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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The origin of shopping. . . .

When I made the decision to move from California to Portland two years ago, one of the first things my mom said was: "Who will I go shopping with"? When a good friend comes to visit, shopping is the main focus of our 'recreational' activities. When bored or depressed, I used to use 'retail therapy' to fill my time and ease my worries. I almost never shopped for necessities; nearly always, I went out in search of something to buy, without a list, and without a clear need to be filled.

Why is this? Well, a new book called 'Consumed', by Benjamin Barber may help explain this.

"The exact point at which a life of frugality – led by most people until the 1950s – developed into one of comfort, before slipping into absurd excess, is impossible to determine, admits Benjamin Barber

Since basic human needs – food, shelter, clothing – have long since been met for most people in the developed world, marketing professionals now bang their heads together to reinvent and recreate goods in order to sell more stuff.

Hyper-consumerism is a major contributor to environmental problems, yet so-called green marketers are as guilty as your average marketing man. "Don't fool yourself," warns Barber. "Green consumerism is still consuming. The simplest way to go green is not to consume, or to consume less, but these people want you to consume their way, because if you stop consuming they don't make any money."


While I haven't yet read this book (it's available at the library though, so I'll be picking it up soon!), it might be helpful to understand the marketing mechanisms that drive our consumer spending society. And understanding the tactics that are used to make us want a new cell phone every nine months or new boots with a 1.5 inch heel instead of the perfectly good one in the closet (with the 2 inch heel) may just help us to fight back, regain our frugality, and return to the values our parents and grandparents held in the 50's and before.

I sincerely want to avoid the shopping-as-recreation habits I held up until very recently. I want to concentrate on my immediate needs: food, shelter, and yes, relationships with family and friends. I'm hoping to replace my retail therapy with more laughter and real-life experiences.

2 comments:

MKG said...

Great Post!! Relationships are so much more rewarding than adding something to your closet. This is something I want to change as well:)

FrugalMomLA said...

Hi Finally Frugal,

I just wrote a post yesterday titled, "Is being frugal patriotic?" and without the benefit of having read Consumed or much else on the topic, my experience as a US History teacher for many years led me to conclude that it was around the 1950s that we became a nation of excessive spending and avid consumers. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book when you've read it! I

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