TRENDS

When the other members of the meeting laughed ironically at my comment it confirmed my suspicions that I was living in a different age. It was in the 1970’s and our family had returned from a long spell overseas and I had started work in my middle fifties at a medium sized factory making industrial products. The country was in a deep economic recession and I needed the job, so let it pass with a shrug and, ‘well, isn’t he?’ My comment had been, ‘surely, the customer is king?’

My new colleagues hastened to enlighten me that the customer, far from being king, was ‘a pain in the arse.’ Welcome to the new Britain. We had noticed that during our absence some aspects of the language had changed with some significant new phrases demonstrating the change from reserved deference to a more individualist attitude.

As Head of Planning I was prevented from doing my job by a cabal of shop floor foremen who were not inclined to relinquish their present control of Production and with this their job security, and a hands off Management who knew nothing of the new methods of Production Planning that I had learned from my previous employment with an American Company. It took me some years to change this situation around and by the time I had managed to do so it was too late. The National malaise, as far as Industrial relations were concerned, had set in too deep and eroded all chances of Britain leading a new Industrial Revolution. This was to be Japan.

With late deliveries and poor services the world turned to new, non-British suppliers and  investment in British manufacturing dried up. The economy was saved by the advent of North Sea Oil that paid for another massive recession whilst the City of London was groomed to take over from manufacturing the role of Britain’s main source of economic support.

It was thirty years before I realised that I had lived through the threshold and growth of a trend that changed the role of the customer. From king, his position had been inverted by the development of Market Capitalism where other creations were to become ‘King.’

This was to be a fairly rapid process of changes from the share-holder supplanting the customer to the rise of non-mainstream forms of Capital concentration such as Sovereign Funds, Hedge Funds, Derivative Funds and Global IT Companies using their massive accumulation of Capital to supplant share-holders and manipulate Markets and Governments. Much of this immense flow of Global Capital is in the hands of corrupt Oligarchies, Drug Syndicates and other Mafia-type organisations so that no country is safe from the fall-out that will inevitably occur following the collapse of the informal economic system that blew up in 2008.

A new world order will have to be built once this economic collapse can no longer be staved off by Governments’ attempts to save their economies by pumping huge amounts of fictitious money into the national systems and it is unlikely we will ever again see a world where the customer is ‘King.’

When I was growing up in the 1930’s most Middle Class families had accounts with retailers whereby they would order ‘on account’ and settle up monthly. Post WW2 this changed to paying for the item as you bought it. With the arrival of the consumer society it is increasingly common practice to pay for an item before receiving it. This is just another example of the dwindling power of the customer.

AUGUST 1979/Revised 2008/Revised 2020