Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: The Culture of the Market Part II

Participants: Vina Peter Robert Wilson

See: The Culture of the Market

My position is, ‘yes and no’. I would say ‘yes’ for young people and the answer ‘no’ is maybe for older people. Because I would say the young people want to have more power to control their economic, and also young people are very active in the society, so the culture of the market will have the more influence to this young people. However, for older people, I would say, since the older people have their living style, and they trust they want to do something, and trust they want to own something, so the culture of the market doesn’t have much affection to the older people. So, in short, my answer, yes for young people, it will break the relationship between the young people. it’s not really to the older people, so this is effect is no.

I have a question first, could you give us a brief description concerning the culture of the market. What the main characteristics are? Because I’ve been thinking for awhile, and I couldn’t define what is the culture of the market exactly.

I remember last week, the same question to raise, and I interpret is as, it’s like an evolution for the marketing, or stuffs happened in the market, so it includes the promotion campaign, it includes the economic activities, that’s my interpretation. Last week I also asked this question, why use the ‘culture’.

For my definition, something like the media, they let you to think about the way you perceiving the world, like, how to say, so the market means the, you learn from the marked, from the media, you told you what you should think , how you see the world, is influence by them.

Well, it’s not yet defined in my mind, that’s why I wanted to talk to you guys about this. When I think about it, what comes up for me is this. I was a child in the 70s, and Milwaukee was in an economic slump, and it seemed that, like in terms of clothes, it was like if you had a really pretty skirt on, you were dressed up. But when we got to the 80s, it was like, you had to have an ‘outfit’. Your shoes and earrngs had to match, all the pieces had to go together, but nothing was individually very valuable. You couldn’t just wear a pretty skirt anymore, it wasn’t enough. Before, clothes were very expensive, it’s one reason my mom was making ours, and we learned to sew. But in the 80s, clothes got cheap, you know? And everyone had to be in an outfit, and start following the styles in magazines very closely. But you know, maybe it was the difference between being a kid and being a teenager? I don’t know. The other thing I think about, was soup. We always had soup on Sunday, sometimes homemade, sometimes out of a can. But in the 80s, we started having soups from packets, individual servings of soup. That’s like, you know, so manufactured, so marketed. It was like my mom getting seduced by convenience.
I don’t know, I was young then, so I can only talk about clothes and soup, but I’m trying to express that I felt a difference in the pace and texture of life.

In my experience, it was 1990s to the 2000s. Because I graduated from my masters degree in 1991, and began to work, and it was like a big jump from the 90’s to the 2000s. I remember in the late 90s we used a cell phone, but before then, we didn’t. After we used cell phones our connection way was totally different. And now for 2000, cell phone, everyone has one, and they use msn, they don’t use a cell phone. They hook on the internet to use instant message all the time. So if you want to connect with them, you have to use msn. So the marketing is changed, and the human relationship is also changed.

They recorded some movie, called Wall-E, and they talk about the future, and the technology development in the movie is everyone talks to each other through screens, but with no microphones. You just sit next to me and we talk, no need to type. But without really seeing people and touching people, because it’s too convenient, but its just a screen. So this is like the technology development affects people, its like close, but really distance. Now we have skype, connect those distant. Now we don’t live in the neighborhood, and so skype is very convenient, but we get used to that kind of interaction, instead of real interaction, we talk with each other, but we don’t spend time really be with somebody. So yes, our relationship is really broken. I also notice mainland China is really serious problems in this. Because most of china don’t really share culture. Because of the Cultural Revolution. So they don’t have anything in common except capitalism and money. the only thing they trust is money, so they don’t really trust each other, and those relationships are so called created, not natural relationships. Natural, is your born as my friend, in my neighborhood, not my workmate. It’s that I needed this relationship, so I created this relationship.

So your position is ‘yes’. My position is I think still quite uncertain. I would rewrite the question like this. I think the market is reshaping our relationships with each other, is continuing to reshape. But not broken. If you think of traditional relationships, they would be broken, but the the style is changing.

You’re saying the old style is broken.

The relationship is still there, just the way is different.

Too complicated!

But I think indeed, that many traditional values are no more that important for many people. So many people see this as a problem.

Of course everyone notice the recent problem with mainland china and milk. This is a surprise but not a surprise. Because the culture there is ‘didn’t care about others’. I think the market of the culture in mainland china is really different from what we thought, and that’s why I so surprised that they can do these things in the food. And I, so, I just want to ask you about, what do you thinks about this kind of market cultures in china. How do you define?

So what’s your real question, how do they define?

How do you feel about the—

I think the poison in the milk really change the mutual trust between the consumer and the vendor. And it’s a difference, it seems global, has been globalized. Because the major, the stockholder of the San Lu milk factory company is new Zealand, it occupy over 40%. So the supply chain is very complicated.

Not only ‘made in china’ problem.

So many raw material, semi product, finished product, the transaction process very complicated. It caused the problem, many parents in Taiwan don’t know which brand is reliable. Even in Taiwan we have some—

Made in Taiwan, but—

—the dead body of the pig, the pork, but I think the market, maybe I foresee in the future, is a good opportunity for our gvt to promote every mother to feed your baby with breast milk.

Oh, don’t get me started on the unethical marketing of breast milk! It’s why I’ll have nothing to do with Nestle in any form. You know they pay actresses in poor countries to go into hospitals dressed as nurses and tell poor women that milk powder is better for their babies than breast milk? I think that’s really evil!

But it’s a food safety issue.

But it’s a marketing issue, is my point.

But you can see that this kind of situation make us feel others more! Like your question, because we can’t really trust those who provide things for us. We know that we feel more about them.

I have another opinion, to the same topic. As Peter said, maybe it’s a problem for the globalization, because the supply chain include a lot of countries, involved in different groups around the world. So, as Vina says, how do we trust another countries, or you feel other country, for example you don’t trust the goods from mainland china.

Not just countries. You don’t really trust the market. The market is not really trustable.

So if you don’t trust it, why do you want to buy?

No, at first you trust, so you buy things, but now we find it’s not worthy of trust. Now we find everything has the connection. So now we have the milk scandal. So you think nothing to do with me, I don’t drink milk.

But you don’t drink milk tea?

Right, now you realize, you drink milk tea, and then you eat bread, and red bean cake, and I give chocolate cookies to my children, from Japan, but now, it’s in everything! So I’m so scared. Before I check the place who made it, but now it’s no use. I don’t know where the raw material’s from. We should have the right to know what we eat, but we don’t have that right, because from that scandal, there’s too many things we need to know.

But we are the end customer, we don’t have to think to much, we trust the brand.

But her point is we cannot.

I know it’s hard, but if you don’t trust, what can you do?

You stop buying things, and then the economy goes to the shitter.

But you do need some things, how can you make them yourself?

But right now, you feel it’s nothing, it’s not affect your life, but what if it’s your kids in the hospital and dying? My professor in Jiautong university, he’s the first one in Taiwan to have the Crohn’s disease. He’s the first one in Taiwan, he’s a professor. It traced back, it’s a rare situation in Taiwan. Now he’s already died. The reason is a few years ago, when he was abroad for the doctor degree in the US, he ate something contaminated.

So the only way we can do is to establish the monitory system?

Do you trust the gvt to monitor well?

We have to trust them to do this, and other monitoring organizations to do this kind of work. It’s the only way we can do.

But I think the sense, the culture, for instance in Japan there’s some scandal, but in general we will trust them.

But in Japan, there’s tons of these scandals, it’s just that people are whistle blowing, it’s too expensive for them.

It’s that they built up the system, so they follow the system for inspecting the food and manufactured goods. So the develop country, the most of the important thing is they establish how to establish the system and how to perform the system well, not related to citizen quality or citizen education. I mean the developed country have the experience to build up the situation. They have.

But the citizens do matter! Look at the wall street meltdown, not enough oversight? They just didn’t implement!

But look at after 911, the US did an oversight system, but only for US, not everyone else. So for the international affair, it’s difficult. For the WTO, do you think they can solve the globalization problem? I don’t think. It’s a platform to improve int’l trading, but it’s not guarantee equality or efficiency, it’s not that capability. They just establish a platform for communication. Back to Taiwan, for the tainted milk. It’s a local problem, it’s a Taiwan problem, not a US problem.

But if they sourced cheap milk powder from china, then it is a problem.

I know they care about the toys, the lead in the paint.

People already raise the lead paint issue, and Americans already feel bad about china, because of losing jobs to them, and so it was marketed pretty much everywhere.. But it’s also about children, that’s the one issue people will get strongly worked up over. But the problem is, once the problem is too widespread, people use it as an excuse to forget about it. “It’s in everything! How can I keep track? I’m not going to bother, I’ll just trust the brands.”

So for organic produce, there’s a labeling system, now.

But you still have to trust the people.

Yeah, you can switch the labels.

So you have to trust that you know they’re not going to hurt you, they’re like you or whatever.

So that’s maybe why you brought up countries, if they’re people like you, not some strange foreigner—?

But you have to trust people.

But the point is the supply chain is too long, you have to trust everybody along that chain. So it’s like when we discussed before, what is the true cost of something. Because every product is keen for the cut costs, and we pursue for the best price. So I think the whole system create the market for fake things.


I was thinking why the milk poison instance damaged our mutual trust, I think it’s because the information is not very transparent. I think the key issue, no matter is our gvt our manufacture, should expose the necessary information, and it’s also to educate people. Because some misunderstanding, is due to we don’t have enough information. For example. Even the famous company, they don’t know how many, how safe their products. Because the larger the company, the more risk they will provide the product to consumer.

So the problem caused by the milk, I think is why is so attractive everybody’s attention is happen in a well-known milk powder suppler, market share is number one in china. Before, the black hearted food producer is small, illegal company. But why is so serious, is that it’s well known, big, we can even call it an international company.

Some brands are even the ‘sole provider for the Olympic games’.

So its economic benefit is the best is the priority for the gvt. Because of Olympic, production activity, human right is lower priority. Even milk, I heard the report, has already been found 6 months ago, but hidden intentionally because of the Olympics. So what the gvt should do is to provide the transparent information. Not any protection, any company or something. To educate how dangerous concentration for a child or an adult, intake every day. So according to the information I receive, the milk—

Melamine. The problem is melamine. It’s a plastic, used to make durable dishware. If you add it to food, it increases the testable protein count. Since they’re only testing for protein, not for melamine, you get away with it. You can only test for things you think are there. So melamine went under the radar for a long time. But it’s not just milk. Melamine is why the rash of pets dying in the US became the news a few years ago. It was added to wheat gluten, again to raise the protein. It’s why I basically try to avoid anything in a can these days. Especially anything with a protein content listed. I’m worried there’s melamine in.

So what happens?

You develop stones in your kidneys. I think your body is like trying to isolate the poison from you. I think adults don’t die of it, but you could get sick. But babies can’t handle kidney stones, their kidnesy are too small. And dogs and cats store more things in their livers and kidneys than we do, they can’t metabolize it out, so they’re very vulnerable to dying from it.

But yesterday, I was talking about Costco, the way the do everything, they have the name list of who buy the things. So they say some food or something have problems, always happen, so the most important thing is to handle it. So they notice when there is some problems, so they have the whole list of who buy this kind of things, and when. Since they have member cards and who buy things from Costco, so when they have some problem with products,

So they have some purchase record, they notify them?

I not say they’re perfect, but they don’t force people to have evidence and return it. They even call the member, they say you used to buy this, do you want to return it? I don’t know if they're really a good company, but if somebody can do something like this, we can more rely on them. Because if information is more transparent, we will notice that. Because not everyone will trace everything is okay to eat. We still have to rely on some, not only manufactories’, the chain stores, the gvt. So there’s not just one checking point. Of course we want to trust—

So, you're saying we can’t just rely on one checkpoint, we have to have many checkpoints.

But don’t you think that if people who sold things actually cared about the people bought it, then this shit wouldn't happen.

But the chains are so long. Some people probably don’t really know it’s really poison. They didn’t know it would—

But it’s to cheat. The original point was to cheat.

So how to solve the problem?

Source everything locally.

Yeah my husband wants that, because it also solves pollution problem.

But we have to have trust.

Local sourcing helps with that!

Luckily I have two children who are allergic to dairy products. So we rarely consume milk.

Someone told me not to buy the milk in RT mart, but I said, I want to drink it, so I’ll buy it. If you don’t want to eat bread, what will you eat? But I want to eat milk. I want to eat bread.

But I want this issue to raise the social responsibility of this company. Those chain stores don’t have any social responsibility.

Everyone’s pursuing economic advantage in whatever form, so that turns other people into obstacles and objects.

So Angela raised a question a while ago, if you had the option to pay more money for it, would you? It’s really the same question.

Yes, it really is.

So if you feel it is worth to pay more money for it, and you want to buy it at that price, so another related question is, the brand name means the price you need to pay.

I don’t mean the brand name. I mean the real cost. You use so many unhealthy products to make the real cost so low.

I remember the question is, how do you evaluate the real cost? So it’s how do you look at these things. For example, there’s luxury cars and cheaper cars.

But if the way of they doing things really so, the real cost means include some hidden costs, like—

Pollution for instance.

—like some company they have the social responsibly, they will put many people to check the resource—

Indirect course.

—yes and I think the issue is not luxury or not, I think the real cost, if we talk about the price of brand is worth it, I think the issue is the real price. Because everyone is keen for the lowest price, is not healthy for the whole market.

Like I had this supplier the other day, she was explaining to me why Kimberly Clark paper is more expensive, it’s because they go to great lengths to have sourced paper from sustainable forests, and that it takes 7 years of investment, so they have to be more expensive than those logging old-growth forests.

But copier paper really matters, it has to be good, or your machine jams.

Well, I’m talking about toilet paper, it’s a different kind of copier jam.


Well the other time Kevin gave us an example, if this cup cost 10 dollars, and I sell to you for 11 dollars, and one dollar I donate to third world country, do you want to pay 11 for this cup. If 15, will you?

A lot of people do, in the US.

So it’s another kind of marketing.

So you just say the real cost is 10 dollars, then the extra I will use to support poor people, will you pay the money through me?

I think the best is what I just mentioned. If I know your cost is only 10, I won’t pay 15, because 15, you have 50% profit—but normally most customer don’t know your real cost.

But 11 is acceptable.

But think if I want to buy this cup, I will compare your cup with other, with other level, compare. The issue is not the maker, okay, how much donated to third party. I think it’s how do they make the customer feel it’s a good deal, it’s a fair deal exchange behavior.

I guess you never buy things from those handicap people selling on the street. Of course you know you can buy pens and tissues a lot cheaper, but you want to help them. Of course you’re buying something expensive, but it’s worthy of trust.

So the main issue is still price, low price is always right.


Not really—

Well, that’s more or less what Peter argued.

But I don’t think the cheaper the better is the best way for normal product. I still think it’s based on mutual trust between the maker and the customer. For example in many convenience store, they have those boxes for receipt donation.
For collecting receipts.

Oh really? I didn’t know.

They use the receipt, and choose the receipt of larger amount, and claim the deal is cancelled, so they can save some tax on the turnover.

What an evil world.

So I think all of us are influenced in the advertising promotion media. That’s why I feel people have to be educated by what is true and false, and what is a better deal.

And our schools do not do that.

But it’s hard to educate people for right or wrong.

But not impossible! It’s just easier to test people if they memorized 100 things! Our schools are also about the cheapest fastest bottom line of high grades.

Yeah, they find that exam scores are not really a good measure. So it’s the whole system, the value system is quite important. What is the things they value most.

So our school is not about teaching how to live well, its about teaching to live in our current economic system. So if we agree that our system is fucked, why are we educating our children for it.

So, Peter, what’s your position, now.

Mine is almost the same as Robert. Honestly, I’m not—I don’t agree the wording, about broken. Maybe—

Reshaped? Reform?

In some way it really influence, the change, it depends on what kind of, just like Wilson said, the cell phone, the PC, is the another key technical product to influence your living. But before the 80s, the PC is not so popular for private user. We usually only see it for job requirement, or information processing. Also the 90s, the network

It was still academic base.

[discussion about origins of internet]

But did you know that letters in 19th cent delivered 4 times a day? Technology changes, but the need for lots of communications are the same.



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