Thursday, 20 November 2008

So, is ‘Plan A’ a load of pants, Mr Rose?

Marks and Sparks is having a sale. Whoopie…

Well no, actually. I don’t think this is a ‘good thing’.
“Plan A is our five-year, 100-point 'eco' plan to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our business and our world. It will see us working with our customers and our suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, safeguard natural resources, trade ethically and build a healthier nation.” (M&S Plan A website)

For a while I was willing to go along with their eco-hype. I agree with a lot of things that they’re doing. But the announcement today that they’re having a 20% off everything sale has undone all the good PR, as far as I’m concerned.

I know that we have to consume stuff; and choosing recyclable packaging is a good thing; and that trade (fair trade, that is) is a good thing for the developing world and for us here too. But the most pernicious problem (in the West) is that we all over-consume. Especially at Christmas. It makes me want to vomit.

Wouldn’t it be better for all of us, in the long run, if they sold fewer items of a higher quality at a slightly higher price?

I can’t help noticing that, since Plan A was introduced, the quality of M&S pants has gone right down. (I know Jeremy Paxman would agree with me! ) Sad to say, I’ve been buying the same old basic style for the past 20 years… And of course, these basics do wear out. I just wish they wouldn’t wear out so quickly these days. The fabric may be fair trade organic, but it’s not as thick (and strong) as it used to be, and the quality of the elastic would make Nora Batty turn in her grave (is she in her grave yet? Ah, Wikipedia suggests not… sorry)

[I see M&S has ‘relaunched’ its Plan A website too (old site vs new site; and why doesn’t the site URL appear in the title bar of Firefox? Strange.)]

What I really can’t bear is the vast quantity of totally unnecessary items (and their associated transportation, and packaging, and the transportation of the packaging…) that will be hauled from the shops today just because there’s 20% off. In my new local M&S yesterday (yes, I do go there – for mid-week fruit and veg shopping, because the big T killed off the local greengrocers years ago) they were ‘offering’ low-priced boxes of chocolates at the till. Over packaged; over priced; unnecessary*.

Minutes after I’d listened to two retail giants debate the ‘'Irrational' downturn in high street spending’ on Today this morning, the programme finished early to launch an emergency appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee to raise funds to help displaced and distressed people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yet again, at Christmas time, I'm frustrated and fed up with it all. I don’t need any more unpleasantly perfumed and over-packaged hand creams, jumpers that don’t fit and have to be returned to the shops, or kitchen gizmos that gather dust.

Instead of feeding Mr Rose’s bank account today, I’m going to give my Christmas-present-fund to the appeal, and hope that my family will be happy with my home-baked cakes instead.

Bah humbug
Rant over!

* Mr Ms_well and I do enjoy choccies now and again. We once bought a fancy heart-shaped box from Thorntons, ate the contents and kept the packet. Now for anniversaries and whatnot, we buy lower priced bags of Fair Trade chocs and put them in the recycled fancy box. Stingy, but kinder to the environment (and our pockets).


The Slow Smoulder said...

Christmas present money to the appeal! Hear hear!

I am still reeling over the shock/concern/lack of comment when I mooted to the adult members of my family about giving even some of the Christmas spending to charity.

In this day of ethical presents, why is it not seen as the thing to do? Could it be that it is a Very Special Luxury to give to people in desperate need? Oh dearee dearee me, if that is the case ...

The most obvious comment to this would be that if the political/commerical world engaged in better practices, there wouldn't be the need for charity. Well, yes, but, ummmm, there are still people dying and suffering.

And this reminds me of my bedtime reading last night, the last part of David Peace's GB84, his based-on-fact fiction about the miner's strike, his description of how people gave money and presents to ensure that the miners' children had a good Christmas -- even in the face of (possibly manipulated) growing unpopularity of the strike.

Viva Humanity!

PS Your home-baked cakes will be Far Better Quality than Anything Bought In The Shops.

PPS Only 9 days to go to Buy Nothing Day!

ms_well.words said...

Re: PS Your home-baked cakes will be Far Better Quality than Anything Bought In The Shops.

Well, let's hope so, but I'm not known hereabouts for my culinary skills. But hey, it's the thought that counts! (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.)

I shall be making traditional Christmas cakes (for the first time ever), but I'll also be supporting TreeAid's Cake Bake. I've adopted TreeAid as my business-related charity, and give them an annual donation in lieu of sending business Christmas cards. They're a very worthy cause. See