I’ll Pay You to Find Out What They’re Thinking

By Phineas J. Stone

This isn’t going to be about the two political conventions, so relax; I know we’ve all had just a little too much of the bluster and buffoonery from both of our leading camps of civilized discourse.

But I am going to start with a reference.

After watching a little of both conventions, I’m convinced I have deciphered the notes from both of the top “buzz word” consultants who are whispering in the ears of the major parties. I’ve learned from both conventions that people out there are fighting for me. In fact, there’s a lot of fighting going on in my name. About 2,000 or more times, I have born witness to the fact that the issues I hold dear are being fought for tooth and nail by the people there on the television.

They’re fighting for freedoms I don’t even want.

Some state-level leader from the other side of the country promised he would fight for the values that are near and dear to my heart. It’s remarkable because I know I’ve never met him to tell him what to fight for in my name.

If you’re like me, in all reality, it doesn’t feel like too many people are doing any fighting for me. Seems like they’re all only fighting for their own glamorous lives, and the perpetuation of such. If you care about the price of a gallon of milk or how you’re going to heat your house this winter – they’re not going to fight for that. They don’t even know about that stuff.

So my conclusion is we have to blame the consultants.

Both parties must have employed the same consulting firm to tell them what we all want to hear, which is that there’s a fight a-brewin’.

In Boston, we have so many consultants telling people so many things. There are so many competing ideas floating around that the message changes daily based on market surveys conducted by these consultants and shared with their clients. Big money is paid in Boston these days to find out what I, and you, are thinking at any given moment.

Years ago, when I was on the beat, I once rushed to Deer Island to a major news conference about the water and sewer rates in Boston. Three Congressmen were there, as was the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There were state officials, and then a horde of consultants. There might have been 100 consultants. The consultants buzzed about and whispered in the ear of the state officials, pointing out the key players.

I, however, was the only press at the press conference.

I wondered had I not shown up for the news conference, would it have been news? It’s kind of the same idea as if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it…

They must have paid $100,000 that day in consulting fees just to figure out how to tell me in the right way what they were doing.

I cannot even recall what they were doing.

Nowadays it’s Millennials that people are scrambling for. Everyone wants to know what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, how much money they really have, and, naturally, what they will do with that money.

I read recently that Coca-Cola paid a group of consultants $20,000 an hour to find out what Millennials think and how the company can make them happy as employees. Should we put a coffee bar in the cafeteria of the world’s leading soda manufacturer, they wondered?. So, they paid an ungodly amount of money to a group of folks who specialize in telling corporations and politicians, all far removed from the everyday life of the common folk, what people are thinking. It’s like we’re perceived as a horde of bees with only the ability to think collectively.

My ultimate favorite, however, was a corporation (who will remain nameless) who recently paid millions of dollars to a large consulting firm to figure out the habits and patterns of Millennials. That consulting firm, in turn, went out and hired a firm that was to round up Millennials and talk to them. In the end, a small office hosted a roundtable with some young people who were herded in through some fliers and a newspaper ad promising gift cards to Starbuck’s.

The office provided the coffee, and I guess they chatted.

That report must have been worth its weight in gold.

In the end, no one knows what all of us out here in the great wide open are thinking, and that’s because we don’t exactly know either – whether young, old, rich, poor, black or white. I know that because yesterday I was thinking that consultants were valuable. This morning, I read about Coca-Cola, laughed out loud as I considered the idea, and now I don’t think that anymore.

By tomorrow, I might have changed my mind again.


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