2006.06.01 Peanut butterfication of the masses

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

Have you ever wanted to do something completely zany? I don’t mean something spur of the moment, like wearing your shirt and pants backward and your shoes on the wrong feet. I mean calculated, something people will look at, shake their heads, and say “Why? Just, why?”

I do. In fact, I’d estimate I spend a good 30 percent of my time calculating zaniness. It all began with the Peanut Butteroleum.

When I was a high school sophomore, I worked as a stock boy at a big name pharmacy, which, I believe, should be classified as a self-replicating corporate virus. It was a brainless job—brainless in that anyone without a brain could work there, as was evidenced by the myriad of brainless corporate rules I had to follow, such as wearing a nice shirt, tie and dress pants to work.

I always figured that, as a stock boy, the tie must have given me a distinguished look as I scrubbed unspeakable filth from the bathroom floor, emptied unspeakable filth from the garbage, and muttered unspeakable filth about how miserable I was.

Of course, looking back on it, I see why we stock boys had to wear ties—if we didn’t, we’d wear something else. Which means, left to my own devices, I would, like all other boys my age, wear something stupid.

What really brought me to hate the job, though, was the sugarcoated “Let’s market everything to everybody, and in the process, market everything to nobody!” corporate mentality there.

That, and how the pharmacy’s name seemed to change according to corporate whim.

When I started there, I thought the three letters that comprised the name stood for “Customer Value System.” I think this morphed into “Consumer Valued Salesmen,” at some point, then to “Common Values Shared,” then to “Candy, Valium and Shampoo,” then to who-knows-what. At a given time, the letters stood for whatever the corporate honchos thought would sell the most fish liver oil. When the abbreviation changed, so did my title—I went from stock boy, to stock person, to merchandise associate, to floor associate, to tired of being jostled about by some faceless doofus behind a big desk trying to get richer than he already was.

Like any villain, I hatched a plan. I would strike out for guys like me, the common man, smearing these corporate shills into the dirt. I would build the Peanut Butteroleum.

In my mind, the Peanut Butteroleum is a giant peanut butter factory and outlet that sits plumb in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue, the front decorated with all kinds of clockwork and tooting whistles and whatnot. After I made my billions, so I thought, I would find the means to install my peanut butter paradise in the heart of modern American swank and use the sheer power of tackiness to bring retail to its knees.

I wouldn’t market everything to everybody, I would market one thing, peanut butter, to one kind of person, the  peanut butter-liking kind. I would play loud, good music. I would dress comfortably. Since I would be a billionaire, nobody could stop me. I would sink millions, if need be, into this giant peanut butter-smelling eyesore. And across the world, corporate bosses would say, “But what is Jeff doing? Doesn’t he want to get richer? You can’t get richer by just selling peanut butter!”

My plan didn’t go much beyond that. I just wanted to rattle everybody’s world, and I guessed the best way to do that was with unfathomable amounts of wealth and a giant peanut butter store. What really halted my plans for the Peanut Butteroleum was my inability to think of a better jingle than “Peanut butter from the Peanut Butteroleum, tastes so good you could eat it off linoleum.”

That, and my immeasurable laziness.

But wouldn’t it be exciting, someone going out of their way like that? To make a statement about how people assume they should live their lives?

It excites me just thinking about things not being the way they are, thinking about walking into a big outlet and not listening to awful mass-marketed music that nobody likes, not being hounded by salespeople who are manager-compelled to hound, not being just a few extra bucks in the pocket of some greedy millionaire.

But to be considered genuinely, as a genuine person. And to be sold peanut butter. Isn’t that exciting?

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