Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Propaganda I

So I just read on a forum about someone who had their car broken into in a Walmart parking lot.

The police were of course involved, and they called him later and informed him that it probably wasn't caught on tape. It was too dark and far out in the parking lot.

I'll let you know right from the start that the point of this isn't to bash Walmart. I'll do that in another blog if the mood strikes me, but to be honest I'm not even sure how I feel about The Big W. I don't shop there, but that's because I prefer to pay a bit more for quality that lasts than to just acquire a bunch of cheap stuff, not because of any particular "politics" regarding them. (Though I do also try to buy things produced locally, as in at least American, whenever possible, and it's not very possible at that particular store.)
My point is to demonstrate a concept, and let you think about it for yourself.

I'm sure you've noticed there are a lot of cameras on top of a Walmart, pointing out at the parking lot. They're not exactly hidden, they're featured almost as prominently as the "Walmart" sign itself. I've never actually counted them (though I'm sure I will now), but there are at least a dozen, if not even 20 or more on the larger stores. I haven't noticed any in the parking lot, just on the roof pointing into it. I'll get back to that.

While I may not know exactly how many I've seen atop any particular store, I do know I've thought they were more than enough to cover the entire parking lot. At least angle-wise anyway.

I did find myself surprised that this crime wasn't caught by one of those cameras, which gets me wondering...
Why wouldn't such an obviously "expansive" security video system catch something in the area it's designed to be watching?
Is it somehow inadequate? Are the cameras not good enough to capture decent video from the distances involved in a large parking lot?
I think that a company like Walmart could afford to design and build their security systems using decent enough equipment to get the job done.
Obviously they can afford to make a security system "adequate," and isn't it also obvious that it's in their best interest to do so? (I certainly imagine if you steal something inside the store their security system is more than adequate.)
And, if the quality/distance capability of the cameras is an issue, why have them all on top of the building instead of having some of them out on light posts in the parking lot?

I also would like to add that it's well known that we have cameras today that can capture plenty of detail with very limited light. And it's quite well lit in the average Walmart parking lot (or any other, really).

So, why would one install an inadequate security video camera system? I mean, why bother?

Why would one also have one security system that's very overt, but apparently at least a little bit inadequate, and have another security system, perhaps in another location (like inside the store) that's subtle if not invisible?

If you've never thought about why security video monitoring systems tend to be almost, if not entirely, invisible, one simple reason is that it makes one more effective (at the very least as a deterrent). It prevents those with nefarious intent from easily finding locations where they can be off camera.

If security cameras are more effective in general when they're invisible, why have a whole bunch of them that are very obvious?

This brings me back to the fact that in our model parking lot, none of the cameras are out in the lot. They're all on top of the building.
That you're walking toward from the parking lot.
On your way to spend your money in a store that you trust to deal with you honestly. Stores need that trust, and can't really live without it. The more you trust them, the more you'll shop with them instead of their competitor.
As you walk toward the store, your focus is drawn upward toward that big sign (don't be fooled, they're all meticulously designed to do that), and while it's there your subconscious can't help also noticing all those cameras pointing out toward where your precious car is. "Ahhh." Your conscious notices them too, they're very obvious. In fact, you might have even noticed that they're a lot larger than even the cheapest cameras they sell inside, but you forget that quickly as you go over your shopping list in your head.

Your subconscious, however, doesn't really forget much. Or at least not that quickly.
Also, while you consciously "dismiss" lots of things (by very important design), your subconscious absorbs most things (more than you consciously realize... get it?), and what is absorbed must usually be interpreted in some way.

Those of a criminal mindset interpret the image of those cameras as "they're watching me."
But the rest of us will tend to interpret them, since these in particular are pointed toward where we have left our precious belongings, as "they're watching my stuff." We get a slight sense of being "watched over."
Whether you consciously realize it or not, some part of you is saying, "this is a safe place for me to leave my stuff while I go about my business."
"This place has been thoughtful enough to provide that for me."
"*bing* Chalk one up for this place."
This is perfectly natural.

But what if this impression is created falsely? Your subconscious, which plays a major role in your decision making, doesn't know the difference.
What if it's created by an image of a system that's shown itself in this one instance to be inadequate?
What if that system is just for show? The fact that most if not all of the cameras in this particular model are obvious and almost featured as one is entering the establishment could certainly lean sway onto such an impression.
What if most or all of those cameras weren't even on?

Is this a *scary voice* "big conspiracy?"
Not really. It should be fairly obvious that it is in a business' best interest to create as many of these "good feelings" about their business, these little influences on your decision making processes, as possible. All businesses do it, or fail.

The "old fashioned way," the way a business scored my Grandfather's loyalty, was through "good value and honest dealin's." (Which I think is crucial to a society's business sense and economy.)

What I find I'm seeing more and more, and the point I'm trying to get across here, is that many of our impressions these days are being created falsely.
A corporation's responsibility to itself is to profit as much as it possibly can. Often that means that the Bottom Line is more important to it than whether or not some of its methods are philosophically* "wrong."
One of your responsibilities to yourself, as a consumer, should be to ensure that any outside influences that you allow to affect your decisions are truthful ones. It's not in your interest to be deceived.

Ask yourself, "why" would any particular company seek to create at least one favorable impression through a dishonest means, a facade perhaps?
Such a thing, in a "perfect" business society, shouldn't be necessary.
Quality goods and services do tend to sell themselves. And speak for themselves.

A "good" store doesn't need to try to tell you that it's a good store as you're walking in the door.
The number of cool neon signs in the window aren't what make a good bar.
A good comedian doesn't tell you he's funny.

All I'm saying is that when you notice deceptive practice that's designed to give you a false good impression of a place that wants your money, perhaps it's worth looking a little deeper into the rest of their practices before you keep giving it to them.
Maybe they're just trying to boost your impression of their upstanding and moral, family owned since 1874 company.
Or maybe they're trying to score points against you realizing that, for whatever reason(s), you really would rather not be shopping there.



Look, here's a disclaimer!
I'm in no way picking on Walmart here, hence my use of the word "model" after the first few paragraphs.
In all fact it may wind up that this incident was caught on camera after all, or bird poop on a camera lense or something. I don't care, really, it's just what got me thinking.

The point is to provoke thought about deception in advertising/marketing/business identity, and the why of it.
There's a lot of it out there, I believe we're overwhelmed by it, and I plan on exploring a lot of it here as I see it and think about it. "The why," if you read between the lines, will be a major underlying theme.

*
And let's face it, we've created an environment in which the only way in which a "corporation" needs concern itself with right or wrong is philosophically.

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