89 Canadian (say, two American dollars.) I took a moment to reflect on life, nature, and all that is capitalistic. Sure, they come in bulk, no fancy boxes or anything, they can be a bit cheaper. But they're twice as good. . . how does that work? Then I dug some more and found a "non-customer policy explanation." Here's an excerpt:

"Duracell ProCell batteries are high-quality batteries intended only for businesses, organizations, and agencies. These batteries are not intended for sale to the general consumer. Duracell has asked their distributors to gather the Business Name and Tax ID number for validation purposes."

Which meant that I, as a non-incorporated human person, could -not- purchase these batteries. In fact, had I provided fake information to "work around the system," it would be outright illegal. Now, I've lived on this continent for not too long, so things like this still strike me as odd. Maybe it's normal, and this story talks about nothing out of the ordinary. But wait a minute . . .

This is where Porky the Consumer gets a shoddy "consumer product" with price jacked up and potential full quality withheld in the name of profit. And all companies may buy a better product at a lower price, as if to provide an advantage over us humble mortals. Oh, did undeciferable green characters just flicker down the inner surface of my glasses, or was that my imagination?

So as an incident per-se this is nothing, another piece of static in my brain. But it caused a thought train, this uncoordinated rant being the indirect final result. What if this wasn't the only company that had this brilliant idea? What if the flour mill was selling richer, cleaner flour to the cookie and bread factories, while putting second-grade merchandise into the bags that go to grocery stores? What if Evian sold cleaner water to companies (eg, your high-tech's cafeteria) and restaurants, but the bottles you bought personally were a bit murkier (but still better than tap water?)

Before you accuse me of being paranoid, or seeing malicious intent in everything around, this is not about my shortcomings. I don't suggest that the corporate policies are planned by mad evil scientists. I believe that these policies go thru something like evolution, shaped by streams of greed, and by natural selection only the most effective prevail. And the motivation to write about all this is to discuss the possibilities arising from the observed state of things. I intend to extrapolate.

I imagine Duracell does this for profit, because why else? I'm not aware of any legislation forcing them to do it, and certainly they are not doing it out of charity for other companies. Maybe it's like in that joke about lawyers and sharks and professional courtesy, but I don't think so. So, presumably, they're doing it for one simple reason. And it's perfectly imaginable that other companies may follow this policy as well, I mean, why wouldn't they? But I digress . . .

What really got my panties in a knot was an unfocused look into the blurry future. So, I can't buy good batteries, and my home-made missile-defense shield can only run for a minute fifteen seconds. I can't bake my own cake, coz the flour is . . . not like it used to be, and they stopped selling butter three years ago. . . I have to go to the supermarket and participate in the dance of the hungry bears. . . I would like to choose otherwise, I have the freedom to do so, but every time I do, my non-conformist actions are noted by the corporate machines as compromising profits, and to maximize profits the machines discourage or take my options away, since taking the freedom of choice away is still illegal. . . oh, what a bad dream!

professional-grade batteries for sale

non-consumer policy explanation

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