The Betty Crocker Syndrome

For those of you not familiar with Betty Crocker, she has been the symbol of American homemakers for over 90 years. Her best feature must be that she gets younger every few years, which is a major feat for anyone.

Aside from the cookbooks for which she was known, Betty Crocker (who never actually existed of course) marketed cake mixes. The first mixes, which only required adding a prescribed amount of water to a package of powder, some stirring, and then placing in the oven at a prescribed temperature, crashed miserably.

Even back then, and this was before the second world war, they did market studies, especially at General Mills, which owns the brand. The reason for the cake mixes failing is that the homemakers felt disengaged from the process of making a cake. They wanted more involvement in the process.

So Betty came up with a solution. Not only did the homemaker have to add the prescribed amount of water, but also two eggs. Presto, Betty Crocker sold like … let’s say cake mixes.

Last week I wrote about my conversation with The People’s Bank NatWest. The 4 people I spoke with could not provide me with the terms and conditions showing why they had charged me £6 for receiving a completely automated payment, in Sterling, from abroad. They told me they needed 5 days to investigate the matter. Yesterday I received a letter from NatWest that due to the volume of “complaints” (I was not aware that I had filed a complaint – I simply asked for a reference to the terms and conditions of the bank, but I will leave them to it) they need until 25th October to investigate my “complaint”.

It struck me The People’s Bank Natwest suffers greatly from The Betty Crocker syndrome. The staff must feel completely disengaged. They merely open the packet (presumably some computer script) and add sound (they read what the screen says).

We are all beginning to suffer from this. The Avoid All Risk At All Cost Authorities are causing all of us to suffer from the Betty Crocker Syndrome and The People’s Bank NatWest simply exemplifies this. Perish the thought that someone in a call center actually knows where the terms and conditions are and shows the charge, or worse, makes the sensible decision to pay back the £6 and be done with it. Much better to spend hundreds in investigating the matter.

In all my business dealings I try to invoke the spirit of The Avoid Risk At All Costs Authorities but I also try to avoid the Betty Crocker Syndrome and in the process count on the common sense of the people – or should I call us all the plebs?

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