The Wheel Squeaks And We Get Greased???
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Originally, we used it to mean 'speak up if there's
something wrong'. Over time, society has spun it into a
more general meaning- 'speak up or get nothing'. It no longer
applies merely to fixing or needing something.
More recently this old adage has taken a very nasty turn,
having been reduced to a cynical level- 'be annoying to
We have, as a society, allowed our economy to be taken over
by this new spin on an old yarn. Mass marketing has always
held, as a concept, a 1% return on a given marketing campaign.
So, logically, if you can reach 100 million people, you should be
able to sell a million units. The emphasis had always been on
passive forms of advertising- Radio, TV, printed materials and
mass mailings. These methods basically showed us the math in
practice. The one percent equation was learned more than
invented. Now it is vigorously applied.
This is because marketing has taken on a particularly
aggressive stance in recent decades. It has embraced the old
proverbs' new meaning as an industry paradigm- 'forced
Now, in the 21st century, passive is not good enough.
Only inter-active will do.
While this new trend increases our enjoyment of some things,
it also adds some very annoying options. We tend to think of
inter-active as meaning 'hands on' or 'user involved'. We think
of playing with the buttons in an electronic store or going to a
web site to pick through something at our own pace.
To the advertising community, inter-active means something
vastly different. It means customer participation, which is how
they euphemize 'forced attention'.
Most forms of marketing now include or derive from a
philosphy based on involuntary exposure to a product. In
addition to all the passive means of old, we have three
dominant forms of forced attention advertising.
Everyone has been bothered by a telemarketer by now. Not to
get down on anyone for wanting to make an honest living, but
nobody needs to be a jerk about it. Since the whole industry is
based on the idea of making me stop whatever I'm doing and buy
a product, unseen, by phone, with a credit card, to an unknown,
unseen stranger from God knows what State or even country,
I'm not starting the call with any enthusiasm. If the
telemarketer is not polite, I'm hanging up.
Friends have told me that the caller really just needs a reason
for your declining the product to log for management. Fine. They
don't need to call me a 'jerkhead' for saying no. Nobody can
tolerate the shark-style salesman, but he makes us answer yes
or no immediately and moves on. From a management
standpoint, he's a dream. Our dinner is ruined, but he's a hero.
Then there's spam. The barrage of junk e-mail we all endure
online is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scams
and annoyances on the web.
Virtual carpetbaggers are truly making the web their own. If
you thought PO boxes and 800 and 900 numbers were popular
fronts for crooks, you are not ready for the sheer width and
breadth of it on the internet.
Junkmail senders, virus writers and theives know very well
how to manipulate the web in anonymity. They invent e-mail
addresses just to try. They use familiar or dramatic subject
phrases to fool you. They make up new users at web-sites. They
use your e-mail address to send spam to made up names. If you
ask to be removed, you're actually just verifying your email for
them. Since we must physically acknowledge and delete
messages, the seller has achieved 'forced attention' and is
happy. They don't think they've been defrauded, because the
email went through. Even if the whole list they bought is phony,
they don't know because we got the mail. And, trust me, those
lists are the real cash cow in the whole marketing world.
The retail integrity of the web is therefore held hostage by
There is yet another annoyance that has gone un-noticed. It
has hidden from plain site under the mask of simple junk mail,
but is far more insidious.
How many of the return envelopes for your monthly and retail
bills have an order form for a product attached to them that
MUST be removed to close the envelope?
I regard this as one the worst new annoyances in the
marketing world. Why I should be expected to buy a Choo-choo
train clock along with my credit card payment just because I've
been forced to notice it is beyond me. Inevitably, even if no one
buys it, the billers will always have some product ad there
because, like the normal brochures already packed in with the
bill, they get paid to put it there. Making us tear off that order
form is a revenue stream, and now an essential and permanent
part of the companies' income.
I'm sure the person that came up with the idea got a raise and
a corner office and the whole proverbial 9 yards. It's still a
pain in the butt.
Making us work harder in the very act of paying our debts is
okay, but putting postage or a return address on that same
envelope to help insure receipt of payment is considered
ludicrous. You owe us anyway, they posture, so why should we
give you more? The guy that wants to add the tear-offs is
throwing new money around, so he gets the nod.
So now, 'squeaky' means 'forcing attention' and 'getting the
grease' means making a pile of money.
The 'squeaky wheel ('person who gets noticed') gets the grease
('makes big bucks').
Taken at face value, however, the phrase actually says
something very plain and direct.
The squeaky wheel ('what appears wrong') gets the grease
Folks, I do believe I hear a squeak or two.
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