Life Is Bullshit: A Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe
I will never forget, when I was a kid, walking past a store just off the main street of the village where I grew up. Outside the store hung a sign in lettering that was supposed to harken back to old times. “Ye Olde Shoppe”, the sign said.
This was a small town in the Great Lakes region. There was never any local tradition in the region of putting the letter “E” on the end of words like “old” or “shop”, or of using the word “ye” instead of “you” or “the”. Maybe that kind of olde quainte thinge happened in New England in the early days of colonization, but where I grew up, the land was settled by European-Americans after the war of 1776, long after “ye” was out of fashion, and English spellings were becoming standardized.
I never went in. It was quite clear that the Olde Shoppe was a load of twee nonsense.
I had put this experience into the back of my mind, however, until yesterday, when I came across another shoppe with a similar theme. The name of this one was: Life Is Good: A Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe.
I like the idea that life is good as much as the next struggling optimist, so I took a look inside the shoppe for some genuine neighborhood insight. I couldn’t find any ideas about what in particular makes life good, though. What I did see was some Star Wars, Superman and Batman merchandise for sale in the front of the store.
Do Star Wars, Superman and Batman teach us that life is good? No, those movies teach us that life is pretty nasty, that there are powerful villains always trying to destroy the world, and that without defenders who have supernatural powers, we’d all be dead… but even with the defenders, a lot of us are going to die anyway.
What about the rest of the shoppe? Walking through, I saw a lot of sports merchandise for sale, and then, here and there, some shirts and caps and other stuff with a “Life Is Good” logo plastered onto it. Nowhere could I find anything deeper about the goodness of life. Apparently, Life Is Good shoppes believe that life is good because we can watch sports and violent action movies.
I noticed one other thing that unsettled me a bit. The “Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe” was in fact located in the Seattle Tacoma International Airport – in a hallway on the way to my departure gate, next to an Inmotion storefront, a business that used to sell movies and music, before that all went digital, and is now desperately hanging to existence on by selling headphones and iPhone cases.
Where was the neighborhood? I had stayed in a hotel next to the airport the night before. It isn’t possible for anyone living near the airport to walk to the facility. One has to take a hotel or rental car shuttle, or a taxi, to get in. No one lived in the neighborhood of the airport, really. Everyone was just passing through, or working there.
So, the “Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe” was actually a fake non-neighborhood shop.
It turns out that “Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe” isn’t really meant to refer to, you know, a genuine neighborhood shop. It’s an internal term used by the Life Is Good Company to refer to a specific kind of company-vendor legal agreement. The Life Is Good Company explains, “A GNS is an independently-owned store dedicated entirely to the sale of Life is good merchandise.”
Apparently, life is so good, and so genuine, at the Life Is Good Company, that the people there can’t be bothered to spend the time required to simply type of “Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe”. They need to resort to the corporate acronym: GNS.
Apparently, life is also too good for the Life Is Good Company to actually check that its GNS partners are following their arrangements. That Life Is Good Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe certainly wasn’t entirely dedicated to the sale of Life Is Good merchandise… unless blood-spattered Batman t-shirts are now produced by Life Is Good, which would certainly expand the commonly-understood definition of “good”.
The Genuine Neighborhood quality of the Life Is Good Shoppe is also undermined by the methods used by the Life Is Good Company to assign Life Is Good GNS locations. The Life Is Good Company explains, “Life is good conducts their own internal market research in determining the viability of potential GNS locations across the country. Once a market is deemed viable Life is good evaluates their internal retailer database and existing distribution. Based on the results of these studies Life is good is then able determine the proper location for a GNS.”
A genuine neighborhood shop arises locally, out of the demand of residents for a particular kind of business. A genuine neighborhood shop is not placed according to remotely-calculated distribution algorithms of the sort that the Life Is Good Company seems to use.
So, actually, Life Is Good isn’t really anything more than a memorable little slogan – and a dishonest one at that, sold at shops that aren’t shoppes, in places that aren’t neighborhoods, with guidelines that are anything but genuine.
Life Is A Collection Of Cookie Cutter Corporate Environments just doesn’t look as good on a tshirt though, does it?
When someone tells me that “life is good”, and then follows up with obviously untrue commercial taglines, it just makes me feel dirty.