The consumer revolt is a tough nut to crack


September 14, 1992|By MIKE ROYKO

The consumer revolt finally caught up with me last night an made me realize how it feels to be victimized by a shoddy, dishonest product.

Surprisingly, it didn't happen in the usual way.

From what I've read, the biggest single cause of the consumer revolt is the automobile. Somebody who needs a $2,200 car, and can afford a $3,200 car, buys a $4,200 car and has a nervous breakdown when the door handle falls off with only 35 payments to go.

Others write to Washington when they discover that the jumbo-economy box of sugar-coated, air-filled, protein-packed crunchy-wunchies isn't full to the top. This deception means they have to get out of bed and fry eggs for the kids, but the Teflon pan sticks.

Or it is something like the electric toothbrush conking out, or the TV going out between the first and second half.

None of these disasters has befallen me, so I did not really believe that there was such a thing as a consumer revolt.

In fact, a revolt didn't seem possible because so many of the angry victims of shoddy merchandise are also the makers or sellers of shoddy merchandise, so who is there to fight with?

vTC But I finally discovered what Ralph Nader is all about while I was eating a restaurant meal.

The main course was good. The chef's skill was such that you could not tell if the vegetable had been treated with nerve gas or the meat afflicted with tumors.

Then came the dessert. Being a gourmet, I ordered a double butter pecan ice cream.

Those who really like butter pecan ice cream know that you don't eat it the same way you eat vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

You swallow the ice cream, but you trap the pecans in your mouth, stashing them off to the side or tucking them under the tongue.

Most people, after retaining the one or two pecans from an average-size spoon of ice cream, will chew or grind them, swallow them and go on to the next spoonful.

These people are only casually committed to butter pecans. They'd probably be just as happy with black walnut, or banana yogurt.

But there are those of us who just let the pecans pile up, spoonful after spoonful.

Then, after you've eaten all the ice cream, you have the extra bonus of a whole bunch of pecans to eat.

For statistic-conscious readers, it has been my observation that a person with a normal jaw can accumulate all the butter pecans in about a pint of ice cream before he has to start chewing.

Somebody with an exceptionally wide or long jaw, such as Slats Grobnik, can make it through a quart before chewing.

He did this only once, as I recall, and that was to win a bet in an ice cream parlor. When he finished, he smiled broadly, showing all of the pecans, which caused the Greek who owned to place to faint from disgust.

His brother, Fats Grobnik, almost matched that record, and would have done it because he never had any molars and had more room in his mouth for storing pecans. Last night, when the waiter brought a dessert, I dug in. But after two spoonfuls, I

didn't have a pecan anywhere in my mouth. Could I have swallowed it? I tried again. The results were the same.

It was a fraud. The ice cream was pecan flavored -- but there weren't any pecans in it.

I called the waiter and asked him what he was trying to get away with. He shrugged. So I called the manager. He looked at the ice cream, shook his head, and said, "I don't have anything to do with the ice cream."

"Who does?" I demanded.

"The owner," he said.

"Send him over," I demanded.

"He's gone for the night."

There it was -- corporate institutional indifference. Everybody passing the pecan.

I could write a letter to the owner of the place, but you know what would happen. The hat-check girl would probably answer it for him. And she'd just say that they have investigated my complaint, and there must be some mistake, because they don't serve buttered pigeons.

Mike Royko is on vacation this week. This column was originally published on Feb. 27, 1970.

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