Too Much Nothing

Earlier this week, I was searching for a clip of the song that Sam sang in Casablanca. No, not that song, not the “play it” song, but the other one. The upbeat one with the verse:

“Who’s got nothin?
“We got nothin”
“How much nothin?”
“Too much nothin”
“Say, nothin’s not an awful lot but knock on wood”

You can watch it here, it’s less than 2 minutes. I was searching for the song because I’ve been thinking about two different kinds of nothing.

Do you ever get to the point where someone is telling you to do something, or not to do something so many times that you feel compelled to disobey? You know, when they drone over and over until the message turns into nothing and then becomes annoying and then avoiding it becomes your mission.

For example, I have no intention of taking up smoking, but I swear if anti-smoking commercials get more blatant, gross and honest-to-the-point-of-being-absurd, I might just buy myself a pack of Lucky’s and go for it. I get it, smoking is bad. Smoking kills. But, watching ads featuring people disassembling various prosthetic body parts really isn’t reaching me. Besides, I don’t smoke! I hit mute or change channels when I see those ads.

Here’s the funny thing. Back when cigarette advertising powered the airwaves and newsstands, back when Rod Serling stood there with a Chesterfield burning in his hand, using the lit end to punctuate his description of each Twilight Zone episode. Back then, it didn’t seem like there were too many cigarette commercials.

So, either the cigarette companies had better marketing departments than the Surgeon General has today, or smoking really does make you look cool. It would be enough to remind me that those cigarettes killed Rod Serling. I’d find that more effective than the soapbox approach.

There’s a section of a nearby town called Rainbow. As imagefar as I know, there’s really only one main road through this section and it’s not conducive to speeding. It’s kind of narrow; it has a few curves and a hill or two. Still, I guess people speed because the folks in Rainbow are all over the place with “slow down” messages. They put one of those radar units out there that posts the speed limit and shows you your speed. Honestly, I speed up a little as I approach that thing. Once, while riding my bike down the hill toward it, I shifted into the hardest-to-peddle gear I have just to try to get above the limit.

The other type of nothing is in my inbox. I get too much nothing in the form of advertising. I’m not talking about spam. I’m talking about legitimate advertising from companies that I’ve actually bought or considered buying stuff from. Two of my least favorite companies lately are Amazon and American Airlines.

Over a year ago, someone gave me an Amazon gift certificate. I used it to buy replacement knives for my Delta 12” Planner.

If you’re not a woodworker, you should know two things about a planner. Thing 1: Planners are used to reduce the thickness of a board. If you have a 6” wide board that is 1” thick and you want it to be 5/8” thick, you run it though a couple of times. 1” becomes 15/16ths and 15/16ths becomes 7/8ths and so on. Thing 2: Planners are expensive.

After buying a set of knives, Amazon followed up with a questionnaire.

Did you like those knives?

Was your transaction the best customer experience ever?

Would you recommend Amazon to others?

Would you write a review of these knives?

I get that. I get all of that. Here’s what I don’t get: Amazon started sending me emails, advertising replacement planner knives for Ryobi, Makita and Dewalt planners. How many planners do they think I own? Even worse, one of the ads was for knives for a Ryobi 13” planner. That’s like…

I started to say: “that’s like sending a woman who bought a pair of size 7 black shoes an ad for size 8 black shoes by a different designer.” But, I realized that my daughter might actually buy that second pair of shoes and they might fit. Cuz, clearly I don’t understand women’s fashion or sizes or how many shoes women need.

American Airlines has done Amazon one better when it comes to stupid. Back in August, I was checking flights from Hartford to Des Moines for my daughter. She was going to visit her cousin in Iowa over Labor Day weekend. I am still getting severalimage emails a week from American Airlines, telling me about “great deals” on fares to Iowa.

A friend once told me: “Dan, you can’t fix stupid” but I’d like to help Amazon and American Airlines understand why people don’t want the things they looked at on their website and why they don’t want more of things they already purchased. Since they don’t seem too bright, I drew a picture.

In case you’re interested, the title of the song I was searching for is “Knock on Wood.” Ironically, there also is a song called “Too Much of Nothing.” It was written by Bob Dylan. If you want to hear Peter, Paul & Mary’s cover of that song, give a listen.

26 thoughts on “Too Much Nothing

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  1. I love the song, Knock on Wood, and the movie – a lot. Amazon, not so much, but I do shop there sometimes. Dan, you should patent the chart. Imagine the smiles if it arrived in our inboxes instead of the other drivel. Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “…help Amazon and American Airlines understand why people don’t want the things they looked at on their website and why they don’t want more of things they already purchased.”
    Right! Other companies do that too. And it is a pain.
    Love the picture you drew! And the songs too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They haven’t yet suggested I buy a second copy of your book, what’s up with that? Seriously, they collect so much information about their customers, but they resort to, as a friend put it “brute force marketing” and it makes no sense. I guess it works, or they think it works. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.


  3. I was waiting for you to say you got a speeding ticket on your bike :-)

    Great graph. Only I need that “I clicked on this by accident” bar to be WAY longer because I’m always doing that when I’m trying to scroll on edge of screen.

    I’m kinda hurt – i buy tons of stuff from Amazon and I never hear from them except to say my pkg is on its way. Feeling a little left out. Think I’ll have a cigarette.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe it;s because you buy tons of stuff. I don’t buy a lot from Amazon. Maybe if I buy more the ads will stop…hmmm. I’ve always wondered if they can give a cyclist a speeding ticket. Bikes are considered vehicles and we are supposed to obey the rules of the road. Honestly, in this neighborhood, I think I would accept the ticket as a badge of honor. Thanks for stopping by.


      1. I am aware of bicyclists being ticketed for speeding but always when it involves a collision or altercation with a driver, pedestrian or another cyclist.

        Badge of honor :-) I agree your examples are all things that are annoying; on the other hand (until they become ubiquitous) the flashing “your speed” signs do give me a subtle “pay attention” message that reminds me I should be driving and not musing in my head.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am pretty good about obeying the rules of the road while riding my bike. I sometimes have to remind drivers that I am a vehicle and that I don’t belong on the sidewalk (actually illegal in CT) but my vulnerability keeps my attitude in check.

          I do kind of like the mobile speed signs, the ones that appear for a week or two and then move on. This one is permanently mounted along with the “Police take notice” “Stop Speeding” and “Tough on Speeders” signs. All within a 1-mile stretch of unremarkable road.


  4. Exactly!!! As an artist trying to make a living, I am always reading magazines and books telling me how to improve business. Only I won’t be reading any more, because they all say the same thing: to constantly barrage people with ads. And newsletters. And “updates on deals”. And don’t forget the “Buy now! Limited Time Offer!!” There is something called MailChimp ~ the name says it all, as far as I can see. And they offer a service called “Constant Contact”. They should call it how to lose all your friends, contacts, and potential customers! I know what I do when I get these darned things, (and how I feel about the company doing it) so I’m sure not going to do the same things. ERK.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s very hard for people who need to get a message out. I volunteer to manage programs and marketing a business association chapter I’m involved with and it’s hard to know when enough is too much. There has to be a better way than beating people over the head with the same message. Thanks for the comment.


  5. You have given just a few examples of incidences of nothing. I think there’s truly too much nothing in the world. And the reaction you have described is okay by me. If you are bombarded with the same warning or advice over and over again, the other person’s will begins to impose on you, and then the urge for defiance becomes inevitable. Even if the warning was against something obviously harmful.
    I also love the lyrics you have posted. I will look for that song.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I gigglesnorted at the shoe bit, so thanks for that!
    I love Amazon. The only emails I get from them are order confirmations and shipping notices. I think perhaps you can turn those off? Not too sure. I definitely don’t want more email.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked the shoe thing. My daughter says she won’t hold it against me but that she might tell her side of the story when I took her shoe shopping. Judging from other comments and my wife’s experience, I think the solution to not getting crappy marketing email from Amazon is to buy more stuff from them. Apparently, they want to send me (n) emails a month and shipping notices and receipts count toward the limit. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. really enjoyed this Dan – and you are so right about the marketing that can come as a follow up to a purchase- horrible inundation- and I like your humor – your little bar chart at the end – and also learned from this post that you are a bit of a revel. ha!

    but I know what you mean on the ads and all that – and on a side note – I was at another blog where they had something about cigarette smoking too – and then earlier this week we were talking about certain addictions and the “whole” experience that people have to break when they quote something – and then Eddie Van Halen’s solo came up you know – where he was smoking – and whew – I know it is bad for you – but I can see why smokers find it hard to quit – and Eddie did battle cancer – so I guess the ads we see are just trying to reach the young ones – but I enjoyed reading your thoughts on those ads…
    have a nice day


  8. Dan, you seriously make me laugh. You can’t fix stupid. It seems as if that is the way of the world of late everywhere you turn. Every single advertisement in my email I delete. Feedback. Delete. Questions on how I would rate what I bought. Delete. Questions for other consumers on how to use a machine I bought. Read the directions. Delete. I really THANK you for the laugh because I have been having SO many computer related problems that I am surprised you haven’t heard me scream. Whew! Focus on the glass half full. Rainbow. And oh yeah, don’t speed. I get it too. LOL Love, Amy

    Liked by 1 person

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