I’m relearning, in my recent enthusiasm for podcasting, something I’ve long contended: If you really want to know who’s reading/listening to a media outlet, check the advertising.
When I first started reading right-wing political magazines, I noticed the back-of-the-book ads were for things like The Great Courses and Increase Your Word Power flimflams, the intellectual equivalent of Charles Atlas’ don’t-get-sand-kicked-in-your-face-by-your-liberal-friends pitch. The lefty mags had personal ads for what sounded like a whole lot of lonely academics with nose hair, handmade jewelry and leather elbow patches on their blazers. And from what I’ve been able to tell, millennials (who are the natural audience of podcasts) simply can’t do a damn thing for themselves.
Caveat up front: Every time I’ve ventured an opinion that maybe young people need to brush up on their adulting skills, I get one of them jumping down my throat about the five jobs she works for practically nothing, and “we’re not all Lena Dunham, you know!” Noted. Noted, noted, noted. I’m just saying.
Anyway, the ‘casts I subscribe to offer some truly weird services, like various incarnations of the Clothes of the Month club — these are services where you fill out some online forms, and every month, a box of outfits appears on your doorstep. You try everything on, pay for what you like and send the rest back. How mystifying, and yet also seductive. Also, a waste of money; of course everybody has “no time to shop,” but seriously, find time to shop if looking good is important to you. It’s not that fucking hard.
Blue Apron is a similar one, only for food. Blue Apron delivers pre-portioned food boxes with easy-to-follow recipes, for those who want to cook at home but pay the same price they would at a restaurant, or at least I assume so. I honestly don’t know how you put together boxes featuring everything individually packaged, including the spices, all refrigerated, all with the usual buzzwords (“sustainable,” “locally sourced”), and deliver it to someone’s front door without charging an arm and a leg. Seriously, folks, have you considered the alternatives at your local fast-casual restaurant? You might be surprised.
It turns out keeping people from the necessary adult step of shopping for food and figuring out how to cook it themselves has a price beyond mere dollars and cents. It’s driving their employees insane:
August 26, 2015, was, by all accounts, a stressful day at Blue Apron’s facility in Richmond, California.
As the sun rose over what would be an unusually warm Wednesday, a 21-year-old employee made a phone call to a supervisor at the $2 billion food startup’s Bay Area fulfillment center, where tens of thousands of meal kits are packed into cardboard containers and shipped across the continental United States. The supervisor didn’t pick up the phone that morning, so he left a message.
In it, he said he planned to quit his job at Blue Apron later that day. He also said he planned to bring a gun to the warehouse and shoot his manager, as well as other people at the facility. In two messages, he named three people specifically who he wanted to put bullets into when he got there. Around 8:30, en route to work, the supervisor called the police.
Police apprehended the man, who did not have a gun, later that morning. But at Blue Apron, the day was just getting started.
While company security and a Richmond police officer on patrol monitored threats outside the warehouse, inside, Blue Apron management was meeting with representatives from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health at the conclusion of a two-week inspection by the agency that would result in nine violations and proposed penalties totaling $11,695 for unsafe conditions that put workers at risk for fractured bones, chemical burns, and more. This penalty came on top of $13,050 following a forklift accident earlier in the year, giving Blue Apron the most OSHA violations in the fast-growing, $5 billion meal-kit startup industry, and among the most in perishable prepared-food manufacturing in California. (Like many companies, Blue Apron appealed these findings, and had some of its violation classifications downgraded to “general” or “other.” One of its cases is still open.)
Just after 4 p.m. on the same day, the police were back at Blue Apron for the third time, following a noontime patrol. They were prompted by yet another call from a security guard, concerned that “a weapon might be brought.”
This time the problem was a 26-year-old man who, after being fired earlier in the day for groping a female co-worker, had then threatened the person who let him go. He was later arrested for sexual assault, as well as for violating his parole on an earlier robbery charge.
“I definitely remember that day,” said David Reifschneider, who was general manager of the facility at the time. “It’s not what happens on a typical day in a typical warehouse.”
Forgive the extra-long excerpt; it’s well worth reading the entire piece. It’s the classic story of our century so far: “Disruptors” have a big idea, regular old people suffer in its incarnation. I wonder when “disruptor” will give way to the more accurate “motherfucker.” What’s wrong with learning about food in your own way, eating out, eating in, learning what you like, what it takes to make it appear on your table? What is the need for this packaging-heavy, labor-intensive step? If your life is so busy that this is what it takes to put a home-cooked meal on the table in your house, maybe you need to reconsider your life. Or maybe I’m full of shit, but man, the thought of human hands in a California warehouse putting one tablespoon of vinegar or soy sauce into a tiny bottle just makes my heart sink.
My daughter Kate is living in a co-op house at school this year. Basically, it’s a commune with some structure imposed by the university, which owns the house. It’s a vegetarian group, and all the residents share cooking duties. She’s eaten more vegetables in the past month than she probably did the 18 years she lived here. But she’s learning how to do all this stuff I tried to show her over the years and she either ignored or didn’t care to learn: How to cook rice, plan a meal, etc. Good. Life is full of challenges large and small, and mastering rice is one you need to learn. The failures teach you plenty. I have no idea what Blue Apron teaches you; maybe how to make it all a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
Let’s give these poor hard-working kids a break, maybe? A night off from work, maybe a cooking club with their friends. They can figure it out together.
OK, then, back to the topic of the hour and many hours before and to come. If nothing else comes of this fucking election, I hope it leads to the utter flushing down the public toilet of Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie and much of the right-wing media-sphere. Guys, you had a good run, but the party’s about to be over. Hope you saved your money.
Hello, Tuesday, dead ahead. Dentist appointment and deadline for me — how about you?