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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Capturing the crisp market

The comedian Alexei Sayle once said very wisely that he objected to the use of the word “workshop” in any connection other than light engineering. I now feel similarly about the phrase “limited edition”, which should, I believe, be confined to publishing. Sadly, this phrase is now applied to cars, clothes, portable telephones, in fact to any manufactured product where they have to decide beforehand how many they’re going to make in each little burst of manufacturing. In other words to all manufactured products.

The latest manifestation I have observed of limited edition feaver is: limited edition potato crisps. That’s right, Walkers Crisps have just produced a six-pack “limited edition” bag, containing two Heinz Tomato Ketchup flavoured crisp packets, two Branston Pickle flavoured crisp packets, and two Marmite flavoured.

In my opinion the Marmite crisps are very nice (as are the crisps flavoured with Marmite’s deadly rival, Bovril, which have long been available), the Tomato Ketchup crisps are okay, and the Branston Pickle crisps are disgusting.

Talk of limited editions raises the question: are there potato crisp collectors? If so, do they collect their crisp packets unopened, or do they merely preserve the wrappings? If they do collect the crisps unopened how do they ensure that the crisps do not get broken inside the packet, even as the packet remains unopened, and if the crisps are preserved in mint condition, how can the crisp collector tell?

It was with questions like these in mind that I consulted the
Walkers SHOWCASE website mentioned on all the crisp packets.

At this point my posting takes a sudden lurch away from harmless frivolity and towards seriousness, because this is what I found:

Welcome to Walkers SHOWCASE!

Walkers has invited every school in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire to post their students’ best work on the Walkers SHOWCASE online gallery. What better way to show off the children’s talents – not only across the school, but to children’s friends and relatives – and to everyone with an interest in education around the world?

If you have been chosen as your school’s SHOWCASE Co-ordinator, your first step is to register your school. This takes just a few moments – but one part of it is your agreement to keep to the SHOWCASE Charter. You can review the Charter before proceeding with registration by clicking on the SHOWCASE safety button on the left. As soon as you have registered you can start uploading exhibits – everything from collages created in Reception to interactive games devised in a sixth form project.

Have fun!

I hate this. These people take no pride in their product. I expected – well, I was looking for – testimonials from satisfied crisp eaters, discussions of the relative merits of Marmite and Bovril crisps, intricate analysis of just why it is that the Branston Pickle crisps are so horrible, news of other Walkers products. Instead we observe what is now called a Public-Private Partnership, and of the most vomit-inducing kind. If I was a teacher and they made me the school’s SHOWCASE Co-ordinator, I’d feel like a whore.

I realise that as a good little libertarian, I ought to be willing to defend everything that capitalism does however tasteless (including whores, of course), but when it comes to capitalists stalking the wastes of the public sector in search of captive juvenile audiences for junk food adverts, I’m sorry, I just can’t do it. I wouldn’t want a law against it, but surely no self-respecting school would do this.

Perhaps I should overcome my dislike of such things. I don’t know, I really don’t. I would especially welcome comments on this.

4 comments to Capturing the crisp market

  • Andrew Rettek

    I agree that this is distateful, but i’ve always thought that being a libertarian meant not that capitalism is always right, just that you don’t want people with guns, or the treat of force going in and shutting a company down if they do something like this. And don’t worry, active dislike for things like this (as in you only send your children to schools that don’t participate in this kind of thing), is a good thing and, in my opinion, consistant with libertarian princaples.

  • I think Andrew Rettek is quite correct: there is nothing un-libertarian about pointing at something that is perfectly lawful and exquisitely capitalist and yet loudly saying “This is complete bullshit and I want nothing to do with it and neither should you!”

    One can vigorously support a company’s legal right to do as it pleases and yet at the same time exercise your right of free expression to try and organize boycotts that could theoretically drive them out of business for conducting that very same legal behaviour.

  • Tom Grey

    You’re right that it’s a tough issue; despite the correct lib position in “opposing the action, but supporting the private right to so act” (or speak, as above).
    As an exercise in sympathy, this is likely how many anti-capitalists/globalists feel about almost all advertising and capitalist actions.

    If heroin were legal, as it should be, there would prolly be such similar attempts by drug sellers.

    Perhaps some enterprising Samizdata netters (not me, of course; I’ve got 3 kids!) could create a better “Creation Showcase” for school kids so there would be a smaller vacuum available to be filled with crispy ad meaninglessness.

    BTW, in my hierarchy of bad taxes, land taxes, pollution taxes, and advertising taxes (mental pollution) would get a -1, where income taxes get a -10. I support less evil taxes substituting for more evil ones — but if such truly happened, there would be even more such “free” (ad supported) services. As I have second thoughts on this self-critique, it doesn’t sound so bad.

    I’m reading you all most weeks — keep up the good work!

  • Sophie

    I think that Walkers are kind of selling out. It should just be about the crisps. Next they’ll be releasing a fitness video or sumthing.