October Consumer Tech

Is mega merger mania necessarily a bad thing?

I think so!

Merger Mania limits what, where and how you buy just about everything. It costs jobs and only helps the bottom line of the executives who create it. When there’s no competition prices will go up, selection will go down.

BJs, one of my favorite warehouse clubs, is looking for a takeover or merger with Sam’s Club or Costco.  Staples, Office Max and Office Depot may become one company. Health care providers are down to only three or four from 15. Phone, Internet and Cable TV providers are merging as we speak. Service providers are tied to content providers: Comcast owns NBC-Universal and AT&T, DirecTV and Time Warner are all one company. Verizon now owns Yahoo and AOL… and supermarkets, the one constant in retail for many years, well, count how few there are left! A relative lost her job working with animals on the west coast as a bunch of Veterinarians merged.

Amazon, if allowed, may buy or kill all of these companies. Google will be controlling your life any day now.

Merger mania made me so nervous that I was biting my nails. I couldn’t find nail biting deterrent at my local drug store. The only place I could find it was on line.

I went to Staples the other day to buy some accessories and blank paper and couldn’t get a sales person…the manager says the possible merger made him lay off personnel.

As Susan Davis wrote in this space ten years ago, she tried to give her business to some of the local shops in town, she really really tried, even if it cost a bit more. But at the local bike shop, the salesperson as well as the owner couldn’t be bothered to wait on her and the proprietor of the used furniture store gave her one price on an antique mirror, then when she went to pay for it, decided to raise the price.  So, good intentions down the drain, she wound up at big box retailers to get better service and prices.

In the last few weeks I had the same kind of experience when I tried to buy an Android Tablet, tried to look for faster Internet service, find my favorite Grape Nut Cereal, men’s underwear, computer chair, Sunflower Seeds and ankle brace, I was frustrated dealing with the remaining retailers in my area. In many cases the product advertised wasn’t available, the price variation was ridiculous and the sales help…helpless. The time involved was more like days instead of hours.

By the end of this decade there may be no choices. So enjoy the few choices you have while you can.


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