Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Lowly Consumer Versus High Finance


Sometimes, it takes the patience of a saint to be a lowly consumer. Here in the nether reaches of economic progress, we get the feeling that swirling far above our heads is a heavenly realm where high rollers decide the fate of the products we mere customers come to depend on.

In our family, it has long since become a joke that no matter what "cold cream" brand my mother selected as her favorite product, that selection doomed the issuing company to soon go out of business.

Fast forward to the current generation, and it appears my mother's mantle has fallen on my shoulders, thus precipitating the failure of several other product lines in my purchasing wake. Lip gloss, orange juice, shampoo—didn't matter; all gone from the marketplace once I, the lowly consumer, fell in love with them. All I wanted was a product that works—and works well—but apparently, that was not what interested the investors backing the companies which sold those products. Theirs was a far loftier goal.

I cringe in these past five weeks, as an aficionado of genetic genealogy tests, when I hear news about changes in the direct-to-consumer DNA testing marketplace. Charging full speed ahead in one corner of this ethereal realm of high finance comes the announcement that an Australian genomics company has merged with Houston-based FamilyTreeDNA. Meanwhile, at almost the same time, reverses its engines, retracting their AncestryHealth product and after the fifteen months the line was available to customers, announced that their intention, once again, was solely "deepening our focus on Family History."

While that is an encouraging sign to those who have been long-standing and loyal customers of Ancestry, you might say that those of us lowly consumers shell-shocked by virtue of my mother's mantle also falling on their shoulders are struggling with doubts—especially when we also discover that, in counter-direction, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission reveals that a concern out of the Cayman Islands, known as VG Acquisition Corp., has filed their intentions to merge with DNA testing company 23andMe.

In case that acquiring corporation's name doesn't ring a bell with you, think "V" for Virgin—as in, Sir Richard Branson, British billionaire. Suddenly, thoughts about figuring out who that random fourth cousin was whose name in my DNA matches I don't recognize shrink into the background. This is high finance—the kind that doesn't even care if I discover my great-grandmother's real maiden name.

As talks in high places hype dizzying amounts we can't even begin to comprehend in real life, all I can hope is that, unlike the demise of my mother's oft-bemoaned favorite brand of cold cream, these mystery-busting tools of modern genealogy will not become the casualty of plans made in places far loftier than our humble research hideaways.      


  1. Capitalism at its best. Or is it at its worst? It'd be great to keep our DNA health products that point us in the right directions to increase our chances for avoiding and/or handling certain medical conditions.

    Likewise, I'm okay with our DNA being used to track down criminals in heinous cold cases. That noted,finding ancestors and building family trees are the primary reasons for which I joined Ancestry. Although Ancestry never billed itself as a non-profit entity, it didn't occur to me that the board of directors and stock owners could or would become more interested increasing the bottom line than in just staying financially viable. Such is life.

    Let's hope for the best.

    1. Yes, indeed, we'll hope for the best, as all these companies enter into new rounds of finance possibilities. It seems as if more puzzle pieces need to fall into place before it becomes clear why some corporate decisions were made.

      I do, though, hold out hope in particular for Ancestry's responsiveness to their customers, something they have demonstrated in the past. Precisely as you said, the core reason why so many of Ancestry's customers bought their products was to find ancestors and build their family tree. Simple as that.


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