Rants and ravings from bad drivers to corporate dominance

Politics, Community & Society | August 27, 2009

We all want to get ahead. And that’s fair enough, isn’t it?

Whether by some Darwinian drive to survive or an insecure need in most of us to be first, to be noticed, we have competition coursing in varying levels through every one of our veins.

Don’t believe me? Take a drive.

There is a race to get through the intersection before the light turns orange. There is the race to squeal off first when the red light turns green and beat the car beside you to the other side. There is the race to figure-eight your way past slow-moving traffic, in this lane and that, to gain three, maybe four car lengths.

I know it’s dangerous, but I still do it. I have toned right down thanks to kids and a lot of birthdays under my ageing belt. But I still do it.

I am getting better at trying to avoid that split-second feeling of shame that comes after roaring off to overtake a slow-coach in the right lane, fuelled by indignance, only to look in my rear view mirror when I am stopped at the next red light to see that same car idling patiently right behind me, just inches away.

But we need that drive, a bit of it anyway. At the very least, it gets us off the couch. The key I suppose is balance and perspective.

What is the point of killing yourself to get ahead if you’re going to be dead before you get there?

HERE'S ANOTHER THOUGHT...

One day soon, there will be only one big fish in the pond.

It will be enormous and ugly like Jabba the Hutt, only the world’s humans will collectively play the role of Carrie Fisher, straining and struggling on the end of a rusty chain clutched in Jabba’s tight, fat fist.

It will have an insatiable appetite, having gleefully gobbled up anything smaller than it as part of a strategic gorge, better known by the seemingly innocuous term: "acquisition".

Let me tell you what I’m going on about. Woolworths has announced plans to take over Danks Holdings.

So what? Well, Danks Holdings is Australia’s largest hardware distributor and such a takeover, jointly launched with America’s Lowe Companies, means Woolies would essentially own every Home Hardware, Thrifty Link and Plants Plus store in the country, and they would effectively own distribution rights to 2000 "independent" retailers.

So what? Well, Westfarmers took over Coles in 2007, which means Wesfarmers owns every Coles and Bi-Lo supermarket, every OfficeWorks store, every Liquorland and Vintage Cellars bottle-o and, wait for it, every Bunnings in the country.

See what’s happening here? It’s hardware warfare. But why are only two super-sized soldiers allowed to fight?

I think there is a serious problem with anti-competition in this country and we supposedly have regulators and watchdogs to monitor this and stamp it out.

How desolate, boring and dangerous a landscape are we painting here? And how easy are we making it for collusion and rip-off merchants to thrive?

I wouldn’t be so worried if I could find an example, just one, of a big chain store that did customer service well. Macca’s may claim to be the "have a nice day" experts, but I prefer sincerity, thank you.

I fear this move, if it goes ahead, it will be another baseball-bat strike to the head of an already-comatose customer service.

I remember a good decision by the ACCC a few years back, denying a Coca-Cola Amatil takeover of a certain brand of juice on anti-competition grounds. And thank god too, for it would have meant one company, and an American one at that, would have owned every drink inside the fridge of every shop in Australia.

The only reason I remember that decision is because it was a rare lighthouse blinking on an otherwise dark and dingy coastline. Coke will no doubt have another crack in our lifetimes. And, by then, that big ol’ fish would most likely have gobbled up the ACCC, so it will have a much safer passage.

Monopoly used to be a game we played as kids. Increasingly, it’s become a description for the modern marketplace and consumers everywhere should be worried.


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About Rebecca Marshall

I have been a journalist in regional Australia for about 14 years, first in South Australia (television) and now on Queensland's Sunshine Coast (newspapers).
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Categories of Published Work

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By REBECCA MARSHALL
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