One of the better stores around here is "Bedrooms and More", which sounds just like a national chain sleaze-o-rama mattress trash peddler, but is actually not. The owner does some funny rants online and he suggests that the real shittening of the S-brands is due to private equity. Interesting idea; certainly there's no doubt that the S-brands have gone to total shit.
Of course we should be mad at the corporate overlords for sending product quality to shit, and generally using dishonest schemes to maximize short term profit. But I'm also angry at consumers for letting it happen. The only way to direct good behavior is to punish people who behave badly. And that just doesn't happen, neither in social life, nor capitalist life. People are amazingly (foolishly?) forgiving. Your only weapon as a consumer is your money.
Hanging out on Porsche forums a few years ago (zomg what was I thinking), I kept having my mind blown by how short-memoried everyone was. Even people who were pretty realistic about what fuckers Porsche had been in the past were all ready to buy the new model. (background : back in the early 90's, Porsche almost went bankrupt; they were completely restructured to focus more on marketing and profit, and less on quality. They intentionally drove the quality of their products down to the absolute minimum (actually, below minimum). This was the era of the Boxster and then the 996, and the early cars that were made were complete junk, some of the worst made cars for any money (worse than a Tata or god knows, it's hard to even think of an example of a horribly made car any more), the engine blocks were porous, the cylinders were out of round, there was cheap plastic inside the engine, and of course terrible cheap plastic everywhere in the interior, it was just a total clusterfuck). The rational consumer response should have been : whoah you guys are lying fuckers, we are never going to buy anything from you again. Instead most of the people were just incredibly forgiving and short-memoried, like yeah that was bad, but they'll fix it in the next model!
Wouldn't it be nice if products that cost more were actually better? Then you could just look at the range of products, pick your price-quality tradeoff point, and buy one. It would still be a tough decision, you'd have to weight how much you want to spend on this thing, but you would at least know that spending more got you something better. In the real world, that's not remotely the case. It's so nice when you go shopping in a video game RPG and you can just buy the more expensive sword and know it's better (and it's so fucking retarded when video games designers throw in wild-cards of expensive items that suck or really cheap items that are great, you dumb assholes, you don't get it, the game world should not make me do all the stressful shit I have to do in the real world).
I've always wanted a grocery store that actually selected its products for good cost/quality tradeof. That is, a good store should only sell things on the Pareto Frontier. Why the fuck do you have 50 different olive oils? I have no fucking clue what all these olive oils are, don't offer them to me. You (the retailer) should be an expert in this product (and also act as an agglomerator of customer feedback). There should only be like 4 olive oils to choose from, at various cost/quality tradeoffs (and also some for finishing vs. cooking oils, but let's pretend right now that there's only one axis of "quality" for olive oil), so I can just choose how much I want to spend and get the best oil at that price.
I had a funny self-realization moment at Soaring Heart when the salesman was saying how everything was made locally and they pay health care and benefits for their workers, I instinctively/subconscious thought "yeuck, that means bad value". Apparently my subconscious wants to buy products made in sweatshops. More generally I've got a major bias against ever giving money to someone who seems to be living well. When I see a realtor in a fancy car or a contractor who gets a swim and massage daily, fuck you I'm not giving you money, I want my pay to you to be barely enough to support human life, you should be in miserable subsistence conditions, not living it up! I guess I'm also biased against anything made in America; my mental image of Seattle mattress builders is not great skilled workers (like New Yankee Workshop), but something like failed philosophy PhDs who smoke weed while they work and don't know WTF they're doing (like Workaholics).