Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thoughts on The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio

Do you remember seeing this movie "The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio" being advertised on T.V. or at the movie theater? I don't, but then again, I have the ability to totally block out commercials on tv. Ask my family because I drive them crazy with this ability. Some product will be touted and someone will opine "I don't know, that looks just like snack-r-doodle cookies, and they weren't that great. Right mom?" "Huh?" I'll answer. "The cookies that were just on tv, don't they remind you of snack-r-doodles Mary?" The blank look on my face will make them realize that I've done it again, totally wasted the money that some company paid for that commercial.

It's just the opposite for Evelyn, the heroine and mom of "The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio," she watches every commercial. She judges what they are selling besides the product; convenience, better quality, more family time? What company is the manufacturer? Why not, with frequent regularity these products offer a contest with wonderful prizes to the person who can finish the limerick for a sandwich or tell in 25 words or less how a freezer will change their family's life. So many times Evelyn wins and in the late 1950's to the middle 1960's, even a three dollar prize makes all the difference in the family's life.
I'll be honest, this movie made me so angry at the alcoholic father who doesn't seem to appreciate the financial near misses his jingle writing wife saves the family from. Their life isn't all rosie either. Unless you have a heart of stone, you'll cry during this movie, take it from one that knows. But it's a good movie, a movie I have no problem at all recommending, and unlike a lot of movies that get a ton of publicity, you can honestly watch this one with your kids.
After this movie, the younger members of the family and I talked. They were born long after the Plaid Stamp rewards programs, contests, and long after Cracker Jack put actual prizes in their boxes instead of the crummy paper prizes they give now. The only contests they knew about were the kind  you sent in your name on a postcard and hoped your card was picked, and even those are growing few and far between. In fact, the last contest I won, was one I hadn't even entered,  though the man on the phone said my name had been picked. It was for a Florida Timeshare, and it sounded sketchy at best.
This movie and my later conversation with the youngers made me wonder, in these trying economic times, why aren't companies and manufacturers trying harder to keep their customers? Do they think that name brand recognition will keep the consumer loyal? Why don't they cut their astronomical television advertising budgets and offer their customers a challenge and a great prize, say like a five minute shopping spree at their local supermarket? Or may-be one thousand dollar prize, two five hundred dollar prizes, and five one hundred dollar prizes for a recipe using fruit in a supper casserole? Or a recipe using canned tomatoes in a cake recipe? These are just ideas, and I'm sure their staff that have graduated from business school could think of better prizes and more challenging contests.
Since I'm thinking of the good old days, and you readers who are over 40 probably will have these memories also, I remember at Christmas the businesses that my grandparents patronized always sent some "goodies" to them. For instance, my grandparents never had to buy calendars. Every Christmas season they would get a calendar from the fuel oil company that they patronized. And I don't mean the small, you need a magnifying glass to read it, one that sticks to your refrigerator either. These were full sized and hung in the kitchen. My grandfather had one in his garage that came from the hardware store he patronized. My grandmother would get a nice sized bottle of perfume, not Channel of course, may-be it was Coty? The delicatessen would include  some sugar cookies with their Christmas week order. Other gifts were a wicker bowl of oranges, a desk pen and holder imprinted with the company name, letter openers, bottle openers and I'm sure if I spent more time thinking, I could remember more.
Last year, I got one Christmas gift from all the companies my family patronizes. It was a small, refrigerator sized calendar from the real estate company we sold our house through three years ago. So much for customer appreciation. It's been common knowledge for at least the last two years, more if you've been living it, that the economy is in trouble. Wouldn't you think that companies would want to cultivate customer goodwill and loyalty by at least sending a Christmas card or little gifts like a calendar, fridge magnet, or something? Since I feel so little appreciation from the companies that we do patronize, I don't feel any qualms about leaving for the company that gives the better price. That is a shame.
Think of all the companies that you or your family patronize; the fuel oil or gas company, car, house, or life insurance company, your cable company, your telephone company, your doctor, your pediatrician, chiropractor, your dentist. If you think about it, I'm sure you can think of many more - the lawn care company, the painter, your landlord. Do any of them appreciate your customer loyalty? Do any of them cut you a break, ever?
Ah, for the good old days!!

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