Thursday, July 16, 2009
After a glut of hard news, one occasionally needs a break from the heaviness of it all. Do forgive me for steering deliberately towards popular culture this morning, though my intent might be to mock it severely. For those of you who know me well, this is hardly unusual behavior on my part. Today I'd like to vamp a bit on the topic of the shoes pictured at the top of this entry.
Let the record show that I have never owned even a single pair of the monstrosities known as Crocs. To me, they've always looked for all the world like something nurses and dental hygienists should wear on the job, but certainly never when out in public. The now-likely demise of the company that makes them would be celebrated by me in the identical way as I applauded the death of lots of bad ideas that should have never seen the light of day, like say, slap bracelets and chia pets. No one ever went broke by refusing to taking taste into account or with a burning desire to eliminate eyesores from the face of the earth. And, for a while, the pestilence of plug-ugly footwear graced the feet of what seemed like every other person I passed by while out in public. As I mentioned, since the company is now broke and likely headed for bankruptcy, I report with much satisfaction that I might be spared forever or at least for the most part.
In the beginning, Crocs were designed purely for boating and sports-wear purposes. They had been created and marketed by a small, tight-knit group of enterpreneurs who started a company based on a simple premise, hawking a product designed for a very specific purpose. For reasons unknown, however, their product struck a chord with the buying public, quickly swelling to epic proportions as a cheap, comfortable shoe for every occasion. No one ever knows when the Zeitgeist will arrive and in what form it will take and apparently Crocs were the living personification of the time of their creation. Of course, it should also be noted that they had their fair share of detractors and supporters all along, with those in favor often taking the role of apologist and those against it passionately contemptous of the damned things. By the end, Crocs were undone by a combination of over-expanding, a souring economy, and a product that, due to its disgustingly heavy-duty construction rarely wore out and as a result, seldomly needed to be replaced.
I do grant the makers of Crocs some degree of grudging respect for making a product that holds up well, but in that respect they seem to have bucked the unwritten rule of the system. Many companies would have designed a model that wore out within a year or so, forcing those who wished to seem fashionably trendy to purchase a new pair every so often in order to be up to par with the latest fad. That would have been the quickest way to cash in and make the largest profit margin possible. Ironically, had they done so, they might conceivably been able to weather the latest economic storm that will likely prove to be their undoing. Where business ethics is more and more an oxymoron, I do appreciate anyone who takes into account the customer base first, rather than the bottom line.
Yet, as the old saying goes, Crocs got too big for their britches. An unfortunate tendency in the Wild West World of American capitalism is to expand too quickly due to simple greed and to swell massively in size beyond the point of all reason. Borrowing money while aiming to significantly yield increased market share is a calculated risk that is tantamount to throwing caution and the odds to the wind while seated at the gambling table. The best, and longest lasting companies take modest risks, knowing full well that all fads and fashions are ephemeral and thus prone to a kind of fickle fate that always arrives without providing fair warning beforehand. The potential monetary gain is always substantial, but so is the possibility of failure. Yet, when times are good and the coffers are overflowing, the temptation for more, more, more often supersedes restraint or rational thought. It has been said that the best gamblers know when to quit and collect their winnings from the table, and this applies to every company in the private sector.