September 2008 - Rick Perry

Casino Royale (With Cheese)

By Rick Petry

“You know what they call a Quarter Pounder With Cheese in Paris?” asks Vincent Vega (John Travolta), the globetrotting hitman in Quentin Tarantino’s seminal masterwork, “Pulp Fiction.” “A Royale With Cheese.” The movie’s worldwide impact is indicative of the way American-originated culture dominates the global landscape. This pervasiveness that annoys anti-globalization advocates can be cloying even for the USA’s proud citizens. When my search for a boulangerie with the perfect baguette around the aforementioned City of Lights instead turns up yet another Mickey D’s, I too experience pain, but not the type that Parisians eat.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying that America, for all of the criticism it receives, remains a beacon of aspiration for much of the world’s populace. How else do you explain the popularity of Wal-Mart, the upscale shopping pavilion of choice among China’s burgeoning middle class, or the fact that many Europeans prefer American infomercials because they believe the goods these shows are plying are inherently superior? And if this movement needed an anthem, perhaps that old Grand Funk Railroad chestnut should be re-titled, “We’re an American Brand,” for if brands act as identities-and many U.S.-born brands reign supreme-the fate of Uncle Sam and the rest of the world’s consumers are inextricably bound together.

As a matter of fact, in “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,” Pulitzer Prize-winning global observer extraordinaire Thomas L. Friedman advanced the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention,” suggesting that no two countries that have a McDonald’s will go to war with one another. While some might find this argument high in unsaturated irony and low in intellectual nutrition, it suggests that when common economic interests are shared, harmony prevails-regardless of whether you dip your fries in ketchup or mayo.

So it should come as no surprise that throughout the past year at various ERA events, I’ve experienced firsthand the degree to which the rest of the world is fixated on the U.S. presidential election. Colleagues from across the globe have commented on the fascination with which they regard the contest, one that features a candidate of African ancestry and another who once rotted in a Vietnamese prison cell, both testimonials to the crazy and wonderful notion that in America, anything can happen. As one Canadian colleague opined, “We want a reason to love America again.” Despite the United States’ sometimes jingoist tendencies, it seems that regard for the greatness that lies beneath such impulses remains strong.

Having said all this, in a strange way it is then perfect that our industry will gather in Las Vegas this month at-where else-Paris, an EPCOT-like casino/hotel interpretation of France’s first city. In this land of make believe, our mini version of the United Nations assembles to make markets, contacts and money. And who knows? In our quest for a piece of the action, we might even generate a little McPeace-in our own noisy way. Cheeseburger anyone?

Rick Petry is the interim president and CEO of the Electronic Retailing Association. He can be reached at (503) 740-9065, or via e-mail at [email protected].

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