The Conscientious Salesman

Recently, a leading retailer confessed that people were so much happier in poor countries (read emerging markets and newly emerging markets). His earlier stint in Africa had left him with this world view; there is an inverse relationship between money and happiness. However, we now know that happiness rises quite sharply with rise in income, but then plateaus significantly. So beyond a point, more money is not going to make you happier.

He argued that uber consumption by developed nations was endangering the environment and climate change was a result of that. I reminded him that an exponentially rising tide of middle class aspirants from poor countries would only add to the rapidly growing consumer culture. In the heat of the argument, he said something blasphemous (for a retailer) – “with the sustainability of the planet in jeopardy, consumers need to be responsible about consumption and exercise restraint.”

I pointed out to him how inappropriate that comment was and that it would never go well with his image as a successful retailer. What if food and beverage companies reminded us about diabetes, obesity, transfats, sugar, salt, preservatives and other chemicals just like laws on cigarette consumption do. Imagine some of the taglines companies might have; My friend the retailer – buy this one dress, but you will have to pay for three.

Burgers – Love us and we will make sure no one steals your fat Pizzas – at your doorstep in time to your missing heart beat.

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