Over servicing


Everything you need, plus much much MORE!

Either there’s a plot, or I’m losing it.

I feel increasingly pressured to consume more than I want or need.

Could you please check the facts to see if I’m dreaming?


Tissue of lies

Something odd has happened to tissue boxes.

Instead of one tissue coming out when I pull, I get two or even three.

They’re joined more securely than before.

If I have time, I stuff the spares back in the box.

If not, I end up using more than I need.

Worse, when I get towards the end of the box, the tissues no longer offer themselves at all.

Instead, the last 30 or 40 hide at the bottom of the box – necessitating its partial destruction to retrieve them.

These phenomena make me feel like the tissue maker wants me to buy more boxes sooner.


Brain wash

In a (related?) occurrence, the dishwashing detergent bottle nozzle has widened.

Even tilting it slightly blurts five times more liquid than I need.

Worse, the bottle reads:

‘Squirt liquid into sink while water is running.’

If I did this, I’d get up to 50 times more than necessary – with obvious economic and environmental consequences.

What’s going on?!


Unlimited expense

Our telecommunications provider is (ironically) an irregular communicator.

While happy to report that my cable speed has been throttled after I’ve exceeded my cap, it never warns me before.

Nor did my wife get a heads-up that she was about to pass her iPhone limit – thus doubling our last bill.

I thought an occasional helpful SMS might be within a telco’s power.

But they’re happy to let us play and pay. And pay.

I suppose you could call this laissez faire approach ‘service’, but I’m over it.


Wedge politics

I once guided a client (via many small steps) through a variety of copywriting services – from email sign-off to brochure to website to white paper.

While this may look like over servicing, each stage was a consensual natural progression from the last.

Many business advisors say we should upsell at every opportunity if we’re to prosper.

Winston Marsh espouses a less aggressive ‘how’s things?’ phone call (which invariably triggers fresh business without unpleasantness).

When dealing with a new client, I study their entire communications suite, because any fault in one damages the entire brand.

In light of my tissue, dishwashing and telco experiences, however, I’m wondering if my zeal is importunate.

And whenever I think of me,

I think of you.


Both barrels

Am I crazy?

Am I too pushy?

Have you been over serviced?

Do you over serve – by accident or design?

Please tell us

in 25 words




| Founder & Senior Writer – The Feisty Empire

  • Proof that an occasional helpful SMS is within the realm of possibility:


  • Nice one Paul. I think you’ve uncovered one of the foundation stones propping up our post-modern society.
    Increasingly, it seems that we work more to consume more and because we consume more we need to work more to pay for our consumption :)

    • Thank you, James. I’ve read about planned obsolescence and I’ve heard it’s possible to make a car tyre that never wears out. But we don’t. I’m hoping those with greater insight than I can illuminate this dark aspect of our nature.

  • Ah yes, this is definitely a little trick the manufacturers have been trying on us for a while.

    I try and be careful with my money, so I actually decant my shower gel into an old sunscreen pump bottle – that way I get a decent amount without half the contents of the bottle ending up in the floor of the shower. (Just call me Scrooge!).

    In a business sense, I’m not a fan of upselling unless there’s a benefit in doing so.

    For instance, I once worked in a call centre, we sold airport parking (oh, the excitement!) but were always expected to try and upsell the client to an overnight hotel stay with parking. Sometimes it made sense – in peak times they could stay at a hotel near the airport and leave their car there for two weeks and it was cheaper than parking actually at the airport – but other times it was a struggle to understand why someone wanting to book a week’s parking at £50 would upgrade to an overnight stay that would cost them £100+.

    • You’re not Scrooge, Bridie. You’re a canny, planet saving, GFC2 ready enlightened soul. That’s a great tip. And a very interesting story. Your generous comments flow like unfettered home brand lemon scented suds! :)

  • A strong argument to start our “how’s things” calls TODAY:


  • It is a CONSPIRACY, I tells ya!

    Seriously, over-consumption/planned-obsolescence is a problem.

    A simple, albeit anecdotal, example:

    You buy a new computer, and it will rarely run for more than 5 years without developing a hardware fault. So you buy a new computer, and is usually quite costly to do so.

    You buy a new printer, even a $59 special, and it lasts for twice that long. Why? As long as you own the printer, you’re probably buying the ink cartridges, which is where the profit is. Having to buy a new printer risks buying another brand, and losing the ink cartridge sales.

    Why can’t we just be a bit more sustainable? Providing higher quality goods and services nets clients who stick around for a lifetime.

    • I’m glad to hear your amen, Stephen. Printers are fine example. I was wondering why they were getting cheaper and cheaper. Then I had to fill mine up! Hopefully, before we’re completely underwater, we’ll adopt the wisdom of your final paragraph. Best regards, P.

  • Another thought provoking post – living sustainably is so important to me and my little brood that we do all sorts of things – make our own washing powder (easier than you think), aim to never take a plastic bag from a store, and make the most of every purchase. There is a difference between being a ‘scrooge’ and ensuring that the value you purchased is properly received (and not washed down the sink or the shower plug hole!).

    Printers are a classic case of the ‘razor blade’ model. Sell the base (printer) at a low cost, and charge for the refills (the inks). It is a very common model, but it has the impact of encouraging consumers to think that ‘cheap’ = ‘disposable’. How will we all save the earth this way?

    I find it interesting that there is a difference between what people WANT and what they NEED. The old adage is “Sell ’em what they WANT, but deliver what the NEED”. Often clients have a problem which we, as service providers, solve for them. Half the issue with a problem is how hard it can really be to articulate the right solution (which is why they haven’t solved it in the first place!). We can be uniquely placed to see the problem and offer a valuable solution. I like this reframe better than the concept of ‘upsell’, which reminds me of the pimply teen asking me if “Ya wan’ fries wid dat?”.

    Upselling for me is acceptable on three conditions:
    It is done with the spirit of adding value to the client
    It addresses an observed NEED, and I can articulate the need and the solution to them
    The client has a right to say “No Thanks”, to which the response is “That’s OK”.

    The other side of the equation is what happens at home with the tissues or washing up liquid. The manufacturers may be doing this on purpose to sell more, or just using cheaper manfacturing options to save costs. However, anything you buy which makes you feel ‘cheated’ or somehow ‘incompetent’ when you are using it will trigger massive negative tagging within the brain and you will develop negative brand associations with that product. I guarantee when you are next cruising your new supermarket (at the top of that hill?) and you see the brand, the negative association will pop straight up and impact your buying process of that product

    Smart organisations ensure that the customer experience is greater than the promise. Positive neurobiochemical tagging leads to positive associations and increased repurchase.

    So, in the wash-up, these companies are letting you down, letting the planet down and letting themselves down. I imagine that there are other options that enhance your experience. Maybe you should be upsold to the ‘premium offering?’

    • I love comments so comprehensive that I could pass them off as posts on another blog! And you just keep ’em coming, Phil! Thank you for such a careful analysis. And for caring in the first place. Your words strike many chords and we’re richer for your thoughts. :)

    • I don’t think I can add anything to your response, Phil, but I probably will :)

      I hate the fact we have to buy things that won’t last because we have no options – this of course means that we can’t ‘vote with our feet’ as disposable is all that’s available (and none of us is quite ready to live by candlelight, etc!) The waste really bugs me – I repair and reuse wherever I can but it’s so hard when you can’t get parts for things as they expect us to just buy a new one.

      Upselling as a concept does make me think of ‘do you want fries with that’ and tends to annoy a lot of people (me included more often than not). However, making clients aware of how you can help them with further (or the same) problems is helping them and you – as long as it is done respectfully (and I have no doubt it is with you Paul), it will give clients a thought, a solution and the option to refuse. So I see no problem with it, and potentially lots of good :)

      • Good on you, Tash. I do try to be as respectful as possible. But I also think it’s a good idea to sound others out now and then, as working alone can make you a bit narrow minded. Many thanks for the sense check! :)

  • I just went to do the dishes and the top of the dishwashing liquid snapped off entirely. This is the second top to do this; I see the hinge is very thin. I’ve now contacted the supplier requesting their input. Stay tuned! :)

    • Have now contacted tissue manufacturer too.

      • No word yet from the supermarket or manufacturer. They must be busy.

        Damn this pricing war, Grace …

  • I’m giving away my age but try The Waste Makers by Vance Packard…

    • Hi, Mick! We prize elders and REALLY need them right now. I’ve added that book to our reader suggestions page: http://bit.ly/z5SlOH It looks like a beaut! Many thanks for tabling it. :)

      • Reading the blurb on your book suggestion, Mick, I’m struck by its similarity to a much more recent work: http://bit.ly/zHOowG I imagine The Story of Stuff must have been influenced by The Waste Makers and am glad to know this lineage. So thanks again! :)

  • David Suzuki tells it like it is. And could be.


    No planet, no business.

  • Oh my….Paul, you’ve done it again. You have riled me up again. And this time, what I’ve grappled with for ages. And I sell green goods on Etsy. How do I justify myself for what I do? Like you, I am so torn about it sometimes that I even wrote a whole post on it last year before Earth Day.


    And then, recently, I was asked by another blogger to write a post about “Simple Living” and what do I talk about? Industrial Revolution and Planned Obsolescence. Seriously.


    But while I understand your dilemma, don’t apologize for your “upsell”. Some people really NEED your services. But more than that, I think you are an ethical person and you would never screw anyone for the sake of making money. The flip side to your dilemma is that, in this day and age of technology driven consumerism, I welcome someone who will hold my hand and tell me what I need to do. And believe me, I will let you know when you are trying too much. :)

    But regarding your daily encounters with planned obsolescence, you just have to change your habits and lifestyle of not buying those cheaply made items, no matter how convenient they might seem at the time because in the end, they are more expensive. Period. Buy or switch to reusables (buy a hankie and not disposable tissues. Buy reusable napkins and not paper napkins). Buy Green (even if you throw them away, they are gentler on the environment). Buy non-toxic (do not harm you so you will be healthier).

    But most importantly, buy what you NEED. Over consumption is still over consumption even if you buy green products.

    And yes, those things are made to break, for us to use more, for us to buy new and not fix (these issues are all in my post). The demise of products we use today are carefully planned, to be obsolete after so many usage. We’ll just have to be smarter than those marketers and R&D people. :)

    • Sorry about that, Karen; but I consider you a heavy hitter in this field and wanted to attract your expert eye.

      The merest glance at your comment and links will show readers what I mean.

      I’m honoured and grateful that you joined us. Thanks so much for your insights and recommendations. I’ll be fishing out our linen napkins today! Best regards, P. :)

  • Greetings to one of today’s most effective stirrers.

    Back in the mid-80s, I needed to have my twin-tub washing machine repaired. When the serviceman arrived, he asked how old the machine was. ‘About 14 years, I guess,’ I replied honestly. ‘These were only supposed to last for 7 years!’ came the reply. Yes, he was able to repair it, and it lasted me for another 3 or 4 years, by which time it was too small for our growing family.

    Planned obsolescene is not new, but some of us have learned that we don’t need to ‘upgrade’ to the latest version (it’s coming up to 15 years since we inherited our TV from our son when he no longer needed it).

    I think it’s one of the hardest things we’re trying to teach our grandchildren.

    I look forward to your next stimulating topic.

    • Hi, Desolie. I didn’t set out to be a stirrer. But I guess if you prod people often enough, the distinction is marginal. Hell, I’d mainline Ajax if it’d keep you commenting! Many thanks for sharing your story (and being so kind in general). :)